ENCI Groeve Nature Park

Unique Marl Pit in Zuid-Limburg

The ENCI Groeve is a limestone quarry on the Maas river side of Mount St. Pieter, just outside the lively city of Maastricht. Read the best tips for a visit to the ENCI Groeve Nature Park in the Netherlands. With of course also the most beautiful hikes in the ENCI Groeve.

The extraction of limestone, also known as marl, started here in 1926. ENCI is the abbreviation for Eerste Nederlandse Cement Industrie (First Dutch Cement Industry). The entire process was done in the ENCI Quarry: extracting limestone and producing cement. On July 1, 2018, the extraction of marl was stopped. The production of cement continues, but then via the import of raw materials.

The ENCI Groeve is the only gorge in the Netherlands, with a unique history. This is a special landscape in the southern part of Limburg, which you will not encounter anywhere else. In 1995 the area was handed over to the nature organisation Natuurmonumenten to restore this nature reserve.

Although this is quite difficult because man has created the area. But nature has quickly adapted. Here you will find countless birds that breed in the steep excavated walls. Such as the Eurasian eagle-owl, the largest owl species in our country.

Viewing Platform

The viewing platform at the ENCI Groeve. ©Corno van den Berg

One of the most popular spots is the lookout point on the edge of the pit. This was opened in 2015. You look out over a large part of the quarry, with a view of the city of Maastricht, the Maas and the marl factory of the ENCI. The platform hangs above the gorge which gives a great view.

Down into the Pit

The stairs into the pit. ©Corno van den Berg

The iron staircase was opened to the public in 2017. It takes you through 210 steps about 40 meters into the depth, or actually into the pit. It runs close to the marl walls, which rise steeply from the landscape. So that you can get a good idea of how these walls were created over the millions of years. The staircase was built on the spot where the Oude Luikerweg used to run, which ran from Maastricht to Luik.

The Caves

View from the caves. ©Corno van den Berg

At the bottom you have some caves, the path runs through a cave. So you can see how the marl was extracted in the quarry. The entrance is unfortunately closed, but you can still see the walls.

Eagle-Owl Valley

The Eagle-Owl Valley has been the place where the impressive eagle-owl has nested since 1997. Dozens of young owls have already been raised in this valley. The valley is closed to people, but from the edge, you can look into the valley at various points. Look closely, because you might spot this unique bird.

The Eagle-Owl Valley at Mount St. Pieter. ©Corno van den Berg

Viewingpoint Kiekoet

It is best to visit the Kiekoet lookout point, where you have a chance to spot these birds of prey. The best time is early in the day when it gets light and around dusk. Be still and keep your eyes on the canyon. You can suddenly see a remarkably large bird soaring past.

Lakes in ENCI Groeve Nature Park

The blue-green lake in the ENCI Groeve.

In the quarry, you can see several lakes. These are often striking blue and even light blue in colour. According to scientists, this is due to the reflection of the blue sky and the striking depth of the pool. When you walk around here you see the colour continuously changing, that is due to the light from the sun, for example. So you get the most beautiful colours in warm weather, especially around noon.

Pond Onder D'n Olifant

You will come across the pond Onder D'n Olifant when you walk through the quarry. This attraction is located under Hoeve Lichtenberg. The walking path leads between the lakes in the quarry and the pond. Where you can see frogs and waterfowl remarkably often.

Hiking in and around ENCI Groeve

Hiking in the ENCI Groeve.

There are various hiking routes in and around the pit on Mount St. Pieter. I hiked the nicest route myself and was amazed by its beauty. I have described the most beautiful walk in this article. You'll also find some tips for hiking.

Groeve Route Sint-Pietersberg (7 km)

The trail through the ENCI Groeve is one of the most popular walks, although there are more in this special part of the Netherlands. It takes you past all the attractions in the quarry and on Mount St. Pieter. Take your time for this route, there is a lot to see.

It is best to take the trail clockwise. So you can do the beautiful descent in the ENCI. Where you have a beautiful view over the valley. Note the flint layers in the walls. The black stones are clearly visible.

At the Chalet D'n Observant, you can have a drink or a bite. While you have a wonderful view over ENCI Groeve. In addition to the path through the gorge, you will also pass the Devil's Cave, where many bats live.

You will also pass Groeve de Tombe (also known as Duchateau Groeve), walk through the ENCI forest and the Jekerdal, as the flowery west slope of Mount St. Pieter is called. At Fort St. Pieter you can park your car. The hike begins and ends here.

The path through the ENCI forest. ©Corno van den Berg

Visit the ENCI Groeve

You can visit the quarry all year round. If you want to see the flowers in bloom, spring is the best time. This is mainly the period from the end of May to the end of June. In the autumn the leaves of the trees colour and a visit is also very worthwhile. Then it is often remarkably quiet.

It can get crowded here in high season and on weekends. The best way to avoid most people is to head out early in the day. Then you also have the best chance of seeing birds and other animals.

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