Plitvice Lakes National Park is the oldest national park in Southeast Europe and the largest national park in Croatia. The national park was founded in 1949 and is situated in the mountainous karst area of central Croatia, at the border to Bosnia and Herzegovina. The important north-south road connection, which passes through the national park area, connects the Croatian inland with the Adriatic coastal region.
The protected area extends over 296.85 square kilometres (73,350 acres). About 90 percent of this area are part of Lika-Senj County, while the remaining 10 percent are part of Karlovac County. In 1979, Plitvice Lakes National Park was added to the UNESCO World Heritage register among the first natural sites worldwide. Each year, more than 1,200,000 visitors are recorded. Entrance is subject to variable charges, up to 110 kuna or around $18USD per adult in peak season. Strict regulations apply.
The national park is world famous for its lakes arranged in cascades. Currently, 16 lakes can be seen from the surface. These lakes are a result of the confluence of several small rivers and subterranean karst rivers. The lakes are all interconnected and follow the water flow.
They are separated by natural dams of travertine, which is deposited by the action of moss, algae, and bacteria. The particularly sensitive travertine barriers are the result of an interplay between water, air and plants. The encrusted plants and bacteria accumulate on top of each other, forming travertine barriers which grow at the rate of about 1 cm per year.
Routes and Distances
The Plitvice Lakes have formed in a depression between the Mala Kapela mountain in the west and the Plješevica mountain in the east amidst the Dinaric Alps. The national park is located at the national route D1 Zagreb–Split between Slunj and Korenica in the vicinity of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Other larger municipalities within the surrounding area are Ogulin, Rakovica, Otočac, Gospić and Bihać in Bosnia.
The area of Plitvice Lakes National Park extends across two political subdivisions or counties (Croatian županija). Its 296.85 km2 (114.61 sq mi) area is divided between Lika-Senj County (90.7 percent) and Karlovac County (9.3 percent).
The Plitvice Lakes originate in the south of the park area at the confluence of Bijela Rijeka (English White River) and Crna Rijeka (English Black River). These rivers originate south of the municipality of Plitvički Ljeskovac and unite at one of the bridges in this village. From this place onwards to the lakes, the water masses are referred to as Matica (English for root or origin). At the bay of Liman (also called Limun), a part of Prošćansko jezero, another little river flows into the lakes.
On average, the annual precipitation rate at the Plitvice Lakes is 1,500 mm (59.06 in). Usually, in spring and fall the largest rain quantities are measured. The average relative air humidity is 81.8 percent. In January, the average temperature is 2.2 °C. During the summer months of July and August, the temperature rises to 17.4 °C. The general average annual temperature is 7.9 °C. Snow falls from November until March. Usually, the lakes are frozen during December and January.
The water temperature at the springs is usually below 10 °C. Within the rivers and lakes, the water temperature rises up to 20 °C. The following example for different water temperatures measured on July 7, 1954 clearly demonstrates large temperature differences within the lakes: Within lake Kozjak at the depth of 4 m a temperature of 18.9 °C has been measured. At a depth of 20 m, 5 °C have been measured. At 44 m depth, virtually at the bottom of the lake, a temperature of 4.1 °C has been measured.
The previously mentioned mechanical and chemical dissolution processes are quite frequently occurring natural phenomena. A unique process occurring at the Plitvice Lakes, however, is the sedimentation of water-bound chalk at certain places. With regard to other similar phenomena in the world, at Plitvice Lakes the sedimentation of chalk and the formation of tufa happens dynamically all along the waterflow and in various forms (fluviatile sedimentation). It is thus not a static phenomenon occurring at only single places.
While other nature protection areas are located far away from any interference by man, the Plitvice Lakes have permanently been exposed to human influence in the course of history. The Plitvice Lakes do not represent an abandoned or lonely nature reserve. They are located along an important transport route and have always been a meeting place of occidental and oriental cultural influences.