For hikers, cyclists, swimmers and sailors, Lake Baldeney is pure recreation. Few know that it was artificially created along with other Ruhr reservoirs to improve water quality. For the Ruhr, which rises in the Sauerland region and is the most important source of water in the Ruhr area, really degenerated into a cesspool at the beginning of the 20th century due to industrial and residential wastewater ...

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… The pollution of the Ruhr and its tributaries, notably the Lenne, already occurs in the Sauerland. The purpose of the Ruhr reservoirs is to slow down the current and allow microorganisms to absorb sinking dirt particles. The idea comes from Karl Imhoff, a pioneer in wastewater technology and the first managing director of the Ruhr Association, which is in charge of keeping the Ruhr clean as of 1913.

Clearly, the implementation meets with resistance. Problem number one: convincing the property owners whose land will be flooded by the lake. In the case of Lake Baldeney, Gustav Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach is among those affected. His main interest is the view from his family villa, Hügel. He is said to have asked Karl Imhoff whether the lake could be seen from there. Imhoff confirms. "Then go ahead and build it," Krupp replies.

Problem number two: the industrial companies and cities that, as residents of the Ruhr, have to pay for the reservoir by levy. They already vetoed Imhoff's initial plan to build a chain of sewage treatment plants along the Ruhr as too expensive. The advantage of the reservoir idea is that hydro-electric power plants at the dams can generate extra electricity, which in turn provides additional income, as does the leasing of leisure and sports facilities. Nevertheless, the lakes take decades to be realised.

The construction of Lake Baldeney at the end of the 1920s is further hampered by the world economic crisis. The hiring of 2,000 unemployed people as "voluntary labourers" finally ensures completion by 1933. In 1935 the lake hosts its first sailing regatta, and in 1937 the Baldeney outdoor pool opens on the north shore. But already in the 1950s – Germany is booming amid the so-called economic miracle – the high bacterial contamination of the Ruhr leads to a general bathing ban. The only exception is the bathing area in Lake Baldeney, which operates until 1973. Thanks to the refurbishment of many sewage treatment plants over the following decades, bathing is once again safe at selected bathing spots.


The "Steel Time Travelers" Luise & Alfred: Baldeneysee


Your hillside cottage and your park - well and good. But what about the dirty dysentery down there in the valley? ...

Full dialog text
Lu: Your little hill house and your park - well and good. But what about the dirty dysentery down there in the valley? Wouldn't a proper lake be to your taste, Alfred?

Al: There you have hit a sore spot. True - the water quality is to be deplored. Where one obeys, chips fall - or how do they say with you in the Sauerland?

Lu: If all the wastewater from the factories gets into the river, then swimming will soon be a thing of the past! And you won't be able to hook salmon, pike and eel either!

Al: With a view of a beautiful panorama I could do without a few lands. And a dam would be easy to build. Barges no longer have to be pulled up ehedem - and for a rowing party it would even be advantageous ...

Lu: The people of Werden will not be enthusiastic. After all, it's their beloved Ruhr! But clean water, physical exercise, promenades on the lake ...

Al: ... electricity and less flooding are really powerful arguments!

Visitor information

Car park regatta course
Freiherr-vom-Stein Str. 206a
45133 Essen

Opening hours:
The area is accessible 24 hours a day.

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Lake Baldeney - Then and Now (2010) + Hot Sunday (1958)

Brief description (film without sound)

The film shows a montage of photos from the construction phase up to the completion of Lake Baldeney as well as different forms of leisure activities in the summer of 1958.

Lake Baldeney in pictures



For hikers, cyclists, swimmers and yachtsmen, Lake Baldeney is pure recreation. Few know that it was man-made along with other Ruhr reservoirs to improve the water quality. For the Ruhr, which rises in the Sauerland region and is the Ruhr District's most important source of water, literally turnes into a cesspool in the early 20th century due to industrial and residential wastewater …

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Werden Olt Town with Basilika St. Ludgerus


So from here the abbots of Werden ruled the valley of the Ruhr and other lands - also "your" Bredeney, Alfred! Important rulers, these Benedictine monks. Their monastery still dominates the little town. By the way: The heirs of the castle lords of Altena in my homeland also had a say here! Look at the mighty basilica! The monastery is now a prison - unbelievable! And I wouldn't be surprised if there was even dancing or music here soon!

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Museum Folkwang


I have dedicated myself to hard work all my life - a fervent advocate of "hot iron". That leaves little room for the finer things in life or even idleness. My grandchildren will hopefully do things differently one day and devote themselves to art and culture. That would be a great legacy!

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