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The end of the Grisonian Rhine Valley where the Alpine Rhine turns around the Fläscher Berg to the north, east of Sargans. In front: Bad Ragaz on the left and Maienfeld on the right.

The Alpine Rhine Valley (German: Alpenrheintal) is a glacial alpine valley, formed by the part of the Alpine Rhine (German: About this soundAlpenrhein ) between the confluence of the Anterior Rhine and Posterior Rhine at Reichenau and the Alpine Rhine's mouth at Lake Constance. It covers three countries and the full length of the Alpine Rhine is 93.5 km.[1]

From Reichenau, the Alpine Rhine flows east, passing Chur and turning north, before it turns north-east at Landquart, and then roughly north, east of Sargans. From here, the Alpine Rhine forms the border between the canton of St. Gallen of Switzerland on the left, west side, and the Principality of Liechtenstein on the east side. About 28 kilometres (17 mi) further down, the Rhine then meets the Austrian federal state Vorarlberg and finally flows into Lake Constance, south of Lindau (Germany), which is no longer part of the Rhine Valley. The Swiss-Austrian border follows the historical bed of the Rhine, but today the river follows an artificial canal within Austria for the final 5 kilometres (3.1 mi).[2]

The St. Gall Rhine Valley, on the right, and the Liechtenstein Rhine Valley, on the left of the Alpine Rhine, as seen from the Stauberen (1,745 m (5,725 ft))

The Rhine Valley's upper third has the character of an Alpine valley, enclosing a bottom plain of about 1 to 4 kilometres (0.6 to 2.5 mi) across. Downstream of Vaduz, the valley widens considerably, developing into a broad plain, measuring some 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) across at its lower end along the southeastern shores of Lake Constance. From the point of the Rhine's emergence from Lake Constance, it is known as High Rhine.

Right tributaries of the Alpine Rhine are the Plessur in Chur, the Landquart in the village of the same name, the Ill and Frutz on the Upper Land of the Austrian plain near Feldkirch. The Alpine Rhine has no major left tributaries; creeks joining it from the left are the Oldisbach at Chur, Cosenz at Untervaz, Säge at Tardisbrücke, Tamina at Bad Ragaz, Tobelbach at Buchs, Simml at Gams. Though all left tributaries in the St. Gall Rhine Valley are collected by the Rheintaler Binnenkanal, which flows into Lake of Constance by Alter Rhein, and never meets the Alpine Rhine anymore.

The mouth of the Alpine Rhine and the "Rhine Valley" looking south

GeographyEdit

 
The course of the Alpine Rhine

The alpine valley is flanked by the Alps and its mountain ranges (e.g. Alpstein, Plessuralpen, Rätikon Calanda, Albula Alps, Glarner Alps), some higher than 3,000 metres (9,800 ft). The highest mountain of the Alpine Rhine Valley, the Ringelspitz, lies at the beginning, above Tamins. At 3'247 m, it is also the highest peak of the canton of St. Gallen, bordering the Alps valley with its southeast flank.

SubdivisionsEdit

Geographical parts of the Alpine Rhine Valley are:

Upper half:

Lower half:

To the north, the Bündner Rheintal crosses into the Rhine valley between Sargans and Lake of Constance, where it largely forms the border between the canton of St. Gallen on the west side and Liechtenstein and Austria on its east side. On both sides, the valley is simply called the Rhine Valley, though the Swiss sometimes also call it the St. Gall Rhine Valley in order to distinguish it from its upper half.
  • St. Gall Rhine Valley (German: St. Galler Rheintal): On its western side, the Rhine Valley is politically further divided into Werdenberg (Wahlkreis) and Rheintal (Wahlkreis), though geographically it is separated by the Hirschensprung near Rüthi (SG).
  • Eastern side:
    • On its eastern side, the upper half of the valley is called the Lichtenstein Rhine Valley (German: Liechtensteiner Rheintal).
    • Vorarlberg Rhine Valley (German: Voralberger Rheintal): The lower half is also called the Voralberg Rhine Valley, since it belongs to the Austrian federal state Voralberg. It is further divided into an upper and lower part and referred to as the Upper and Lower Lands (German: Vorarlberger Unter- und Oberland). The Lower Lands, sometimes also called Vorderland, stretches from the shores of Lake Constance to the small hill Kummaberg to the south, the upper part lies south of it.

The RhineEdit

 
The Old Rhine (Alter Rhein) in Höchst

The Alpine Rhine begins in the centre of the Swiss canton of Grisons, and later forms the border between Switzerland to the west and Liechtenstein and later Austria to the east.

It is formed near Tamins-Reichenau by the confluence of the Anterior Rhine and the Posterior Rhine. It descends from an elevation of 585 to 396 metres (1,919 to 1,299 ft).

The river makes a distinctive turn to the north near Chur. At Landquart it turns north-east and then to the north east of Sargans.

Near Sargans a natural dam, only a few metres high, prevents it from flowing further to the north-west into the open valley, called Seeztal, and then consequently through Lake Walen (and further to Lake Zurich into the river Aare).

Designations
Official nameRheindelta
Designated16 December 1982
Reference no.275[3]

The mouth of the Rhine into Lake Constance forms an inland delta. The delta is delimited in the west by the Old Rhine and in the east by a modern canalized section. Most of the delta is a nature reserve and bird sanctuary and has been designated as a Ramsar site since 1982.[3] It includes the Austrian towns of Gaißau, Höchst and Fußach. The natural Rhine originally branched into at least two arms and formed small islands by precipitating sediments.

A regulation of the Rhine was called for, with an upper canal near Diepoldsau and a lower canal at Fußach, in order to counteract the constant flooding and strong sedimentation in the western Rhine Delta. The Dornbirner Ach had to be diverted, too, and it now flows parallel to the canalized Rhine into the lake. Its water has a darker color than the Rhine; the latter's lighter suspended load comes from higher up the mountains. It is expected that the continuous input of sediment into the lake will silt up the lake. This has already happened to the former Lake Tuggenersee.

The cut-off Old Rhine at first formed a swamp landscape. Later an artificial ditch of about 2 kilometres (1.2 mi) was dug. It was made navigable to the Swiss town of Rheineck.

CultureEdit

The Alpine valley is characterized by a very active "cult scene". The Bregenzer Festspiele as well as the Kunstmuseum Liechtenstein have great significance and familiarity beyond the region. But also from a regional perspective, there are many platforms, events and projects that enhance the cultural life of the inhabitants and the local actors.[4]

An example of cross-border cooperation in the Alpine Rhine Valley is the "Cultural axis: Bregenz - St.Gallen - Vaduz - Chur": The Kunsthaus Bregenz, the Kunstmuseum St. Gallen, the Kunstmuseum Liechtenstein and the Bündner Kunstmuseum in Chur have been cooperating since 2001. Visible signs of this cooperation of the four institutions/ three countries are the joint presentation on the "Art Lake Constance" each year.

HistoryEdit

Middle AgesEdit

The valley was part of the ancient Roman province of Raetia. The Alemannic people settled the lower Rhine Valley in the early Middle Ages. Under the Frankish Empire, the Rheintal between Montstein and Hirschensprung was given to the Rhinegraviate (the county of the Rheingau), and its first recorded mention is in 891; the area between Lake Constance and Montstein was a part of the Thurgau.

Rule of the Rhine Valley was fragmented throughout the Middle Ages, with the Holy Roman Emperor, the Bishop of Constance, the Abbot of St Gall and the counts of Bregenz and Werdenberg all claiming various portions of the valley. It was not until 1348 that the Rheintal was united, under the county of Werdenberg-Heiligenberg. From when the Habsburgs acquired the county of Tyrol in 1363, they gradually began to gain control of the Rhine Valley, gaining the whole valley through a combination of conquest and purchase by 1395.

Vogtei RheintalEdit

By 1424, the Rhine Valley was largely in the hands of the counts of Toggenburg. After their extinction, Appenzell reconquered the Rheintal with Rheineck in the Old Zürich War in 1445. In 1464, Appenzell protected the Rheintal from the territorial claims of the prince-abbot of St Gall, particularly in a series of battles at the time of the "Rorschacher Klosterbruch", the casus belli for the St Gallerkrieg between 28 July 1489 and the spring of 1490. Nevertheless, Appenzell was forced to cede the governing protectorship of the Valley to the warring powers—the Abbey and the four cantons of Glarus, Lucerne, Schwyz and Zürich—bringing the bailiwick into the ambit of the Old Swiss Confederation as a Gemeine Herrschaft (condominium).

Early modern historyEdit

Swiss ReformationEdit

In 1528, the Protestant Reformation was accepted in the Vogtei Rheintal; whilst Roman Catholic minorities remained, only Altstätten, Widnau, Kriessern and Rüthi had a Catholic majority. Through the defeat of the Catholic hegemony over Switzerland and the end of the lengthy religious disputes that had riven the Confederacy, the 11 August 1712 Peace of Aarau (German: Frieden von Aarau) established confessional parity, allowing both faiths to coexist in legal equality—a concept relatively common to the Holy Roman Empire since the Peace of Westphalia in 1648.

LiechtensteinEdit

The Liechtenstein dynasty was able to arrange the purchase of the minuscule Herrschaft ("Lordship") of Schellenberg and county of Vaduz (in 1699 and 1712 respectively) from the Hohenems. On 23 January 1719, after the lands had been purchased, Charles VI, Holy Roman Emperor, decreed that Vaduz and Schellenberg were united and elevated the newly formed territory to the dignity of Fürstentum (principality) with the name "Liechtenstein" in honour of "[his] true servant, Anton Florian of Liechtenstein". It was on this date that Liechtenstein became a sovereign member state of the Holy Roman Empire. It is a testament to the pure political expediency of the purchases that the Princes of Liechtenstein did not set foot in their new principality for over 120 years.

Napoleonic eraEdit

As a result of the Napoleonic Wars, by 1806 the Holy Roman Empire was under the control of French emperor Napoleon I. Napoleon dissolved the empire; this had broad consequences for Liechtenstein: imperial, legal and political mechanisms broke down. The state ceased to owe obligations to any feudal lord beyond its borders.

In 1798, the Vogtei Rheintal unilaterally declared its independence. In the aftermath of the collapse of the Old Swiss Confederation (resulting from it being completely overrun by the French Revolutionary Armies), on 26 March 1798, a Landsgemeinde in Altstätten promulgated a constitution and elected both a magistrate (German: Landammann) and a council (German: Landsrat). Within weeks, however, this nascent independence was quashed with the inclusion of the Rheintal into the Helvetic canton of Säntis, with the exception of Rüthi and Lienz, assigned to Linth.

With Napoleon's Act of Mediation on 19 February 1803, the Helvetic Republic and its cantonal boundaries were abolished, with the Rheintal reunited as a district of the canton of St. Gallen, stretching from Staad to Lienz and with its capital alternating monthly between Altstätten and Rheineck.

Modern historyEdit

The Bezirk was split in twain in 1831, creating Oberrheintal, with its capital in Altstätten, and Unterrheintal, with its capital alternating between Rheineck and Berneck, St. Gallen. This division persisted until 2003, when a constitutional revision created the modern constituency (Wahlkreis), with the loss of Thal to the adjacent Wahlkreis of Rorschach.

GalleryEdit

 
Chur Rhine Valley with Chur

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ Alpenrhein, Zukunft Alpenrhein - IRKA Internationale Regierungskommission. "Der Rhein und sein Einzugsgebiet". www.alpenrhein.net (in German). Retrieved 2017-04-03.
  2. ^ Bodensee, IGKB - Internationale Gewässerschutzkommission für den. "Aufgaben und Ziele - IGKB - Internationale Gewässerschutzkommission". www.igkb.org (in German). Retrieved 2017-04-03.
  3. ^ a b "Rheindelta". Ramsar Sites Information Service. Retrieved 25 April 2018.
  4. ^ "Aspects of sustainable regional development in the border area of the Alpine region, Page 42" (PDF).