National Parks

National Parks

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Małopolska is an outstanding region, especially in respect of its natural resources. From the fanciful monadnocks and hot desert sands, the scenic sash of the Vistula and the Dunajec forcing its way between the rocks, the green Beskids and the bare summits of the Tatras, the dark caves and roaring waterfalls…. As much as 53% of the Małopolska area is protected. There are 6 national and 11 landscape parks, 10 areas of protected landscape, 84 nature re-serves and also 2189 natural monuments. The Babiogórski and Tatrzański National Park – two areas unique on the world scale and of special natural value – have also been recognized as UNESCO biosphere reserves

  OJCOWSKI NATIONAL PARK, situated to the north of Kraków, is one of the smallest national parks in Poland. Despite its size, it is home to the richest gatherings of vascular plants, colonies of bats and outstanding rock forms. The most spectacular is the Prądnik Valley – a sheer gallery of karst works. In the park you can also see tall rocks of fanciful shapes, some-times even reaching several metres high (e.g., Mace of Hercules, Diotima’s Needle), karst springs and many numerous caves (it is estimated that there are over 400 caves in the park). Among the caves open to visitors are the Dark Cave and Łokietek Cave, where, according to tales, centuries ago the future Polish ruler hid. In the park you can also view two castles – in Ojców and Piaskowa Skała. The symbol of the park is the bat. 

  TATRZAŃSKI NATIONAL PARK is the only park of an alpine character in Poland. It protects and stretches over the entire area of the Tatras, the highest mountains in Poland.  It is divided into two areas – the High Tatras and the West Tatras. The former, built from crystal-line rocks, are distinguished by the cornucopia of postglacial forms, which include corries and mountain lakes. By contrast, the limestone part of the West Tatras is dominated by karst phe-nomena, such as karst springs occurring individually or alternatively forming entire systems. Among the greatest attractions of the park’s geological features are: Rysy (2499 m asl) – the highest peak of Poland – with, situated at its foot, the Morskie Oko lake as well as the lakes in the Valley of Five Polish Lakes. The most famous Tatra caves, where about 140 animal species have been found, include the Mroźna (Frost) Cave and Lodowa (Ice) Cave. Equally attractive are the park’s waterfalls such as the Mickiewicz Waterfalls or Wielka Siklawa.The high altitude of the Tatras allowed the formation of all vegetation zones including the highest peak zone occurring only here in Poland. The curiosities of the Tatra animal world include the chamois (which is the emblem of the park), the bear, the marmot, the wallcreeper (the most northward nesting site of this bird) and the Apollo butterfly, whose nesting site here is one of the last two in Poland.In 1992 the Tatrzański National Park (TNP) and TANAP situated on the Slovak side acquired the status of an UNESCO International Biosphere Reserve.

  PIENIŃSKI NATIONAL PARK. Established in 1932, the Pieniński National Park is one of the oldest in Poland. Jointly with its Slovak counterpart, it protects the unique Dunajec gorge (see p. XX) meandering across the limestone rocks of the Pieniny Mountains. Moreover, the protected area also includes the rare stenothermal rock plants and the precious plant com-munities, which contain relict pine trees. A true curiosity of the park’s fauna is one of the last nesting sites of the Apollo butterfly in the country. The park owns two enclaves – the Homole gorge in the Lesser Pieniny range and the Zamkowe (Castle) Hill with the ruins of the castle in Czorsztyn. The highest peak of the park is Okrąlica, which is situated in the massif of Trzy Korony (Three Crown; 982 m asl). The park’s symbol is the peak of Trzy Korony.

  BABIOGÓRSKI NATIONAL PARK was established to protect the unique flora and fauna of Babia Góra (1725 m asl), the highest peak of the Western Beskids. The park features an alpine zone, the only one in the Polish Beskids. It also protects the precious stretches of the primeval Carpathian Forest. The park’s flora consists of over 700 species of vascular plants, including about 70 alpine species. Strictly protected are 54 plant species, which include the alpine chickweed and the Polish Laserpitium archangelica (the park’s symbol) that occurs only in the park. This un-spoiled flora is a haven to many animals, including threatened species. The mountain areas are a habitat to large mammals such as the lynx, the wolf and the brown bear. Also, approximately 100 bird species, such as the Western Capercaillie, and the Black and Hazel Grouse, have their breeding nests here. The BNP, as the first one in Poland, was included on the network of UNESCO Biosphere Reserves.

  GORCZAŃSKI NATIONAL PARK was established to protect the tree stands covering the Gorce slopes, grazing lands and glades which feature, among other plants, the crocus scepu-siensis. The Gorce Mountains is a habitat for the greatest number of plant communities of alpine species, which include the Veronica alpina and the Cystopteris montana. In the park you can also encounter the deer, the wolf, the wild cat, the ermine, the otter and the bear. The park was created in the middle part of the Gorce massif in 1981. At present it covers an area of 7019 ha. It is regarded as the most tourist-friendly national park. The dense network of nature paths allows for discovering the most precious spots of great natural interest. Some of the local glades such as Wzorowa Hala are used for the controlled grazing of sheep (the traditional grazing). The symbol of GPN is the fire salamander. The park was included in the Natura 200 network since it is a habitat to birds rare on the world scale such as the Western Capercaillie, the White-backed Woodpecker, the Eurasian Pygmy-owl and the Ural Owl.

  MAGURSKI NATIONAL PARK is the youngest of the Małopolska parks. It was estab-lished in 1995 in the middle part of the Beskid Niski. It mainly protects the beech forests cov-ering, among other areas, the slopes of the Magura Wątkowska range in the Beskid Niski. The MPN is a haven to rare and threatened species of butterfly such as the Old World Swallowtail, the Scarce Swallowtail, and the Clouded Apollo. Rare bird species protected here are the Golden Eagle, the Tawny Owl, the Eurasian Eagle Owl, the Honey Buzzard and the Black Stork. The Lesser Spotted Eagle, occurring here in great numbers, has become the symbol of the park. Among the species of large mammals, the appearance of the bear, the wolf, the lynx and the wild cat (already becoming extinct) have been recorded here. One of the natural curiosities of the park includes the varied rock forms such as Diabli Kamień (Devil Stone), recognised as a natural feature. Equally interesting is also the Kornuty rock reserve and a small Magurski Waterfalls near Folusz. The park was established in the area inhabited till 1947 by the Lemkos – a group of Russian highlanders – and protects the land, which is precious in respect of its natural as well as historical and ethnographic resources 

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