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Iguazu National Park, Argentina
Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia - Amazing National Parks
198    Dibyendu Banerjee    11/06/2024

Located in the basin of a mountainous karst rock, formed from the dissolution of soluble carbonate rocks, like limestone, dolomite and gypsum, of central Croatia, at the border to Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Plitvice Lakes National Park, with its mesmerizing cascades and myriad of lakes, is the most famous and the largest national park of Croatia, covering an area of almost 30,000 hectares. Dominated by a mix of forests and meadows, the Park with its magnificent series of 16 crystalline lakes, interconnected by dancing waterfalls and watercourses above and below the ground, is a wonderful natural phenomenon of outstanding beauty, and was inscribed on the UNESCO World heritage Sites in 1979.

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Regarded as Croatia's top natural attraction and the highlight of the country’s Adriatic hinterland, the Plitvice Lakes National Park is a glorious expanse of forested hills and turquoise lakes, with thousands of butterflies seemingly floating above the 18 km long wooden footbridges and pathways that snake around the edges and across the rumbling water. However, the name of the park is rather misleading, as its attraction is not only the lakes, but also the hundreds of waterfalls that link them.

plitvice lakes national park croatia
plitvice lakes national park croatia

The Plitvice lakes, renowned for their distinctive colours, ranging from azure to green, grey or blue, depending on the quantity of minerals or organisms in the water and the angle of sunlight, have formed in a depression between the Mala Kapela mountain range in Croatia in the west and the Plješivica Mountain, located on the border between Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, in the east, amidst the Dinaric Alps, also known as the Dinarides mountain range.

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The Plitvice Lakes National Park is situated in the lower elevations of the Dinarides in the central part of the country and the lake system of the park, interconnected by waterfalls and watercourses, is the result of millennia of ongoing geological and biochemical processes, creating natural dams known as tufa barriers, which are formed by the deposition of calcium carbonate from the waters flowing through the property. The crystalline, turquoise lakes are separated into an upper and lower cluster, formed by surface runoff, and the unconfined flow of water over the ground surface from the mountains, descends from an altitude of 2087 to 1650 feet (636 to 503 m) over a distance of some 8 km. While the 12 upper cluster lakes are formed on dolomites, with mild relief, not so steep shores and enclosed by thick forests, the 4 lower lakes, smaller and shallower, formed in a deep limestone gorge, have steep shores. The lakes include, among others, the 2.5-mile-long (4 km) Kozjak Lake, the park's largest lake, the emerald Milanovac Lake, Gavanovac Lake, reed-fringed Kaluderovac Lake, Gradinsko Lake and others. The Gradinsko lake is linked to the beautiful Gavanovac Lake by a series of cascades, creating several ponds and falls. All the lakes follow the water flow and are separated by natural dams of travertine, a form of terrestrial limestone, formed by a process of rapid precipitation of calcium carbonate, which is deposited by the action of small flowerless green moss, algae and bacteria, tiny, single-celled living organisms.

plitvice lakes national park croatia

The Plitvice Lakes originate in the south of the park area at the confluence of Bijela Rijeka or the White River and Crna Rijeka or the Black River, which unite at one of the bridges in the village and then flows onwards to the lakes.

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Apart from that, at the bay of Liman, also called Limun, another little river, a part of Prošćansko jezero, also flows into the lakes. However, the Plitvice Lakes National Park is best known for its 16 cascading lakes and more than 90 waterfalls, which include the Sastavci Waterfalls, located at the very point where Korana River drops down from 85 feet (26 m) height, the Veliki Prstavac Waterfall, arguably the most beautiful one, from which water pours down through countless streams, the Slapovi Milke Trnine, situated on the barrier between Milanovac and between Milanovac and Gavanovac Lake, the 52 feet (16 m) high Galovački Buk, Mali Prštavac Slap, Pevalekovi Slapovi, and others. The Plitvice Lakes National Park also contains several caves, among which the longest, the 475 feet (145 m) long Golubnjača cave, located before the second Korana waterfall and the 223 feet (68 m) long Šupljara Cave, containing three halls connected by a spacious hallway, can be visited. Other caves include Black cave, also known as Lake Fairies’ cave, Mračna Cave, Vila Jezerkinje Cave, Golubnjača at Homoljačko Field and others.

plitvice lakes national park croatia
plitvice lakes national park croatia
Plitvice Lakes National Park, during winter

The Plitvice lakes, the jewels of the property, are surrounded by a belt of well-preserved forest. Due to its wide range of microclimates, different types of soils and varying levels of altitude, it has a notably wide variety of plant communities. So far, scientists have discovered 1,267 plant types in the national park area that belong to 109 species. While the northeastern part of the park is mostly covered by the forests of the beech trees, the rest is covered with white pine, spruce, fir and the like, along with whitebeam, hornbeam and flowering ash. The Plitvice Lakes National Park is an area abundant in orchids, where around 60 species of orchids are recorded so far. The Plitvice Lakes National Park is home to 161 species of birds, which include hawks, owls, cuckoos, thrushes, starlings, kingfishers, wild ducks, herons and flocks of colourful butterflies of which include 70 species. The area is also home to an extremely wide variety of animal species, which include bears, lynx, deer, boar, rabbits, fox and badgers, along with the rarely visible brown bear, wolf and wild cat.

plitvice lakes national park croatia

For thousands of years, humans have been living in the Plitvice Lakes area, and Illyrians, Thracians, Celts, Japods, Romans, Avars, Slavs, and Turks have each settled it in turn. In 1528 the area fell to the Ottomans, only to be retaken by the Austrian Empire 150 years later. Subsequently, the Austrians incorporated it into their Military Frontier and, in addition to the native Croats, who once already inhabited the region, Serbs who had fled Ottoman repression, also settled there. Finally, only in the late 19th century, the area became a major tourist attraction and while the first hotel was built there in 1896, the national park was founded by the communist government of Yugoslavia in 1949, which soon became one of the most popular tourist attractions of the country. The main attraction of the park is obviously the hiking and walking through the winding trails in the area and enjoying the abundant beauty of nature. Apart from that the visitors are also allowed to boat rowing or kayaking on the largest lake Kozjak or riding on the electric boats.

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Author Details
Dibyendu Banerjee
Ex student of Scottish Church College. Served a Nationalised Bank for nearly 35 years. Authored novels in Bengali. Translated into Bengali novels/short stories of Leo Tolstoy, Eric Maria Remarque, D.H.Lawrence, Harold Robbins, Guy de Maupassant, Somerset Maugham and others. Also compiled collections of short stories from Africa and Third World. Interested in literature, history, music, sports and international films.
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