Up until 1969 the salt water gushed through the creeks and gullies here. Half a century later the Lauwersmeer area is now a breathtaking National Park. Though this was not the reason for closing off the Lauwerszee, the spectacular results have proven that the difficult decision to tame the sea was worth its weight in gold.
The effects of the tides could previously be felt all the way to the city of Groningen via the Reitdiep. This was usually not a problem, but it did sometimes lead to flooding. There were already plans to close off the lake in 1600. However, losing the vast amounts of money being earned in shipping was much too high a price to pay. But then disaster struck again, this time during the Christmas flood of 1717, killing hundreds of people. The solution was to close off the Dokkumerdiep with a lock, the Dokkumer Nieuwe Zijlen. The next step in taming the sea was closing off the Reitdiep near Zoutkamp. And that was the end of the ebb and flow in the city of Groningen.
The sea fought back with a vengeance, and that was not without consequences. After the disastrous storm flood of 1953 in Zeeland, the decision to close off the Lauwerszee began to take shape. An enormous task. Closing off the sea would mean the end of the bustling fishing village of Zoutkamp. When Queen Juliana visited the village in 1969, the flag was even hung at half mast. But Groningen is resilient. Zoutkamp quickly became a colourful tourist attraction. Meanwhile, nature had free rein to grow and flourish. With a minimum of human intervention, a breathtaking nature area with spectacular birds and plants evolved in the blink of an eye. Wild Konik horses and Scottish Highland cattle even live around the lake. Come and see for yourself how fresh water can alter the seabed.