Report - - Maria Theresia Water Tunnel, Smolnik, Slovakia - September 2017 | European and International Sites | 28DaysLater.co.uk

Report - Maria Theresia Water Tunnel, Smolnik, Slovakia - September 2017

Bertie Bollockbrains

There is no pain
Regular User
Just returned from a climbing trip in the Tatra Mountains on the Polish/Slovak border. Anyways I had a bit of down time out there from the mountains, and so took the opportunity to explore some of the many abandoned mines out there.

Firstly, the Maria Theresia Water Tunnel lying above the village of Smolnik. Smolnik was once the world's leading copper mining area, but the town had a water supply problem and struggled to gain enough water power to drive the machines of the mines. So this 2km long tunnel was built by hand during 1768-1794 for water supply from the Bystry stream in the neighbouring valley. It is still used for the original purpose.


In 1768, the dam of Úhorná was built in Smolnik valley to supply water to the mining village. However there was still not enough water to drive the mining machines (and I wonder how! It rained the whole time I was out there). The decision was made to connect the Bystrý Potok stream in the neighbouring valley by tunnel. The work was undertaken by a E. Nikolas.

The digging of the tunnel began at both ends with the plan of hopefully meeting in the middle - they didn't and missed by 6 metres. This can still be seen in the tunnel today where the roof suddenly goes high at the centre point. Legend has it that the two groups of tunnelers dug opposite to each other for some time before the penny finally dropped.

The tunnel is a length of 1986 metres with a height of 1.9m apart from the middle bit as already explained. Miners worked for 26 years, completing the job in 1794. The tunnel was named in honour of Empress Maria Theresa, the then ruler of the Habsburg dominions (today that would be Austria, Hungary, Croatia, Bohemia and Transyvania). The lower entrance of the tunnel at Smolnik is 15m lower than the upper entrance, allowing water to flow at 70 litres per second - sufficient to drive the mining machines.

The tunnel is still in use to supply water and it is actively maintained. A pipeline now carries the water and the walls are reinforced with metalwork where needed. A raised concrete footway runs the whole length of the tunnel.

Some historical photos...



1. We start at the lower entrance

2. First view looking in

3. The tunnel is only reinforced where needed and is mostly rock-hewn, with a galley height of 1.9m

4. It runs for just short of 2km

5. And it is looking the same now

6. Eventually the upper portal could be seen

7. The upper portal was open too

8. I exited, but found myself deep in a forest, with no footpaths leading anywhere and a mountain between me and my car. I had no choice but to return back the same way

9. Entering the tunnel again

10. And it looks the same in this direction

11. The centre point, where the two groups of tunnelers missed. Noticed that the ceiling is much taller here

12. A small collapse

13. And back to the lower portal

14. A rubbish attempt at a selfie. Think I need photo tips on getting these right. Well a new body would be a useful tip for starters I guess.

Thanks for reading