The water features on the slope of the Habichtswald, at that time still known as the “Karlsberg”, became the greatest attraction for visitors to the Hessian residential city following the completion of the cascades and the “grotto work” with the final octagon in 1714. There was hardly a visitor who missed out on the opportunity to visit the “more than royal project” of the Baroque garden and the water’s “playing” or “jumping”, “which, however, produced such a strange and beautiful spectacle for us as it fell that I cannot describe it in any other way than as if a large river threw itself off the highest mountain into an unexpected valley, forming innumerable mirrors and creating so much noise that one could hardly hear oneself speak” (Johann Friedrich Armand von Uffenbach, 1728).
The “Vexierwasser” at the grottos were particular popular. Their jets of water rose up unexpectedly from the joints between the slabs on the ground, drenching unknowing visitors much to the delight of insiders.
The elaborately designed continuation and “natural” orchestration of the water courses in the landscape park from 1785 onwards heightened both the effect and appeal of the water features considerably.
Court gardener Daniel August Schwarzkopf describes the intended impression: “in the future too only one main stream will be visible here; all the water and all the existing springs will be brought together and channelled across the aqueduct, after which they will form only one main stream, which will flow gently and calmly in some places, but rapidly in others, a situation which could not be otherwise considering the location of the spot.” This is the reason why the “leap of the large fountain” was “moved a little away from the centre and more to the right of the cascade just described, making it seem as if the fountain and cascade were works of nature.”
The Romantic water features, which were presented with the Baroque water features on Wednesdays, Sundays and public holidays, start off with a “forest water fall”. Today it is known as the “Steinhöfer Wasserfall” after Karl Steinhofer, who was inspector of the wells at Wilhelmshöhe for many years. The waterfall is designed to present the water falling and tumbling in a variety of ways in the middle of the woods. The next highlight is the waterfall below the “Devil’s Bridge” near the Baroque Pluto grotto. Here the water runs down over piled blocks of basalt for approximately 10 metres before becoming calmer again in “Hell’s Pond”. The original wooden bridge from 1793 was replaced in 1822 by the current iron bridge, manufactured by the Henschel company in Kassel. After a quieter stretch which is, however, enlivened in some places by steps, the water reaches the monumental aqueduct, an extremely striking piece of architecture in the form of a ruined Roman waterway which was constructed by Heinrich Christoph Jussow in 1792. The water then flows over a breaking ridge, dropping straight down from the open channel for a good 30 metres. The falling water, the rising spray and the roaring sound result in one of the most impressive moments produced by the water features at Wilhelmshöhe. The water then tumbles down the “Peneus Cascades” and onto the fountain basin, where the water features end officially with the more than 50-metre fountain.
The water flowing out of the pool reaches the “Jussow Cascades” after a quiet section. There it flows downward through a number of small channels in unspectacular fashion before passing by “Rose Island” and flowing into the “Lac” This lake below the palace was created from 1785 – 1792 by combining five rectangular fish ponds to make what looks like a natural area of water with an irregular shoreline.