Useful Information

Location: Kloster Urspring, Schelklingen.
(48.381448, 9.717996)
Open: no restrictions.
Fee: free.
Classification: KarstKarst Spring
Light: n/a
Guided tours: self guided
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: yes
Address: Stadt Schelklingen, Marktstraße 15, 89601 Schelklingen, Tel: +49-7394-24817. E-mail:
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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The Urspringquelle or in official documents Quelltopf Urspring is a Vauclusian karst spring with a spring pond, the source of the Urspring river. It is located in Urspring, a suburb of Schelklingen, which consists of the Kloster Urspring (Urspring monastery) with the monastery church and the Urspring school, a boarding school. The name Ursping is therefore used several times, for the spring, the river, the suburb, the monastery and the school. Nearby there is a second spring, the Achquelle, from which the Ach rises. The Urspring is one of the shortest rivers in Germany, flowing into the Ach after only 580 metres. This in turn flows into the Blau after about 10 km.

The geological situation is particularly interesting: the Urspring and Blau rivers are located in a meander of the Urdonau. During the Ice Age, the glaciers of the Alps reached the southern edge of the Swabian Alb, while the Alb itself was ice-free. However, the glacier thus blocked the Danube, which was dammed and was forced to flow north of the glacier across the Alb plateau. It was, so to speak, squeezed-in between the Alb and the glacier. In addition, it flowed too high due to the damming and had considerably more water and more energy. Thus, it quickly cut into the Alb plateau and formed a rather deep valley with steep slopes and limestone cliffs. This situation is not unusual, in fact, there are three such places on the southern rim of the Swabian Alb, the other two being the Donaudurchbruch near Weltenburg and the Donaudurchbruch near Beuron. But at these two, the Danube continued to flow in its valley after the glacier had melted. Here, it shifted its course back south into its previous bed, and the Danube valley was now suddenly without a river.

Of course, the Danube also had tributaries in this area that continued to flow through the Danube valley. These were the Schmiech, Urspring, Ach and Blau. Because they were much smaller than the Danube, they could not carry away as much debris, which was therefore deposited in the valley of the Danube and filled it up to 30 m high with gravel. And the higher temperature of the interglacial had a second effect. During the Ice Age, permafrost prevailed, the ground was frozen several metres deep and the fissures in the rock were sealed with ice. Therefore, the karst area of the Alb was drained above ground at this time. After the permafrost had melted, the water penetrated underground again and the drainage shifted back to the caves below. In other words, the side rivers became dry valleys. And yet the Danube continues to be the receiving watercourse, and the karst water table is so high that the water emerges in several large springs in the course of the Urdonautal. Two of these are Urspring and Ach.

Another special feature is the valley in this course. The Danube had meanders, i.e. river loops, and at the same time cut deeply into the river. The mountain spur in the middle, the meander spur, became narrower and narrower and at some point was broken through by the Danube, shortening of its course. The meander cutoff, the Lützelberg, formed in the middle of the loop. Already at this time, the Urdonau no longer flowed through the meander and the tributaries flowed into the Danube via this oxbow. Today, the main valley is drained by the Schmiech and the Ach, with the Schmiech flowing in the opposite direction, so to speak, then flows into the Danube.

The springs, the valley and the meander cutoff are definitely worth seeing. The best way to get there is to follow the signs to Urspring until you reach the car park of the former Benedictine monastery. Here you can see the source of the Urspring and also visit the monastery church, which is well worth seeing. A signposted hiking trail leads to the Achtopf and the confluence of the Ach and Urspring rivers. The whole hike is less than 2 km long and takes about half an hour. There is a beautiful view of the meander cutoff from Schelklingen Castle and from Hausen ob Urspring.