The first records of log rafting in Bavaria go back as far as the 12th century, when important towns like Munich (1158) and Landshut (1204) were founded. The rafts were predominantly a means to transport wood, with the logs the rafts were made of sold at the destination. By and by, they were also used to transport goods, a welcome secondary income for farmers living nearby a river.
Later, in the 15th century, raftsmen got organized in larger companies, and rafting became a trade. This trend led to the emergence of the rafters’ guild, led by the so-called ‘Floßmeister’.
There was a lively trade, especially from the south to the north, with the River Isar as Bavaria’s most important trade route. Rafts went as far as Vienna and Budapest. Even at that time, they transported not only goods, but also passengers.
Rafting reached another peak in the course of industrialisation, when it was highly profitable: in the mid-19th century, more than 8.000 rafts a year went down the Isar. The turning of the tide came towards the end of the 19th century. With the rise of new means of transport like steamers and railroads, rafting as a trade became obsolete. Nowadays, log rafts are used for pleasure trips only.
In the 1930s, the Isar Canal was built, in order to make use of the water power. Three families remain that have the right to operate rafts on the Isar and the canal.
In the ‘Third Reich’, rafting was among the pastimes promoted by the government, but it abruptly ended when the war broke out. The Rafter’s Monument you will see at the end of the trip dates from that period. Since the power stations at Walchensee and Sylvenstein have been built, rafting on the upper Isar (south of Lenggries) is no longer possible.
Today, raft trips start in Wolfratshausen and end in Thalkirchen, at the big landing area called ‘Floßlände’.
Even today, being a rafter is a very responsible job. There still is a ‘Floßmeister’ who instructs the young on how to handle a raft. Therefore, the instructions of the rafter and his crew must be followed at all times. It is forbidden to push any participant of the raft trip into the water. Swimming is allowed with the explicit approval of the rafter only, as he knows about possible shallows.