The Bayern Local Series: Isar River

Continuing with the series, I have the beautiful Isar River to show you. Its source is in Tyrol (Austria) and it eventually flows into the Danube near Deggendorf, Germany, but I’m focusing on the “wildest” part of the river in southern Bavaria, between the Sylvenstein Dam and Munich.

The Isar is not only beautiful to look at, it is also a magnet for outdoor activities, especially in summertime. The Isar Bicycle Route, which extends a full 299km (186 mi.) from Austria all the way to the Danube, is very family-friendly, at least when followed from north to south (downstream).  Parts of the route are paved, other parts gravel or sand, and only a small stretch of the route is shared with vehicle traffic.

The section of the Isar flowing from just below the Sylvenstein Dam to Bad Tölz, and beyond towards Munich, is very popular with kayakers as well as those with their own improvised rafts. It’s a mix of mild to moderate whitewater and fast-flowing river (so be sure that both your boat and your experience are suited to whatever section you plan to undertake). There are a few places where one must pull their boat out of the water and haul it down below a steep drop, otherwise the river is navigable all the way from below Sylvenstein to Munich. One of my favorite summertime activities is to spend the day kayaking along the Isar; we pack a lunch and drinks into the kayaks and make our way down the river, stopping to relax and picnic along the pebble beaches. It’s great fun!

Whitewater rafting companies also offer tours in this part of the river, and between Wolfratshausen and Munich giant rafts regularly operate what I would call “booze cruise” excursions. The rafts are quite large, really something to see, and although it’s more party than adventure, the scenery is lovely and it can be a nice group day excursion.

Finally, if you’re bold enough to brave the cold waters, which even in summer can be as cold as 14C (57F) (depending upon recent rainfall/snowmelt in the Alps), the riverside is great for a picnic along with occasional refreshing swim on hot summer days – the Pupplinger Au near Wolfratshausen is a great spot for this. Just be aware that the river flows very quickly and can sweep you off your feet even at depths well below waist level. It’s safest to find a slower section to enter, especially for small children or weaker swimmers.

Even with the new reality we are confronting with the novel coronavirus, I am hopeful that the lovely Isar will be open for business this summer, probably not for the “booze cruises” but for outdoor enjoyment alone or with family. Let’s hope so!

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