Friday, 20 April 2018

From nature to weapons: Maggia estuary

The Maggia river rises from the Pizzo Cristallina and extends over 56 kilometers through the Sambuco Valley, the Lavizzara Valley and the Maggia Valley.

@Zeitschrift für Landschaftsarchitektur (1985)
Its estuary forms a wide delta between the towns of Ascona and Locarno. This delta opens into Lake Maggiore expanding constantly. On the picture situated on the left, there can be seen the development of the Maggia estuary from 1865 up to nowadays.
The blue box on the first picture corresponds to the placement of the former airfield in Ascona (see our article on Herbert von Karajan). 

The overall catchment area of the Maggia river is about 930 square kilometers with several inflows, the most important of which are Melezza, Rovana and Bavona.

Long dry periods and heavy rains characterize the specific climate of this Insubrica region. In times, heavy rains swelled the river very strong, where the ratio of minimum and maximum amount of water could range of 1/7000. 

The sediments carried from the river to the valley have been also considerable, that is why the estuary has been growing in size. The strong initial slope of the river and the gravel composition of the river bed, combined with the sparse vegetation, have created a permanent erosion effect, which is also reinforced by the river-stream. The Maggia estuary is very large, compared to other Insubrica rivers.

About ten hectares of the Maggia estuary have been shared between the municipalities of Locarno (93%) and Ascona (7%). It has been a beautiful wetland and a river basin, which is periodically submerged by floods of Lago Maggiore (with its main tributary, the Ticino river) and by the floods of the Maggia river. The establishment of the reserve dates goes back to 1985. Since 1990, it has been included among the protected areas of the Canton Ticino as one of the most important estuaries in the Insubrica region. 

The land of the natural reserve belongs largely to the Società Terreni alla Maggia SA. Only a small part belongs to the public domain. Terreni alla Maggia as well as the nearby luxury hotel «Castello del Sole» are wholly owned by two local families Bührle and Anda, the heirs of the Oerlikon Bührle Group. Oerlikon Bührle's family deserves a specific dedication on our Web site, but it is possible to anticipate few major aspects right now. 

Oerlikon Bührle acquired in 1923 a factory in Germany, entering thus the anti-aircraft defence business in 1924. In 1936, he founded a purely anti-aircraft development company, called Contraves (contra aves meaning in Latin "against birds"). In 1989, the Werkzeugmaschinenfabrik Oerlikon-Bührle and Contraves merged together, forming the Oerlikon-Contraves Group, later renamed to Oerlikon Contraves Defence. Oerlikon Contraves was purchased by Rheinmetall, a German armament manufacturer in 1999 and renamed Rheinmetall Air Defence AG on 1 January 2009. On the other side, Oerlikon Bührle Group was renamed in 2000 into Unaxis, then in 2006 into OC Oerlikon Corporation AG, which is controlled today by a company called Sonova, belonging to a Russian businessman with Ukrainan origins called Viktor Vekselberg (1957 - ).

  • P. Bürgi, L. Paolo, G. Cotti, P. Vanossi, Delta della Maggia = Maggia estuary (English translated), Zeitschrift für Landschaftsarchitektur 24 (1985), pages 28-32
  • There are many possibilities to visit the Maggia estuary. The most scenic is from the left bank (from the side of Ascona). You can park the car at Terreni alla Maggia and walk alongside the canalization dam. The estuary changes its shape according to the water level. Definitely, it has been the most interesting access to it during dry periods.