Funtana Chistagna

Useful Information

Location: Raschvella, 7556 Valsot.
A12 Inntal Autobahn exit B180/Reschenpaß/Meran/Italien/St.Moritz/Schweiz, B180 towards Reschenpass for 32 km, turn right on B184/27, after 34.5 km turn left signposted "Kieswerk Laurent" and "Raschvella". Parking lot on the left after 200 m. 2 h hike to the spring.
(46.8139289, 10.4254275)
Open: no restrictions.
Fee: free.
Classification: KarstKarst Spring KarstIntermittent Spring
Light: n/a
Dimension: A=1,839 m asl, T=4° C.
Guided tours: self guided
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
Bibliography: John Hooper (1956): Discovery at the Fontana Chistaina, Bulletin of the National Speleological Society, Volume 18, p. 33–39. pdf
Address: Funtana Chistagna, 7556 Valsot.
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.


1562 Engadine reformer and Bible translator Duri Champell examines the source.
1563 or 1565 naturalist Conrad Gessner from Zurich reports cycles consisting of a two-hour pour followed by a two-hour break, which would result in six cycles per day.
1770 Gabriel Walser, a geographer from Appenzell, describes the spring in his book Schweitzer-Geographie samt den Merkwürdigkeiten in den Alpen und hohen Bergen (Swiss geography together with the oddities in the Alps and high mountains).
1788 local pastor, educator and explorer Peider Nuot Saluz from Lavin also notes a pulsation, but comes to different cycle lengths.
1810 travel journalist Johann Gottfried Ebel describes the morphology of the then known 50 m long cave in a travel guide.
1857 Physician Jacob Papon, a nature-interested spa guest in nearby Vulpera and a member of the board of the Natural Research Society of Graubünden, can no longer observe cycles with complete drying up of the spring.
17-AUG-1866 physician and naturalist Eduard Killias from nearby Scuol also notes that the spring no longer pulsates, or at least not completely.
1884 Eduard Killias writes a six-page description of the spring in the Schweizerische Alpenzeitung.
1895 spring mentioned in the tourist guide Der Tourist in der Schweiz by Iwan von Tschudi.
1909 geologist Christian Tarnuzzer from Chur investigates the spring and caves.
08-AUG-1924 water flow, water temperature as well as air temperature are scientifically investigated for one week. The absence of a regular, complete pulsation is once again confirmed. Instead, a connection with precipitation and temperature-induced meltwater flow is established.
1935 cave is recorded in the Kataster der Schweizer Höhlen (Cadastre of Swiss Caves), but not to the extent of the information already known about the cave at that time.
1953 only the first 50 m of the spring cave are known.
15-AUG-1953 Englishman John Hooper, his wife Winifred Hooper (alias "Win Hooper" or "The Weasel") and Theodor F. Anker from Zurich investigate the cave.
AUG-1954 Hooper couple and Theodor Anker extend the discoveries of the previous year.
1955-1957 Theodor F. Anker explores the cave with members of the Schweizerischen Gesellschaft für Höhlenforschung (Swiss Speleological Society) and produces a 1:500 scale cave plan of the main passage.
1956 John Hooper publishes the results of the latest discovery in the Bulletin of the National Speleological Society.
1974 During several expeditions, Jörg and Max Steiner of the Ostschweizerische Gesellschaft für Höhlenforschung (OGH) explore the cave system.
1980s Diving forays by cave divers take place in the cave.


Funtana Chistagna is a name in the local language Vallader which is spoken only in the Unterengadin (Lower Engadine, Engiadina Bassa) and Val Müstair in Kanton Graubünden by some 7,000 people. It is a dialect of the Romansh language and is spoken and written, an attempt to switch from Vallader to Rumantsch Grischun as their written language in 2008 failed in 2012 with a referendum and was switched back to Vallader. However, it is not a unique language like basque, it is actually a form of Latin, medieval Latin mixed with numerous other languages and modern terms are English or German. The reason is simply that those remote valleys in Switzerland were often cut off from the rest of civilization, and even during the best times they left only rarely. Vallader is one of five similar dialects and its name is derived from val (valley).

Funtana Chistagna is actually "funtana chi stagna", a description which translates "the source that dries up". Quite simple, nevertheless it was used in half a dozen different forms over the centuries. «Fontana Chistaina», «Funtana Sistaina», «Fontana Chi staina», «Funtana Chistaina», «Funtana chi staina», and «Funtana Chistagna» in chronological order. Today the official name is Funtana Chistagna, sometimes the German translation Stockende Quelle is used.

This is not a tourist site, and actually like most intermittent springs it is impossible to visit. Oh, it's possible to get there, although it requires a three-hour hike from the upper Inn river. No, the reason why it is impossible to visit the intermittent springs is, that it unfortunately does not dry up anymore, this ended sometime in the early 19th century. But as such behaviour was so extraordinary, it was very well documented in literature, though nobody actually spent time to measure ebb and flow for a longer time. And as the frequency and amplitude changed with season and weather, there are different, and sometimes contradictory descriptions. So if you want to see it yourself, follow road 27 up-valley towards Scuol, there is a turnoff to the left signed "Kieswerk Laurent" and "Raschvella", there is a small parking lot for the hikers. Cross the Inn on the covered wooden bridge to the hamlet Raschvella, which actually consists of five houses only, then straight ahead into the Val d'Assa. There is no official trail and the biggest obstacle is the 80 m high Assafall waterfall. After that it's only walking along the riverbed. The distance only about 3.5 km, but it ascends 750 m.

The spring is nevertheless quite interesting. It's a narrow fissure in the cliff face from which a small waterfall gushes. Right behind the cave entrance is a cave lake and the level of the lake still rises and falls once daily. But the times of minimum and maximum differ over the year and the spring does not fall dry anymore. It seems the spring water is the melting water of a glacier above and thus with the higher temperature during the day it produces more melting water than during cold nights. As there is a lot of snow during winter the best time to visit is between July and October, during the rest of the year it might be covered in snow. To enter the cave and see the lake, you should have appropriate equipment. While normal mountain trekking gear is sufficient for the walk, we strongly recommend full caving gear including neoprene socks and gum boots. There was a number of poles helping with the climb in the 1950s, but they are gone today.

The first examination was made by the Engadine reformer Duri Champell in 1562, and his experience was published in 1573 in the work Raetiae alpestris topographica descriptio (Topographical Description of Alpine Raetia). He notes three cycles per day, the pourings starting at 9, at 12, and in the evening. Although Duri Champell's visit to the spring provided the first information known today, his main focus was not on the scientific but on the theological utilisation of the experience. He was thus part of a philosophical tradition which was popular at the time, it started with Francesco Petrarch's ascent of Mont Ventoux in 1336. By mentioning the technology of the sundial, his report gives the impression of a precise, scientific description, and at the same time he describes the cave as east-exposed, although it is north-exposed, which he must have known when using a sundial.

Legend of the last knight at Tschanüff Castle near Ramosch:
Despite a happy marriage, the knight cheated and visited a fairy in the cave of Funtana Chistagna. By a trick, his wife found out about the deed, followed the knight into the cave and, while they were both asleep, snatched a lock of the fairy's hair as proof. Later, when confronted, the knight promised not to visit the fairy again. Since he kept the promise, a curse pronounced by the fairy took effect: the knight died in the war and in the same hour his three sons all died from the plague.
The fairy, however, cried in the morning at the time when she used to expect the knight, and also in the evening when he had left her. Her tears were the reason for the pulsating flow of the spring.