Coastal Guide on Dune Management 

The mobile dune of Råbjerg Mile, Denmark

mainland dune
mobile dune
sand drift

Contact:  F. Jensen. The Forest District of Northern Jutland. Sct Laurentiivej 150. DK 9990 Skagen. Denmark. Email:

Location:  Denmark, Skaw area

The history of sand drift in Denmark
For centuries, ordinances gave restrictions against the exploitation of vegetation in the dune areas in Denmark. In 1792, the country adopted its first Sand Drift Act, which regulated stabilization works. The background was the intensive usage of the vulnerable dune areas, which lead to the increased sand drift in the western parts of Denmark in previous centuries. The massive sand migration was a social catastrophe: the sand covered farmland, farms, houses, roads and churches. With the Sand Drift Act of 1857, it became possible for the state to buy or if necessary to expropriate sand drift areas for affo-restation, in 1867 it was added to buy or expropriate adjacent lower areas for afforestation. After this time up to the 1950s the large plantations in the dune areas of Denmark were established. Today sand drift is under control and more and more focus has been placed on protection of the natural envi-ronment.

The mobile dune of Råbjerg Mile
 When the Danish dune area was afforested during the last century the big mobile dune of Råbjerg Mile situated in the Skaw area was left to enable later generations to see and understand the sanddrift catastrophe of further centuries. Centuries ago, when the foredune was without vegetation cover, it started to move from the coast of the Skagerrak and developed a barkhan crescent shape. It moved to the east and grew on its way. The dune became partly vegetated and changed to a parabolic shape. Nowadays it moves at a speed of about 15 m per year, which depends on specific climate conditions. The highest point is approximately 35 m and the sand covers an area of about 2 km x 1 km. In the valley plain of the parabole, the surface sand reaches the water table and plant species of poor, moist sand can be found.

In 1900 the state of Denmark bought the central part of Råbjerg Mile around the dune. Since the first Conservation of Nature Act in 1917, the government has protected even bigger areas around the dune system either by purchasing the area or by ordering a certain management. The moving sand is now drifting out of the governmentally owned area and protected private areas and a new conservation order is under discussion with the aim to give highest priority to natural sand movement. Private pro-perties will be compensated for losses and will eventually be bought by the state.
The public has free access to the area by foot. It is assumed that this has no negative effect on the dune itself, it might, however, put pressure on the evolving vegetation cover. Especially around a par-king ground, which is situated north of the dune, human traffic destabilizes an area north of the actual moving dune. It is considered to move the parking ground further north and to stabilize the adjacent dune area. About 250.000 people visit the dune every year.

Location of Råbjerg Mile


  • Anthonsen, K.L. (1997): Evolution of a parabolic dune, Råbjerg Mile, Skagen Odde, and its relation to other Danish dune formations. In: Ovesen (ed.). Coastal dunes management, protection and research. Report from a European Seminar. Skagen. Denmark.
  • Drees, M. (1997): Coastal Dunes: Management, Protection and Research. Coastline No. 4, Vol. 6. EUCC. Leiden. (KJd97)
  • Feilberg, A. & F. Jensen (1992): Management and conservation of sand dunes in Denmark. In: Coastal Dunes: Geomorp-hology, Ecology and Management for Conservation. Carter, Curtis & Sheehy-Skeffington (eds.). Rotterdam. (BNd92)
  • Jensen, F. (1997): The Danish experience in recreation and planning in and around coastal dunes. In: Coastal Dunes: Recreation and Planning. Drees (ed). EUCC. Leiden. (DRC97)



Dune Guide ordered by

Each case can be found via geographical maps and via thematical texts putting the cases in an order of six interesting topics:
seashore dynamics
sand mobility
hydrology and water management
conservation management
management of forests
management in relation to recreation and tourism