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In the National Landscape Winterswijk in the Achterhoek region, you will find the Winterswijk Quarry. where limestone is mined. This is an extraordinary location, due to the fact that the layers on the surface here are almost 240 million years old! Part of the quarry falls within Willinks Weust, a Natura 2000 nature reserve. A unique situation in which nature and industry coexist alongside each other.
To see in the Quarry of Winterswijk
Of the three quarries, only the middle (and largest) one is still in operation. The other two quarries have been returned to nature. In the quarries, you can see layers of light green and grey limestone, called the Muschelkalk. Unique finds have been made in this limestone, including the fossilised remains of one of the oldest animal species known in the Netherlands, the Nothosaurus. Special animals and plants live in the two abandoned quarries. For example, there is an eagle-owl, the largest owl in the world, which returns every year.
Sightseeing at the Quarry of Winterswijk
You get a good overview of the quarry from the viewpoint with an information board at the car park. In spring, you may spot the eagle-owl from the path between two quarries. There is a special viewing wall for this. You cannot enter the quarries on your own, but you can take a guided tour of about 1.5 hours and descend into the quarry. During this hike, you will learn about the history of the landscape, its unusual nature, and exceptional geology. Would you like to look for fossils and minerals yourself? We recommend signing up for a visitors’ day. Read more about these possibilities on the page on the ‘mosaic floor’ of the Netherlands on the website of the Winterswijk Tourist Office.
- The viewpoint near Winterswijk Quarry is at the T-junction of Steengroeveweg and Wesselerweg.
- Near the Winterswijk Quarry, you will find cycling nodes 16 and 22.
Geology in brief
During the Triassic era, the Netherlands was lay at 30 degrees north latitude, at the level of what is now the Sahara Desert. The Muschelkalk was deposited in a mud flat (sabkha) on the edge of a calm shallow sea or lagoon. Geological processes caused the lime mud to petrify and deform deep inside the earth. Eventually, those processes returned the Muschelkalk to the surface.
The Muschelkalk was deposited in the Triassic era and is part of the Upper Germanic Triassic Group. At this time, the Netherlands was located in the shallow, tropical Muschelkalk sea. The light green and grey limestone, dolomite, and marl layers were deposited in this calm environment. Muschelkalk contains a lot of lime (calcium carbonate). The shallow Muschelkalk sea dried up during the dry season. The lime mud dried out. The mud cracks of this process can still be seen in the quarry. Eventually, after becoming buried under younger rock layers, the lime mud petrified deep in the subsurface. After millions of years and under the influence of geological processes, the Muschelkalk has resurfaced. This is the only place in the Netherlands where Muschelkalk is exposed. In other places, the Muschelkalk is buried more than three kilometres below the surface!