Lubuskie

'Former Babina Mine' Geotourism Trail, Muskau Bend Geopark

  ul. Łęknicka 4, Nowe Czaple     24 Sep 2021
The 'Former Babina Mine' Geotourism Trail is one of the highlights of the Muskau Bend Geopark - a unique geological landscape created by ancient glacial movements, and heavily shaped by modern mining exploitation. Known as ‘Łuk Mażakowski’ in Polish and ‘Muskauer Faltenbogen’ in German, the trans-national Muskau Bend covers a total of 578.8 km² in  German Brandenburg and Saxony, and Polish Lubuskie. Earning the unique ‘geopark’ designation for its combination of geological, cultural and industrial heritage, Muskau Bend was named a UNESCO Global Geopark upon the creation of that label in 2015.

History & Creation

Scandinavian glaciers several kilometres thick moved through this region 340 thousand years ago, creating an arch-shaped moraine rampart and exposing bands of sand, gravel, clay and lignite (brown coal) that had previously been buried 150 metres below ground. Beginning in the second half of the 19th century, these precious resources began to be mined and processed across the region. ‘Babina’ was one of the biggest mining enterprises in the area, which after WWII comprised many underground and open-cast lignite mines across the Polish side of the Muskau Bend, as well as a brickyard in Nowe Czaple and briquetting factory in Łęknica. The largest of these mines was the open-pit mine ‘Łuksa C’ - today known as ‘Africa’ thanks to its shape - which yielded 1,108,468 tonnes of lignite from 1964-68.
View of the 'Africa' reservoir from the viewing tower.

The Babina mining operation closed in 1973, but its traces are evident today in the form of a large anthropogenic (man-made) lake district. In the Polish part of the Muskau Bend there are 154 post-mining reservoirs created by the flooding of mining pits, or the collapse of ground above mining tunnels. Combined they cover more than 207ha, with the largest of them - the Africa/Afryka reservoir - having a surface area of 19ha. These lakes and other geological formations caused by excavation and erosion have now developed into a unique tourist attraction thanks to their brilliant colours and unusual landscapes. Due to various minerals, chemicals, iron compounds and high pH acidity in the reservoirs, the colour of the water in these lakes can range from red and rusty orange to emerald green and turquoise blue. Some reservoirs present a prism of colours, and there are even some springs bubbling out of the ground, making the artificial lake district a sort-of poor-man’s Yellowstone.
On sunny days the colours are particularly vibrant.
 

The Babina Mine Trail

The easiest way to see the diversity of these reservoirs and geological formations is via the 'Former Babina Mine' Geotourism Trail (Ścieżka geoturystyczna 'Dawna Kopalnia Babina'). This easy 5km paved trail for pedestrians and cyclists begins near the ruins of the brickyard in Nowe Czaple and leads you through forests to the edge of central Łęknica; it is not a loop.
Swirling colours in an emerald pool; Muskau Bend Geopark.


Along the way there are dozens of viewpoints over about 10 different reservoirs, a 30m-tall viewing tower, 11 informational boards about the main points of interest, and numerous benches, boardwalks and picnic tables. Walkers should set aside 2-3 hours for the route; cyclists 90mins. Free car parking can be found at both ends of the route, as well as near the middle of the route, just off of road 350 near the observation tower.
Here a collapse due to underground mining and high pH in the water has caused the trees to die.


Bike Rental

Although walkable, the best way to explore the ‘Former Babina Mine’ trial is by bike. This not only makes the 5km trail less tiring and time-consuming, but you can also use your bike to easily get to and explore the lovely Muskau Park nearby as well. In fact, you may find bike rental services in Muskau Park itself, or in Łęknica; one such rental place, ideally placed 300m from the start of the geotourism trial in Nowe Czaple is ‘Camping Family Łęknica,’ which offers bikes for 40zł per day (tel. +48 600 882 328; http://campingleknica.com/).
"I've got a bike, you can ride it if you like."

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