The origin of the name ‘Klöntal’ is still uncertain today. Its first verifiable mention was in 1468, in the chronicle of the ‘Landschreiber’, or ‘head clerk of the chancery’, Rudolf Mad, in which he reported a hard autumn and winter ‘…und was so vil schnews umb den berg, das man uf Einit noch in Kloentel mit moecht gevaren.
At that time, the name Klöntal probably referred to the region behind the lake, which did not hold much significance until its development in the 19th century. The region in front of the lake was known as ‘Seerüti’ until the early 20th century. Around 1800, there was a district called ‘Seerüti-Klöntal’ in the canton’s cadastre, and around 1901 people were still making reference to the Seerütistrasse, which was then absorbed by the state of Glarus.
The Klöntal Valley as a hunting ground
Along with fishing, hunting has been of great importance in the Klöntal Valley since time immemorial. In the early days, it was very important in terms of both people’s diet and the fur trade. Even today, it is still evolving as part of a developmental sport and game hunting process that is appropriate for the modern age.
As early as 1535, the first laws were being passed that created areas closed to hunting, such as the Glärnisch area in 1560. Other than these areas, the hunting grounds were open to free citizens. In 1876, a permit fee was introduced for the first time after the chamois population had fallen sharply. It is also said that wolves and bears used to roam the Klöntal Valley in earlier times as well. The presence of the latter is supported by place names such as Bärentritt (with ‘Bär’ being the German word for ‘bear’), and thanks to Rudolf Mad’s aforementioned chronicle, we know that wolves are supposed to have torn people apart in the exceptionally cold winter of 1571. The alpine ibex was also present in the area in centuries gone by. In 1550, a steinbock was shot in the Glärnisch area. After a long period during which the main animals being hunted were chamois, deer and marmots (as well as foxes, rabbits and badgers), the red deer arrived from the east, after being absent from the region for some time, and settled in the region once more in the late 1940s and early 1950s, culminating in a royal stag being shot on the Richisauer Schwammhöchi in 1956 for the first time since the animal’s reintroduction to the region. Campaigns carried out by the canton of Schwyz in 1962, 1968 and 1971 lead to the ibex also making its way back to the Klöntal Valley. On 12 May, 1968, a 9-year-old steinbock was observed in the vicinity of Oberlängenegg. Today, depending on the season, a larger number of ibex can be found between Wannenstöckli, Ochsenchopf and Wiggis. Hunting and game stocks have always been susceptible to major fluctuations – with the two large federal hunting reserves on the Glärnisch, which totaled 13 km in size and existed from 1926 to 1963, playing a not-inconsiderable role in this regard. But poaching certainly had an influence as well, especially up to and during the First World War!
Logging and timber rafting
According to the report on Klöntal from 1788 by Franz Joseph Büeler, logging and timber rafting were hard, even dangerous, trades. The felled trunks would be cut up into three-to-four-foot-long (1 Glarus foot = 30.68 cm) ‘Blütsche’ (logs) or into eighteen-to-twenty-one-foot-long ‘Trämmel’. These were dragged down into the valley by horses and mules in winter. The ‘Blütschen’, or ‘little logs’, however, were rafted via the Chlön into the lake, where they were dragged to form a ring of trunks up to 500 cords (1 old cord of wood = 2.91 m3) in size. Then, in Seerüti, ‘about 50 men had to cast off the wood in the water and move it on its way’, namely from the then wild Löntsch to Riedern (to the so-called Flözerplatz), to Netstal and sometimes to Linth. Before that, the most gruesome work took place in the narrow Büttenentobel, where the wood would often get stuck in the Löntsch river, and a raftsman had to abseil down for double their daily wage… Due to the laborious and arduous nature of this method of transport, felled wood would be burned down to coal in advance in Klöntal and then transported onwards in sacks. Particular field names still refer to this method of processing today. Charcoal burning was carried out until 1860 and timber rafting until 1886.
The largest ice rink far and wide
A sheet of ice covers Lake Klöntal every winter. Ice sports are said to have been popular here since the mid-19th century. Nowadays, the lake is opened up for skating when the ice is at least twelve centimetres thick. In the winters of 1992/93 and 1994/95, the thin ice meant skating on Lake Klöntal was completely forbidden. In 1989, on the other hand, people were able to skate on the ice for a full nine weeks. In 1996, the area was humming with activity from 15 January to 7 February: extra PTT courses run by the Niederer company, the Rhodannenberg inn’s sausage and raclette stand by the shore of the lake, spot lighting installed by lake warden Bruno Steiger from 19:00 til 22:15. Also, in December 1949, the members of the Niederurnen ice hockey club, founded in 1948, traveled to Klöntal, along with their bikes and all their equipment, for training, strengthened by a selection from the Glarus ice skating club. Between 26 December, 1971 and 4 February, 1972, what Felix Stüssi described as the ‘biggest and most beautiful ice rink far and wide’ made it possible to hold five championship games and even for HCN to achieve promotion to the second division.
Wirtschaft Seerüti – Rhodannenberg
At the eastern end of Lake Klöntal, the municipality of Netstal constructed the ‘Wirtschaft Seerüti’, or the ‘Seerüti public house’, in 1862. After the damming of the lake, the public house was rebuilt by the architects Streiff [&] Schindler in 1911 under the name ‘Rhodannenberg’. The new ‘Gasthof-Hotel Rhodannenberg’, or ‘restaurant-hotel Rhodannenberd’, by the architects Zweifel [&] Leins, was opened in 1984, situated in a slightly elevated, set-back position.
The untimely death of Markus Freuler, born 9 Oct. 1868, occurred here on 21 July, 1881, mourned in the waves and wept for by his foster parents and sister in distant Siberia. The tombstone is only visible when the water level of the lake is low (approx. April to mid-May).
Scheduled boats I
With people beginning to holiday more and more, Lake Klöntal began being used for tourism purposes. On 30 June 1889, the first steamboat, with space for 12 people, touched down on the water here. It belonged to M. Brunner-Legler, owner of the Glarnerhof and the Klöntal Hotel [&] Guesthouse. A one-way trip from Rhodannenberg to Vorauen or vice versa cost 50 centimes. In 1892, Alfred Strehler from Wollishofen announced that he would be sailing an 18-seater naphta steamboat on the lake every Sunday during the Swiss Federal Shooting Festival in Glarus. The construction of the power plant lead to disruptions to shipping.
Construction of the cable car from Richisau to the Gutentalbogen
The valley between the Gotthard and Gonzen fortresses near Sargans has always played an important role in the national defence of Switzerland. Before the Second World War, Colonel Karl Brunner drew attention to the importance of a road connection from the Muotatal Valley to the Linthtal Valley. When the reduit was occupied according to the Rütli report from 25 July, 1940, the absence of this road was clearly evident because a possible closure of the Linth plain would have made the connection from one reduit part to the other very difficult. The Glärnisch combat group, formed at that time under Colonel Baeschlin from Glarus, built a cable car from Richisau over the Pragel to Gutentalboden in 1940 as an emergency solution, which at least improved the supply of material and ammunition. With dynamic spatial defense forming a core element of ‘Armee 95’, the reduit idea has now become obsolete. The remains of the large cable car station to the rear side of Richisau have survived to this day as something of a monument.
Electricity at long last
There have been telephones in the valley since 1889, with the bath houses being the first to receive them. But: ‘It may be seen as a quirk of fate that, in the same place where the waters of an entire valley flow together into a clear mountain lake, and from there, foaming and frothing, are chased through the pressure line into the turbines of the Löntsch power plant in Netstal to generate electricity, a entire section of the valley has lived for 50 years without the product being generated from its very own water’. This was written in 1958 by the then editor of the Neue Glarner Zeitung, after many figures from the worlds of politics and business had gotten together in Vorauen the day before. In three inns, 14 farms, 25 stables and 26 holiday homes, the oil lamps and stable lanterns were finally replaced with electric lighting.