Geotrail Kötschach-Mauthen

Level of difficulty: Easy
  • 4.3 km
  • 1.1 h
  • 696 vm
    Lowest elevation
  • 714 vm
    Highest elevation
  • 18 vm
  • 10 vm

Geotrail Kötschach-Mauthen

Many extraordinary fossil stones were found in Kötschach-Mauthen. These can now be admired between the Gailtaler Dom in Kötschach and the Hammerle in Mauthen. The fossil stones are complemented by stone cultural assets, such as the old pillory or the colossal "underbear" from Mauthen.
No special equipment necessary.Wind and rain protection advantageous!


Stopping point 1 – Around the church ‘Gailtaler Dom’

Lion of the Kellerwand

This limestone boulder is named “Lion of the Kellerwand” because its shape is reminiscent of a lion carrying a backpack. On closer examination, copper mineralisations are visible. It weighs approximately 30 kg and was found on the Kellerwand mountain in 2014. It was formed in an extremely shallow and warm see with the help of algae approximately 380 million years ago. Organisms are often involved in the formation of limestone. Algae turned the calcium carbonate dissolved in the water into calcareous coatings, thus gradually producing the stone.

Ammonites - witnesses of the ice age

This striking limestone boulder was recovered in Laas in 2010. It impressively documents the path taken by the inland glacier during the last ice age, since the actual area of occurrence of the limestone is in the Lienz Dolomites. The glacier carried the stone over the Gailberg mountain to Laas, crossing the watershed and flowing into the Gail valley. Decimetre-sized ammonites – extinct marine creatures – can be easily made out in the 180-million-year-old rock.

Petrified trees from the equator

This 285-million-year-old petrified tree trunk was recovered from the Laas Forest in the 1960s. Though not the longest, it is the most massive tree trunk ever found in the so-called Laas formation. In addition fossil tracks of six different pre-dinosaur tetrapods, dry cracks, ripple marks and imprints of crustaceans and many other fossils were discovered in this rock formation. All these finds characterise the original habitat of the tree trunk as a huge floodplain area teeming with life near the equator located several hundred kilometres away from the sea.

Stopping point 2 – Town Hall

Orthoceras - giant marine creatures

This limestone boulder weighing almost 200 kg was found at the south side of the Rauchkofel mountain at a height of 2,100 m and flown to the valley by helicopter in 1987. Several chambered tubes of extinct Orthoceras can be seen in the approximately 400-million-year-old rock. These marine animals were the predecessors of today’s squids and up to 10 metres long. The biggest shell ever found in Geopark Carnic Alps is 65 centimetres long and is spread across the rock in front of you.

Pre-dinosaur tetrapods - the first four-limbed land animals

This rock slab with fossil tracks of pre-dinosaur tetrapods was recovered from the mountain Kötschacher Berg at the end of the 1970s. The 285-million-year-old footprints come from bulky animals up to three metres in length (Diadectomorpha) which were herbivores. The footprints are of special importance because they represent the link between amphibians and reptiles. These tracks are the only evidence of these animals in the whole Alpine region.

Stopping point 3 – Gail

Nodular limestone: an eye-catching structure

This limestone boulder comes from rock-fall material from the alpine pasture Untere Bischof Alm. The rock developed from clay-rich calcareous mud deposited in the sea at depths of more than 100 metres some 390 million years ago. It contains only microscopic fossils. In the course of the compaction of this calcareous mud, the darker clay particles coated the lighter limestone cores, which in turn produced the striking net-like structure. In this region the nodular limestone is called Findening limestone after the area of its main occurrence in the Carnic Alps.

Gail valley ‘jewels’

This rock comes from the Gail gorge in the Lesach valley and belongs to the so-called crystalline basement of the Gailtal Alps. Rocks of this crystalline basement were much more affected by the Variscan mountain-building event approximately 320 million years ago than the Carnic Alps and sank to great depths. This process led to the destruction of fossils, but at the same time new minerals, such as garnets and staurolites were formed. Both are used in jewelry. The staurolites in this rock are up to 5 cm in length, which is unusual in Carinthia. The bulbous white quartz and tufted hornblende crystallised in fissures only later.

Millstones from the Kötschacher Berg

This red rock boulder, typical of the region, is extraordinarily hard, because of its quartz inclusions. For this reason, it was used as millstone. The red rocks of the Kötschacher Berg occur in two forms. Those of the Laas Formation, which are 285 million years old, are rich in fossils and feature components of the crystalline basement of the Gail valley, as they are a product of its erosion. The ones belonging to the more recent Gröden Formation display volcanic inclusions and testify to the volcanism of that time.

Stopping point 4 – Mauthen centre

Mauthen market stone

The market stone is one of the protected monuments of Carinthia. The octagonal stone pillar with a ball-shaped top piece served to hold the ‘Marktfreyung’, a banner or other symbol to show when the town was under market law; it was also used as a pillory.

Stopping point 5 – Natural swimming pool

Coral reef - witness of tropical seas

This limestone boulder weighing more than four tonnes was discovered near the church of Maria Schnee in 2006. It most probably came from the Kellerwand mountain, from where it was transported down towards Mauthen by the glacier during the last ice age. The huge rock consists of corals of the extinct Favosites genus, which formed colonies of polygonal corallites, skeletal cups in which individual polyps used to live. The coral colony was part of a reef of a tropical sea which had spread out into the western Plöcken region approximately 380 million years ago.

Coral reef of unknown origin

This 630 kg limestone boulder with its conspicuous fringed fossils was discovered in the gorge Mauthner Klamm in 2010. Thanks to many volunteers, it was able to be flown out by helicopter. Although the fossils are easily visible, they were very difficult to identify despite detailed scientific work. Scientists finally agreed on a classification as coral fossils of the genus Hillaepora. These corals formed colonies and were reef builders. The place of origin of the rock is still unknown; it is presumed to have come from the Kellerwand mountain.

Orthoceras - backward swimmer

This limestone boulder was washed up in the Valentin stream and recovered in 2015. The colourful stone shows the tubes of extinct Orthoceras of about ten centimetres in length, which is the size commonly found in the Carnic Alps. The conical shell consisted of gas-filled chambers by which the animal regulated floating and sinking in water. The head and tentacles – which did not serve for locomotion - protruded at the open end of the shell. Locomotion was by jet propulsion, the animals moved by absorbing water and squeezing it out at high pressure to propel themselves backwards.

Stopping point 6 – Alpencamp

Tabaluga in Wetzmann

This bizarrely shaped stone at Alpencamp is reminiscent of the small green dragon Tabaluga. It is actually a fossil-rich limestone which has undergone extreme weathering by precipitation.

Stopping point 7 – Hammerle

Crushing stone

This colossal rock was found in ‘Hammerle’, an area of Mauthen. With an attached wooden beam, it was presumably used as a hammer to break up rocks in the former hammer mill.

Location and how to find us

The Nassfeld-Pressegger See holiday region lies in the Austrian province of Carinthia, directly next to the Italian border.

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