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Atomium building in Brussels

Atomium Belgium

The Atomium is situated in Heysel, the northern downtown of Brussels. The design is based on a crystallized molecule of iron magnified 150 milliard times.

Welcome to Hautes Fagnes

The High Fens (French: Hautes Fagnes), which were declared a nature reserve in 1957, are an upland area, a plateau region in the province of Liège, in the east of Belgium and nearby parts of Germany, lying between the Ardennes and the Eifel highlands.

It is the largest nature reserve or park in Belgium, with an area of 4,501.2 hectares (45 square kilometers). It lies within the German-Belgian natural park Hohes Venn-Eifel (700 square kilometers), in the Ardennes.

Its highest point, at 694 meters above sea level, is the Signal de Botrange near Eupen, which is also the highest point in Belgium. A 6 meters tower was built here on the top that rises total height to 700 meters.

The reserve is an ecologically rich endowment of Belgium covered with alpine sphagnum bogs both, on the plateau and in valley basin; the bogs, which are over 10,000 years old, with their unique subalpine flora, fauna and microclimate, are the keys to the conservation work of the park.

On the right, the map of the region where the High Fens are located.

Map Hautes Fagnes

The National Park

Landscape HF zomer

In 1966, the European Council awarded the "Diploma of Conservation" to the High Fens, for their ecological value.

Landscape HF winter

Baraque Michel

The High Fens, established as a reserve in 1957, with their high relief and unique location, consist mainly of moorland, peat bogs, and low, grass- or wood- covered hills, moorland and forest.

The provincial capital of Liège is to its west, the German border is to the east and the Ardennes dark forested hills encompass the southern part. The park stretches between Eupen in the north, Monschau in the east, Spa in the west and Malmedy in the south.

The famous Spa water is coming from High Fens water reserves in marshes and moorlands.

On the left, famous in the region Baraque Michel.

This water leaks through the soil and mineral base creating in the village of Spa famous sources. Due to the composition of High Fens moorlands and marshes the Spa water posses one of the smallest amount of minerals in the world.

Several rivers have their source in the High Fens: the Vesdre, Hoëgne, Warche, Gileppe, Eau Rouge, Amblève, Our, Kyll, and Rur. In winter all the water sources freeze into snow making the High Fens one of the best ski resorts in Belgium. During winter the swamps appear as if "wrapped in white fluffy snow shawl".

The park stretches north of Melmedy up as afar as Eupen and marks the end of the Ardennes proper. It is contiguous with the Eifel hills, which stretch east from the German border to form the large Deutsch–Belgischer Naturpark. Signal de Botrange located in the Haute Fagnes is marked by a Telecom Tower erected over an older artificial, earthen mound with stone steps that was built to raise a small part of the broad plateau from 694–700 meters. Large urban centers in the vicinity of the reserve are Eupen, Verviers, Spa and Malmedy.

Winter Landscape
Black Grouse

Part of the High Fens reserve remains closed during the spring because of the breeding season of the endangered Black grouse (Tetrao tetrix, see the picture on the left). During the summer season there is risk of fire in the forest area. Boardwalks cover the bogs permitting access across these areas. Paths cover many areas in the park and there are sign posts to guide visitors through the park. The nature reserve of the High Fens is coordinated under the Nature Division and Forests of the Walloon Region.

The reserve's climate, unlike other Belgian regions, is one of the wettest and coldest part of Belgium. It is frequently shrouded in mist and low clouds with a high level of rainfall. It experiences subalpine climate with strong winds and a fierce winter, which could turn subarctic. The plateau Fagnes obstructs the clouds from the prevailing Atlantic winds, which results in copious precipitation, an average of 1,400 millimeters of rain per year. However, below the fragile composition of the overlying soils, the basement is formed of rocky beds and clay that prevent infiltration of water and thus create conditions for wetlands, marshes and bogs.

Landscape winter

As the habitat consists of bogs, fire is a major hazard during the drought period, when Fens is closed except for a small fen area near Poleur.

Triangular signs painted in red are fixed at the fire hazard locations.

In April 2011, in a fire that broke out in the High Fens, 1,000 hectares of land were destroyed. Stated to be the biggest ever fire in the Fens, 300 fire fighters supported by a helicopter were involved in dousing and controlling the fires.

To the right, part of High Fens that was under fire in 2011.

After Fire on HF
Schronisko HF

Some climatique data

The annual maximum and minimum rainfall recorded are 2,024 millimeters and 762 millimeters respectively, with maximum daily intensity of 156 millimeters on 7 October 1982 at the Signal de Botrange.

The maximum snowfall recorded at Signal de Botrange was 115 centimeters (45 in) in 1953.

The maximum number of frost days (when temperate remains below 0 °C) is reported to be 158 days and the minimum is 70 days.

The lowest temperature recorded was −23.6 °C in 1942 and −25.2 °C was recorded in 1952 at Baraque-Michel.

Winter Sports

Landscape with lang laufer

There are winter sports activities that are allowed in the High Fens in specified area and outside conserved area of the fens. These are skiing, bicycling and trekking. Cross-country skiing in the High Fens is permitted on specified forest tracks which are located in the outskirts or even outside the nature reserve.

Hiking trails have been reorganized outside the parks reserved areas. The walk routes would be limited to undergrowth adjacent to nature reserve. Bicycle routes have been specified outside the nature reserve in nearby forests.

On the right, the Centre Nature de Botrange, (650 meters a.s.l. and about 2 km from Signal de Botrange) nice place to be when temperatures are very negative.

Centre Nature Botrange
700 meters above see level Signal de Fagnes

Above left, the highest point in Belgium extended to 700 meters by small tower with steps. Above right, Signal de Botrange. It is in fact an antenna building with electronique equipment inside and antenna on the top, probably on 725 meters. There is also restaurant constructed on the left side. This is the highest located restaurant in Belgium, 694 meters above the see level.

Landscape HF

Dyskusja on ski

Because sometimes the subalpine climate may change to subarctic conditions when taking adventure walks in the night through the park, this could be hazardous unless one is properly equipped for taking such a risk.

Even during the day you may lose your way home. Very often the High Fens are misty, or heavy snow starts to fall and the visibility can drop to 10-20 meters. All trees will start looking the same and the path can vanish under new snow. Thus be careful and have with you the most necessary things for survival.

On the left, there are few hikers which have lost their way. Luckily there is some skier who knows the local paths.

Signal Botrange route Skier on HF

Cross country skiing is the most popular sport that you can see on High Fens. During Saturdays and Sundays you can even rent the ski material on the parking of Signal de Botrange for about 10-12 euro per day.

Op de weg naar warm thee Skier with the dog

On the edge of High Fens there is also possibility to try Alpine skiing and snowbording.

This place is located few kilometers from Signal de Botrange. The best way to go there is to drive to the village Surbrood and by the first petrol station take the road to Ovifant.

There can be only small problem. There is not always enough snow to do Alpine skiing when at the same time can be enough snow for country skiing. There are very few places as the one shown to right and 11 milions of Belgian may want to ski this day.

Country skiing is much more certain and snow conditions are much more reliable.

Alpin Ski on HF

Landscape in the wood on HF