Salza River – Rafting in the Heart of Austria

Written by

Gabor Boszormenyi

If you are into crazy adventures, like I do, you must visit the Gesäuse National Park in the Heart of Austria. The Salza river is one of the most beautiful and epic rafting destinations in Europe.

The crystal clear water and 2300 meters high mountains make this place epic. Wild rafting, kayaking, and hiking are daily activities in the area. I was lucky to spend a whole week in Palfau Rafting Camp to enjoy nature that the Ennstal Alps offers for adrenaline seekers.

Initially, we came to do a photoshoot for the rafting camp, but we also got to climb some of the most prominent peaks in the region that I will talk about in another article.


Before we get to rafting, let’s see where Plafau is situated. The Salza river goes through the Gesause National park in lower Austria.

The river starts off from Traisenberg and moves to the south of Mariazell. While traveling along the, the Salza River crosses along the Wildalpener Salzatal, a Styrian nature preserve. Completing its long journey by traveling along 88 km, the watercourse finally mixes off with Enns along Grobreifling.

Rafting Camping Palfau
Rafting Camping Palfau

If you are into backcountry skiing or split boarding, don’t go any further. Since it’s a national park, there no ski lifts, therefore it’s the perfect place for snowshoeing and freeskiing.

The Gesause range is within the Ennstal Alpha and a steep water gap between Admont and Hieflau.

These beautiful creeks and valleys are beautiful. I can undoubtedly feel myself in a fairy tale. The water’s color is just unbelievable, and the environment is this vibrant green that creates a beautiful combination.

First Day – Waterfall time

We arrived at the rafting camp around midday, and we started to plane the week with the national park staff. The main goal was to showcase the activities of the region with rafting and hiking. So the Marketing guys were started to brief us and planned the whole week.

Since we did not have anything to do on our arrival the owners of the camp suggested visiting a nearby waterfall, although they were not sure it has water now.

Along the way, we can find more subtle creeks and rivers, so they also suggested taking some neoprene suits and diving into the cold water to get a glimpse of the temperature of the water.

Even in the summer, the river’s temperature is around 10-12C. Yes, we need to try that and get mentally ready for this I e cold bath.

Since we definitely are going rafting, it doesn’t seem such a bad idea.

But first, let’s head to the waterfall.

We definitely started to notice some strange sound when we were approaching the spot. The trail goes through small wooden steps and bridges that are incredibly slippery because of the waterfall’s amount of water. So be careful in rainy weather or when the waterfall decides to go crazy.

On the way to Wasserlochklamm
On the way to the waterfall

At the beginning of the rapids, we only saw small cascades, but we definitely felt then heard the big one’s power in the background. Wasserloch Klamm was in its full blast, and every time we crossed its path, it gave us strong sprays into our faces. We got soaked immediately in just a few seconds.

Wasserlochklamm Palfau Austria

We have finally arrived at the source. I have never seen anything like this before, the waterfall looked brutal, and it seemed it never stops. We were lucky, our hosts said, because it’s very rare to it in its full bloom.

Wasserlochklamm Palfau Austria
The Source of Wasserlochklamm

We hiked to the top to take some photos of the panorama and the source of the waterfall. We’ve found Interesting angles and took some pics of each other.

The next mission is to find a small pond where we can try out the neoprene and get to feel the water’s temperature.

Salza river
salza river

We had some fun playing and being silly in the water that was cold enough so we called it a day. But we want more adventures. 🙂

The Second Day – Rafting on the Salza River

We got up early and I was wandering around the camp to take some photos. The whole rafting camping is a small piece of heaven. They are hammocks all around between the trees and cold drinks cooled by natural spring.

Our host stopped by to inform us that the rafting guys are on their way so we can prepare to leave soon. Let’s the adventure begin.

Rafting Camp Palfau
Rafting Camp Palfau
Rafting Camp Palfau
Visitors at the camp

The guide was a very easygoing and fun guy but a professional at the same time. He told us the plan for the day and the safety guidelines.

Wearing a neoprene and chest vest is mandatory that will save your life if, for any reason, you would fell into the water.

After the quick briefing, we jump into the vans to drive to the starting point. 

They transferred the rafting boats with a separate car that we carried onto the water by hand afterward.

There were 4 other passengers in the boat, so we were 7 people total with the coach.

We got the privilege to stay in the front with Gabor, which is the most challenging position since big paddles are needed in the rafting boat’s front.

Rafting on the salza river

The starting was easy with no severe rapids whatsoever, so we could enjoy the surrounding mountains’ view. Spring was in its full swing. All the bushes were vibrant green, and the water was so clear and blue that I haven’t seen it before.

Rafting on the salza river

But it’s cold, way too cold. The guide measured the water; it was 11C. Our guide said there will be a calm part after the rapids where we need to jump into the water and swim back to the boat. It’s a safety protocol to simulate what would happen in case of emergency.

But back to that later.

The first part was coming to the end that will lead us to the more intense rapids on the Salza river. Small ones, we got pretty bug ones as well later on. The instructions were the following; paddle as fast as you can when we are getting close to the rapids; in this case, we go over the cascades quickly.

And it was working for the most part, although we got serious splashes in our face with Gabor paddling in the front. Then we get to the part that no one wanted. Time to hop into the water, so we jumped into the 11C river when we slowed down in a calmer area.

My turn to get into the water; it was cold, and the boat was drifting away from me, but it was all planned because we had to swim back to the rafting boat where the teammates picked me up into the rafting boat.

My heart was pumping very fast with full of adrenaline.

Now that we know how is Rafting looks like on the Salza river it was time for some location scouting and the actual photo shoot on the following days.

kayaking on the salza river
kayakers on the salza river
salza river kayak
kayaker on the salza river
kayakers on the salza river

About me

My name is Gabor, I am a User Interface designer & adventure photographer. I'm constantly seeking new challenges, whether it's in the mountains or on remote islands.

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