Thursday, October 1, 2009

Exploring--Croatia's Plitvice Lakes National Park

Memories . . . In early autumn last year, we were privileged to travel in Eastern Europe for four weeks. Croatia's magical Plitvice Lakes National Park was a highlight of our time in that beautiful nation (formerly part of Yugoslavia). For the middle two weeks of our trip, we joined a guided tour of Slovenia, Croatia, and Bosnia-Herzegovina sponsored by the Rick Steves company (of public television fame). If you are interested in earlier posts about those destinations, simply enter "Eastern Europe" in the search box, above left. As I reminisce about that wonderful journey, I will post a time or two about our overnight visit and long trek in Plitvice Lakes National Park, one destination I had anticipated eagerly. This stunning park exceeded even my high expectations.
Photos cannot capture the full majesty of the lush, heavily forested park with 16 terraced lakes and countless waterfalls. The amazingly clear water shines in brilliant aqua or clear greenish tones due to the limestone-laden soils and rocks in the area. Bears, wolves, lynx, wild boar, and a rich variety of other animals, birds, and fish populate this protected area, one of the last remaining virgin forests in Europe.

We arrived late one afternoon, settled into a large, comfortable hotel in the park, and enjoyed a pre-planned "potluck" happy hour on the lake shore with our tour group, for which we had each purchased wine, sausage, cheese, chocolates, and other delights during the day. Dinner in the hotel was tasty, but hardly seemed necessary after that. Following an early, sumptuous breakfast buffet the next morning, we stowed our luggage on the tour bus, hoisted our day packs, and boarded a shuttle bus to a ferry dock. To avoid the crowds at this popular park, our excellent Rick Steves guide, Saso Golub, wisely guided us to begin at the furthest point of our trek, via a ferry across one of the larger lakes. His strategy worked beautifully--we saw the most dramatic falls before others crowded in, and we hiked in the opposite direction of the heaviest flow of visitors. The park offers a variety of hiking options on wide walking trails and sturdy plank walkways over rushing streams and gullies. The cold clear air of the early morning gave way to bracing, cool, delicious temperatures, perfect for hiking.

If you want to see more of the park and to learn about its dynamic ecosystem and shifting bodies of water and land formations, check your local public library for a DVD, which I think was originally a PBS program, Nature:Land of the Falling Lakes. In Plitvice, the water gradually wears down the land so that the lakes, streams, and waterfalls actually move over time. Then, the limestone deposits that erosion leaves in the water gradually build up again on fallen trees and branches underwater and on the lake bed itself so that over time, natural earth dams and eventually, new land areas are formed.

Next time, I will share a few more photos and memories from this magnificent park. Although we have grander individual waterfalls, vaster mountains, and deeper valleys in our beloved USA, the cumulative delights of the sheer numbers of waterfalls and rapids around every turn in Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia and the "forest primeval" atmosphere are unique and quite magical.
Question of the day: What natural preserve area has given you lasting memories?


  1. In seeing your photos, I was instantly reminded of Starved Rock State Park here in Illinois. I live close by the park and still cherish the memories from when I was kid and my mom and dad took us there. In fact, I did a blog entry on it too, maybe last year? Anyway, I love these beautiful photographs and hearing your stories of your memories. I would guess you have many lovely photos of your trip. I so long to travel to Ireland and Scotland of these years. Thank you for sharing, Mary!

  2. It looks a little like the Wisconsin Dells years ago before they got so commercial. A lovely place! Geology was one of my favorites subjects. Isn't it fascinating?

  3. Marnie, I envy you your knowledge of geology. It is fascinating, but I know very little about it--should hunt up some good reference books at the library and learn more. Super to hear from you!

    Autumn, I love your reflections--thank you! What a great name for a park--Starved Rock. Surely there is an interesting story behind it. Your comment (and that park name) took me back to a memorable overnight camping with our sons at someplace called Hungry Mother State Park. At the moment, I can't even remember what state we were in, just that we were on the way to another park for a longer stay and had an adventuresome night there in changeable weather.

  4. Hi Mary, I certainly do enjoy your blog. Your pictures from Croatia are gorgeous. I love all of the natural preserves --and am so glad that someone before us has been willing to do what was necessary to preserve this beautiful land. We have a few 'natural' areas on the Cumberland Plateau (Big South Fork and the Savage Gulf) which are fabulous --and great places to visit and hike.

    Thanks for a great post.

  5. Yes, we have visited the beautiful Cumberland area, Betsy--you are fortunate to have it nearby. I agree with you about those who have gone before and have set preserves aside for all of us. Thank you for your visit and kind response.