A visit to Plitvice Lakes, Croatia
Last week, two of the NatureSpy team were lucky enough to visit Plitvice Lakes National Park, the largest National Park in Croatia nestled in Lika, at the southern slopes of the Mala Kapela Mountain chain, and close to the Bosnia-Herzegovina border.
Covering approximately 29,482 ha, the lakes were designated a National Park in 1949, and became a UNESCO World Heritage site just thirty years later in 1979.
The lakes have been formed by sedimentation over hundreds of years, caused by water flowing over chalk and limestone forming ‘tufa barriers’. Vegetation also plays a crucial role in this sedimentation process – by creating barriers in conjunction with the foaming waters, slowing the flowing water and eventually creating a dam resulting in the crystal-clear lakes.
The combination of the unique properties of the geology, geomorphology and hydrology have enabled water to be retained in the lakes and has facilitated the formation of canyons, caves and waterfalls, giving the area a tropical feel.
There are 16 lakes which are separated by these natural dams; mostly created by moss, algae, and bacteria. These lakes are divided into the ‘Upper Lakes’ of which there are 12 and 4 ‘Lower Lakes’.
You can navigate around the upper and lower parts by short boat journeys and through a series of boardwalks which interlink the lakes. These allow you to walk through the forests, over streams and next to the waterfalls.
The vegetation here is very much defined by the climate; (humid and warm with hot summers and minus temperatures in winter). Alpine beech, beech-fir and common beech are the predominant features of the forest; with spruce and silver pine also peppering the area.
The ecosystems in the Park are thought to be relatively pure and unspoiled, and the abundance of fauna found here is believed to be a sign of its quality.
To date there have been 1,267 plant species belonging to 112 plant families recorded, including some species which are not found anywhere else in Croatia, such as the Siberian leopard plant (Ligularia sibirica).
In addition, there are around 12 species of amphibians, 321 moths and butterflies, and 157 bird species including owls, woodpeckers and the rare white-throated dipper, a bird exclusively found near clean waters.
There are also around 50 mammal species including 20 bat species, roe deer, red deer, wildcat, lynx, wolf and the brown bear – the symbol of the park.
The Plitvice Lakes National Park logo
They also have two species of marten, the pine and the beech!
However, due to cold winters with heavy snowfall, reptiles are rather scarce.
Brown trout are the predominate and oldest resident fish of the lakes, with common minnows, rainbow trout and European chub also being found here after being introduced by various means (climate change, human introductions and habitat divergence via natural barriers).
These are easy to see through the Caribbean-like waters.
Plitvice Lakes was truly beautiful and fascinating but because of this it is also extremely popular and busy during peak times. It’s still definitely somewhere we’d love to explore a lot more and we highly recommend it.