Dick and Jane's Travels

A Travelblog (click on any picture to enlarge -- then click again to make it even bigger)

Monday, January 11, 2010

Plitvice Lakes National Park

Plitvice Lakes National Park

One of the park's permanent residents

Plitvice Lakes National Park


 Visited 15 October 2008

(Note: You can see the same text and much larger pictures either as a traditional web page click here.) or as a slideshow  click here.)

Note: click on any picture to enlarge it

Where are we?

A UNESCO World Heritage site, the Plitvice Lakes National Park is a necklace of 16 turquoise alpine lakes encircling 3 mountains in the Dinaric Alps. As the insert from Wikipedia shows, it's almost at the tip of the Bosnia-Herzegovina arrowhead that cuts into the crescent called Croatia. (These lakes drain into the Korana river which separates Croatia from Bosnia and Herzegovina.) 

Croatia's first battle of its 1990 war of independence with the Serb-dominated Yugoslav army occurred here -- an all day battle that resulted in a death on each side. Things would get much worse.

A 100 million or so years ago, the African plate crashed into Europe -- at the reckless speed of nearly a 1/2 inch per year. This helped cause the rise of the Dinaric Alps mountain range that defines the Adriatic side of the Balkan peninsula. Since then spectacular scenery has been dripping into place as acidic water dissolves soft limestone. The erosion is not always confined to the surface and frequently forms subterranean caves.

But this slow erosion can do a spectacular job at surface level as here where it carves this huge gorge. The park contains about 115 square miles of forested habitat for many large and rare species of European mammals -- all of which managed to escape our lens, except for a few tame kittens.

We saw here as much fall color as anywhere in our many trips (and 2 year expat assignment) in Europe. The park contains a range of microclimates and soil types; flora and fauna vary accordingly.

As the limestone deteriorates, it washes into the lakes, giving them a range of colors from the chemicals.

Here's a sample of the color -- and clarity -- of the lakes. We visited the lower lakes (4 of them). This is Kaluđerovac  lake, one of the most shallow of the 16 at about 40 feet. KaluÄ‘erovac at 5 acres is small like most of the lakes here.

Red fall color was fairly rare but extraordinary against the grayish-white limestone crags.

Fish are easy to spot in the clear water.

The 16 lakes descend about 300 feet over about 5 miles of length -- but the drops are sudden and marked by waterfalls which break through natural dams of travertine.

The tourist infrastructure works well at this UNESCO site. An electric train and boat take about 80,000 annual visitors over long distances. An excellent set of pedestrian passageways allows them to walk on water. The park is a model for self-sufficiency: tourist revenues pay the bills; 1600 employees in total support the tourist infrastructure and do significant research; cars are all but banned and transportation leaves a small ecological footprint.

We climbed gradually upward around the waterfalls that here feed Lake Gavanovac. An unusual geologic process occurs here as water from underground karst areas uphill reemerges teeming with dissolved carbonates of lime -- which, in turn, form a crust on vegetation, thus creating travertine or tufa. This ground formation can span streams, creating natural dams. Eventually the water breaks through, creating cascades. This has been going on for thousands of years.

Above that waterfall, we came to Lake Milanovac. These canyon-like walls carved by waterfalls were typical of the lower lakes.

Plitvice Park is home to 70 breeding species of birds and over 125 species in total.

Our tour ended with a ride back to the bus on the ferry.

Thanks for visiting. See all of our travel photos including many from our trip to the Dalmatian Coast by clicking here.

Please join us in the following slide show to give Plitvice Lakes National Park the viewing it deserves by clicking here.


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