The prehistoric drainage divide between Rhine and Danube1


In the course of time the drainage divide between Rhine and Danube has been wandering considerably. Originally the drainage divide may have been located relatively near to my doorstep on top of a mountain ridge at a level of 500m. The location is found near Stuttgart in the south-west part of Germany. The mountain ridge is covered by a narrow road 2, which represents an original drainage divide between Rhine and Danube. Raindrops, which are landing at the northern side of this road will have to take a 20km detour in the Winterlauter respectively Lauter3 rivers to join the southern-sided raindrops, which are draining towards the Klöpferbach in order to share into the Murr river, leading to the Neckar, the Rhine and the North Sea. The river Lauter (including the Winterlauter) belong to the category of rivers, which originally did not belong to the Rhine, but to the Danube-oriented system. This still may be observed at the Lauter's stream mouth into the Murr river, which is directed in the opposite direction of the current water flow. The Lauter and the Murr may be considered to form a straight line parallel to the road L1066.

Fig. 1: Tributary-systems of the Murr and the Kocher
Original map: Karte Kocher und Jagst, Version 3, by BerndH, GNU Free Documentation License

1 source: Lauter (Murr) – Wikipedia 2 The highroad between Großbottwar and Sulzbach (Murr) - see Google-Map 3 Originally the river Lauter's name was Sommerlauter.

The barrage at the mill Rüflensmühle (Oppenweiler)
This map demonstrates the original tributary-systems of the Murr and the Kocher. The water-divide between the red (Kocher) and green (Murr) tributaries may be located at the narrowest valley point at the mill “Rüflensmühle” (providing a 3,20 m brutto difference in height) in Oppenweiler. The barrage (at the mill “Rüflensmühle”) between the tributaries of the Murr and Kocher may have isolated the Murr from the Danube-system in the range between Oppenweiler and the river Neckar. At that time the barrage at the Rüflensmühle also represented the water-divide between Rhine and Danube, which might be considered as extended towards the highest mountain locations of Eschelhof. The local water-divide based on today's contour lines including the barrage has been sketched in a Google-Map.

The prehistoric Murr- and Lauter-rivers
16 Million years ago the river Lauter had been the prehistoric source for the Murr, which formerly had chosen an opposite flow direction and did flow into the prehistoric Kocher-valley, which ultimately poured into the Danube. The more intense eroding forces of the Rhine however redirected the Murr's flow and reversed the river's orientation. Neighboring rivers , which also reversed their flow direction from the Danube to the Rhine are the rivers Rot, Lein and Bibers. See the Google-Mapskarte with some sketches for the prehistoric flowsystems and the high-road's position as a water-divide between the Danube and the Rhine. There is an explanation text and a sketch at a sign along the high-road near the track to the Warthofruin.

Today's water-divide (Danube / Rhine) near Oberkochen
Today's water-divide (Danube / Rhine) is located near Oberkochen and seems to be heading to the south4. The southbound river (towards the Danube is the Brenz). The water-divide location at Oberkochen also is found at an altitude of approximately 500m. Today the watershed seems to be moving southwards with a speed of approximately 10.000 years / kilometer.

4 Bericht 432: Der Kocherursprung - Verstärkte Erosion

Appendix: River-systems of the Murr and Kocher

Fig. 2: Tributary-systems of the Murr and the Kocher (Original of Version 3, by BerndH)
Original map: Karte Kocher und Jagst, Version 3, by BerndH, GNU Free Documentation License

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