Jure Bonaca, Igor Bučo National Parks of Croatia
Jure Bonaca, Igor Bučo
Menthor:Prof. dr. Brankica Cigrovski-Detelić
University of Zagreb, Faculty of geodesy
Kačićeva 26, 10 000 Zagreb, Croatia
National Parks of Croatia
„How can you buy or sell the sky, the warmth of the Earth? This idea is strange to us. If we do
not possess the freshness of the air and the clarity of water, how can you buy it? Every part of the
Earth is everything to my people. Every shiny pine needle, every san coast, every mist in a dark wood,
every insect are sacred in the memory and the experience of my people. The juice that runs through
the trees bear the memory of a red man”.
The letter of the chief of the Indian tribe Seattle directed to Abraham Lincoln
The environmental protection provides a complete preservation of environment quality, the
preservation of biological and landscape variety, rational usage of natural resources and energy in the
most convenient way for the environment, as the basic condition of healthy life and the foundation of
sustainable development. The nature and natural values are of interest for the Republic of Croatia and
enjoy its special protection. The first nature protection acts in Croatia: Hunt Act from 1893, regulating
the protection of Song-Birds, Cave Protection Act from 1900, and Financial Act from 1928/29 when
the Plitvice Lakes, Bijele stijene and Štirovača were decalred national parks. The protection of
national values was later regulated with the following acts:
Act on Protection of Cultural Monuments from 1960, 1974 and 1994,
Act on Nature Protection from 2003 and 2005,
Act on Amendments of the Act on Nature Protection from 2003 and 2005,
Act on amendments of the Act on Nature Protection from 2008.
Protected natural values are natural values by the legally established body and listed into the
Register of Protected Natural Value, and they refer to the following protection categories: strict
reserves, national parks, special reserves, nature parks, regional parks, nature monuments, significant
landscapes, forest parks and monuments of park architecture, then protected plan, fungi and animal
species including dead examples of wild species protected on the basis of the Act on Nature Protection
and international contracts, their parts and derivates, and protected minerals and fossils.
National park is defined in the Croatian legal system with the article 152. of the Act on Nature
Protection as: “spacious, mostly unchanged area of land and/or sea with extraordinary and multiple
natural values, encompassing one or more preserved or slightly changed ecological systems, and it is
intended first of all for the preservation of original natural values”.
The oldest and probably the most famous national park in the world is Yellowstone founded in
1872 in the state Wyoming in the United States of America, although already Abraham Lincoln
approved in 1864 the document by which 3079 square meters of the land in Yosemite Valley in
California was declared as the area specially protected by the state to be used for public recreation.
Thus, the foundations for the idea of protecting natural and cultural resources in selected areas
was established, that are called today national parks, and in 1890 also the area of Yosemite Valley
received the official status of national park.
Croatia has got altogether 8 national
parks. All national parks are placed in
karst are spreading over 52% of the
territory of the Republic of Croatia.
National park of Croatia in alphabetical
Fig. 1: National park of Croatia
Regarding the area of the national park, the international criteria recommend the minimum of
the area of 20.000 ha, out of which 10.000 ha should be preserved and protected. The isolated islands
are an exception. International and Croatian definitions of national parks put their scientific, cultural
and historical, and educational functions. These are ideal area for the research of natural laws,
processes and relation influenced by man. Every activity is excluded in these areas that could damage
and degrade original properties of organic and inorganic nature (quarries, water management and
power systems, hunting, fishing, forest exploitation, etc.). The national parks of Croatia will be
presented chronologically as they were developed.
National Park Plitvice Lakes
The National Park Plitvice Lakes is a special geological, hydro geological karst phenomenon.
The complex of Plitvice Lakes was declared a national park on 8. April, 1949, it is a mountain area
covered with woods with 16 smaller and larger lakes with crystal blue and green water. They obtain
the water from numerous rivers and streams, and they connected mutually with cascades and
waterfalls, being rich with flora and fauna, mountain air, the contrast of autumn colours, forest paths
and wooden bridges, and many other things making a unique unit that UNESCO declared world
natural heritage in 1979, among the first of such kind in the world. Total area of the National Park is
29 685 hectares with the lakes making 200 ha, the forests 13 320 ha, and the rest are grassland and
other areas. The average altitude is 600 m. The lowest level is at 367 m on Korana bridge, and the
highest at Seliški peak.
In 2006 there were 866 218 visitors. It is located in the area of two counties. 91% of the park in,
and 7% in Karlovačka county. The park is divided into narrower and wider zone according to the
protection degree. The National Park consists of 16 lakes that flow stepwise into each other in a series
of 5460 m of air line. The lakes are divided into Upper and Lower Lakes - The Upper Lakes are:
Prošćansko lake, Ciginovac, Okrugljak, Batinovac, Veliko jezero, Malo jezero, Vir, Galovac, Milino
lake, Gradinsko lake, Veliki Burget and Kozjak. The Lower Lakes are: Milanovac, Gavanovac,
Kaluđerovac and Novakovića Brod. The largest lake is with 81,5 ha of area, also the deepest with
Prošćansko lake is the second lake
with regards to its size and stretches
from the south to the north with the
length of 2,5 km. Plitvice Lakes
consist of 16 lakes located in the
area between Mal Kapela and
Plješivica in Lika. The whole are is
garden) because of its position and
history. According to the legend, the
Plitvice Lakes developed after the
great drought. People, animals and
plants were yearning for a drop o water. The people prayed and prayed. Then the Black Queen
appeared in the valley with its magnificent escort; she was merciful, and after that it started to rain
with strong wind and thunder.
Fig.2: Map of the National Park Plitvice lakes
It was raining so long that the water lever raised enough to form the lakes. The gathering area
has got an important role in the whole system providing water for the lakes. It is very permeable area
with numerous underground (caves and ditches) and surface karst features (sinkholes and fields), but
very poor with surface streams. Limestone peaks ascend exactly in this area as the highest peaks Seliški vrh, 1279 m.
Fig. 3: Panoramic presentation of the lakes of the National Park Plitvice Lakes
In the areas of the network of numerous depressions called karst vallies, one can see limestone
blocks as «small tower». The water is an element that continues to model the Plitvice Lakes relief with
mechanical and chemical power. The chemical composition of the karst substratum, limestone and
dolomites provided a lot of calcium carbonate for the water of the Plitvice Lakes. Passing through the
surface stratum of the soil, the rain-water absorbs carbon dioxide causing the development of mild
carbon acid. By its corrosive activity the acid melts the limestone and dolomites, and in this way it
mineralized and becomes satiated with calcium and magnesium bicarbonate. When such water comes
to the surface dispersing its drops, a lot of water is evaporated, and calcium carbonate is crystallized in
the form of small crystals settled down in the water and building barriers.
The water satiated with calcium carbonate is one of the conditions for the development of
calcareous sinter. It is developed on moss sprouts where millions of algae and bacteria live excreting
slime where the calcium crystals are fixed turning them into «living stone». The most often present
moss covering steep and perpendicular sinter barriers and participating in the development of sinter is
Cratoneuron comutataum. It is very quickly «petrified», and the appearance of the moss is preserved
in the sinter.
Fig.4: The waterfalls in the National park Plitvice Lakes
National Park Paklenica
The National Park was declared as the second national park in Croatia on 19. October 1949,
only a few months after the National Park Plitvice Lakes. It should be mentioned that Paklenica was
declared a national park already in 1929, but by the law that was to be revised every year, which had
not been done. The national park covers the area of 96 km². The highest peaks are Vaganski vrh (1757
m) and Sveto brdo (1753 m). The National Park Paklenica is located on the coastal slope of the
southern Velebit, immediately above the place Marasovići, up to the zone of the highest mountain
peaks (Vaganski vrh, Babin vrh, Sveto brdo) located between 15°23' and 15°35' of the eastern
longitude and between 44°18' and 44°25' of the northern latitude. It encompasses the area of the
streams Velika and Mala Paklenica, i.e. their famous canyons cut perpendicularly into the southern
slopes of Velebit, as well as the surrounding area. In the relatively small area one can find a lot of
geomorphologic phenomena and features, various plants and animals, attractive landscapes and
The basic phenomena of the NP Paklenica are
forests and geomorphologic characteristics of the
park. Unlike the southern part of Velebit that is
denuded, one can find a lot of forest communities
in Paklenica, especially black pine trees and
Paklenica actually got its name after the resin
(Paklina) of that, of other rare plants and animals,
with a lot of karst features. The canyons Mala and
Velika Paklenica present the most interesting
geomorphologic features, as well as the most
impressive. The canyon of Velike Paklenice is 14
km long, and 500-800 m wide. In its narrowest part the canyon is only 50 m wide.
Fig. 5: Map of the National Park Paklenica
On boths sides of the canyon there are vertical rocks with
some of them higher than 700 m. The most attractive part is
the area of steep flow of the stream downstream of the Anić
harbour, where the steep hips ascend immediately above the
stream and make the narrowest part of the canyon in the area
between Anić harbour and park place. The canyon of Mala
Paklenica is smaller with the stream running through it
significantly weaker. It is 12 km long, and 400-500 m wide.
In its narrowest part it is only 10 m wide, and the surrounding rocks are reaching 650 m of height. The
transition between the canyons Velika and Mala Paklenica make really an inaccessible karst area of
rocky ground and hips.
Fig. 6: A part of the National Park Paklenica
National Park Risnjak
The National Park Risnjak was declared on 15. 09. 1953. The area of the National Park is
divided into two zones – the zone of strict and the zone of moderate protection. The total of 4600 ha is
completely protected area and completely without any activity – it is left only to natural processes. In
the narrower zone of the Par we meet a large number of natural beauties because of which this area
was included into the highest degree of protection. The National Park Risnjak is a very good example
of height articulation referring to relief, geology, hydrology and climate, plants and animals.
The area of the Park is extending on 6400 ha and encompasses the mountain massif of Snježnik
apart from the central part of the massif Risnjak, as well as the hydro geomorphologic nature
monument – the well of the river Kupa together with its upper flow. There is also the education path
"Leska", one of the first objects of that type in Croatia.
Fig. 7: Map of the National Park Risnjak
The significance of Risnjak is in the fact that there are four types of climatic influences present
there: severe Alpine climate, mild Adriatic climate, continental characteristic of the Pannonian
lowland and mountain freshness of the Dinarides. We meet there valuable natural phenomena,
rainforest areas and untouched mountain heights, the karst of the Dinarides of specific hydrographic
properties and features. The vegetation in higher areas, especially sinkhole vegetation is of special
National Park Mljet
Mljet is at first sight an elongated
unarticulated island, approximately 3 m
hide, and 37 km long. It is an island of
natural characteristics and contrasts,
and the National Park Mljet covers its
north-western part stretching in the area
of 5.375 hectares of protected land and
surrounding sea. It is the area that was
November 1960 and it presents the first
institutionalized attempt to protect original ecosystem at the Adriatic Sea.
Fig. .8:Map of the National Park Mljet
Mljet is one of larger south Dalmatian islands (10 000 ha). It is made of chalk sediments,
limestone and dolomites. The limestone is present in the high ground, and the dolomites in the most
part of the depressions on Mljeg, i.e. the fields. The central part of Mljet is higher, with three parallel
mountain peaks (Veliki grad, 514 m). The western and eastern third of the island are lower, but the
mountain features of the relief and landscape are still kept. The climate of Mljet is real Mediterranean
climate with warm, dray summer and mild, wet winter. The average annual downfall is 973 mm, and
the island sun exposition 2500 hours annually. The National Park Mljet was declared an area for
special purposes because of a unique panoramic appearance of articulated island, cliffs, reefs and
numerous small islands, as well as of rich orthography of the surrounding mountains ascending from
the sea and overshadowing numerous karst fields and ancient settlements made of stone. It external
coast open to the southern sea is steep and full of «garme» - fallen in caves. The coast turned to the
land and bora is lower and more accessible. There is also a system of salt lakes presenting a unique
geological and oceanographic phenomenon in karst, significant in the world relations. This two unique
sea lakes were originally, about 10.000 years, filled with fresh water, almost till the beginning of the
Only on the coast rock there are
endemic plants like knapweed of
Dubrovnik being the most important.
in the One of the special characteristics
are typical karst underground habitats:
caves and ditches, and the other one
are «blatine» of Mljet, very rare
phenomena of temporary lakes dried
out from time to time on our islands.
Even today we still know very little
about their life. It is known only that
people used to fish eels and hunt swam
birds there for centuries.There are also very nice forests covering only recently large areas of
Mediterranean coast, and today they have been kept here in their original form.
Fig. 9: National Park Mljet – air perspective
In the area of the lakes on Mljet, the forest reaches the coast itself making the atmosphere of
untouched nature. There is an island Sveta Marija in the middle of the Great lake with wooden
Benedictine monastery and the church dating as far as from 12th century. Because of its aesthetic
atmosphere and powerful spiritual and cultural dimension the island is a kind of a symbol of the island
and the National Park Mljet.
The locality Polače is a set of cultural and historical scenery with Roman palace, and old
Christian basilicas included into the picturesque, wind-protected bay. There is extraordinary cultural
and historical heritage preserved from Iliric times, the Roman empire, the Republic of Dubrvonik up
to the present days of modern life where people have created their life conditions in accordance with
the untouched nature. The phenomenon of the lake system has made the island Mljet famous
worldwide. The Grat lake is 145 hectares large, and 46 meters deep, and the Small lake is 24 hectares
large and 29 meters deep attracting the biologists and other curious people in love with nature from
various profession and personal preferences
Natinal Park Kornati
The first Act on the Protection of Kornati was passed in 1967, but the protection referred mostly
to landscape, the islands and the sea. The National Park Kornati was declared on 24.07.1980. Kornati
islands are the most articulated island group in the European Mediterranean Sea. In the area of about
30000 ha there are 140 islands, small Island, and cliffs with the total area of 6900 ha. All islands are
stretching in four lines of the Dinarides direction (northwest-southeast), and they were named after the
larges island – Kornta being at the same time the central axis of the archipelago. The length of the
island (NW-SE) is 132 km, and the largest width (NE-SW) is 35 km. Two inner island lines turned to
the continent are significantly smaller referring to their area, as well as to the number of islands, and
they are called Upper Kornat.
Ther area of the
National Park is
22375 ha and it
lines or Lower
are 101 islands
area of 5100 ha,
out of which two thirds of the area belong to one island only – Kornat. The rest of the Park area refers
to the sea, hence, Kornati are also marine national park.
Fig. 10: Map of the National Park Kornati
The land part of the park is the area
of karst. It is built from carbonate
rocks, mostly limestone, which has
resulted in many karst phenomena:
cracks, rock foils, sinkholes, caves,
denudation, abrasion and corrosion
features in the stone. The largest
values of the National Park (well
known cliffs, perpendicular rocks) including the submarine area are located in the off-shore line of
Fig. 11: National Park – air perspective
National Park Brijuni
The National Park Brijuni was declared on 27. 10. 1983. The area of the Par is 3635 ha. The
present borders of the National Park defined in 1999 encompass the land and the surrounding sea with
the submarine area and the total area is about 33,9 km². The length of the coastal line is even 46,8 km.
The most articulated are Large Brijun (25,9 km) and Small Brijun (8,3 km). The coast is mostly low
and rocky, but easily accessible because of the rock stratification, and in some bays pebbles and sand
can be found at some places. It includes the most articulated and the most interesting island group in
Istria that consists of 14 islands: Veli Brijun, Mali Brijun, Sv. Marko, Gaz, Obljak, Supin, Supinić,
Galija, Grunj, Vanga, Madona (Pusti), Vrsar, Jerolim and Kotez. Their total area is 7,4 km². The
islands are geological and geomorphologic extension of the Istrian land area. They are made of
horizontal limestone layers from Cretaceous period covered with thick layer of brown and red soil.
The ascending of the sea lever in the last few thousands of years (ice melting) has given the final
shape to the coast of Brijuni and made them very articulate.
In terms of the climate, Brijuni are a part of northern Mediterranean area and have the
characteristics of western coast of Istria. Mean temperature of the coldest month is 5,9 ºC, and the
mean temperature of the warmest month is 23,2 ºC. The average annual quantity of downfall is 817
mm. Considering the summer droughts, relatively high values of air moisture are very important for
the vegetation of Brijuni. Brijuni have got rich history: the first so far known traces of human activity
on Brijuni date as far as the third millennium before Christ as Brijuni were inhabited by people
unfortunately ethnically unknown to us who were occupied with farming, cattle breeding, hunting and
fishing, and they made their tools and weapons from stone, bones and brushwood... during the great
Aegean migration in the first millenium before Christ the Illyrian tribe Histri came to live on Brijuni
after which Istria got its name later on. After them the Romans came, and from the VI. to VIII. ct. the
Byzantines ruled over the island (as well as over Istria). There are many cultural and historical remains
on Brijuni out of which the following are the most famous and the most preserved: Roman pastoral
castle from the I. – II. ct. with thermae, temple of Venus, and the basilica of St. Mary from the V.-VI.
centuries, the church of St. German from the XV. century.
Special biological diversity has always been known on Brijuni due to its geographic position,
geological foundation and geomorphology, the diversity of habitats and island isolation. The natural
biological diversity has been made richer by man due to traditional economy.
Fig. 12: Map of the National Park Brijuni
Fig.13: National Park Brijuni-air perspective
National Park Krka
The National Park Krka was declared on 24. 01. 1985. The Park got its name after the river
Krka being a part of the Park. The National Park is located in the central Dalmatia downstream of
Miljevac, and only a few kilometres north-east from the town Šibenik.
Krka is running on its 72 km long way through karst landscape in a deep canyon to the sea, making
numerous waterfalls (the largest one is Skradinski buk - 45,7 m, Roski slap - 26 m), cascades, rapid
streams and lakes (e.g. Prukljansko lake and
Visovačko lake). The total area of the National Park
Krka is 109 km². Special characteristic of the river
Krka is the creation of barriers with specific plants
(moss, algae, bacteria) necessary for the maintenance
and growth of barriers and waterfalls being of
scientific and tourist interest. Due to four urban
localities (Skradin, Bilice, Raslin and Zaton), the
highway Zagreb – Split and the development of
tourism and other economic activities in this area, the
Parliament of the Republic of Croatia has revised the
border of the Park by the Act on the Declaration of
National Park Krka in 1997. The southern border of
the Park was shifted upstream to Skradinski bridge,
and the northern border to Knin. The border of the
National Park Krka runs 50 km along the upper and
middle stream of the river Krka ( 2 km downstream of
Knin and to Skradin) and the lower stream of Čikola (including the mouth and 3,5 km of the river
canyon) in the area of the towns Knin, Drniš, Skradin and Šibenik and the municipalities Ervenik,
Kistanja and Promine.
Fig. 14: Map of the National Park Krka
The most beautiful part of the National Park Krka is the waterfall Skradinski buk.
With its 17 steps at the distance of 800 m, total height difference of 45,7 m and the width of 200 m 400 m it is the largest waterfall of that type in Europe. At the bottom of Skradinsi buk the flooded part
of Krka begins (estuary), i.e. the part in which the river and sea water mix creating the maritime zone
with specific water life. The hydro-electric power plant Jaruga below the waterfall of Skradinski buk
is the second oldest hydro-electric power plant in the world and the first in Europe. It was built on 28.
August 1985, only three days after the first world hydro-electric power plant on the waterfalls of
Fig. 15: National park Krka: Waterfall Skradinski buk
National Park Northern Velebit
The National Park Northern Velebit was declared on 09.06.1999. and the Public institution
started to work on the basis of the Act of the
Parliament of the Republic of Croatia on 16.
September the same year.
The area was declared a national part because of
extraordinary diversity of karst phenomena,
richness of the living world and exceptional
natural beauties in relatively small area. The area
of the park is 109 km2, and within this area there
a reserve Hajdučki and Rožanski kukovi,
phenomenon where more than 150 ditches were
discovered with Lukina jama being the most
famous one, and on the deepest in the world
discovered in 1999. It is forbidden for visitors.
Within the frame of the park there is a botanical
reserve „Visibaba“, with the largest site of
endemic Croatian sibiraea (Sibiraea altaiensis
ssp. croatica), and the botanical reserve Zavižan-Balinovac-Velika slope rich with high mountain
flora. Within the reserve there is also a well known Botanical Garden of Velebit founded by Prof. Fran
Kušan as early as in 1967. The park is full of numerous Alpine paths with Premužić path being the
most famous one and named after the constructor, eng. Ante Premužić who designed it as early as in
1930. and the construction was finished in 1933.
Fig. 16: Map of the National Park Northern Velebit
The path passes through the most beautiful and the most
interesting part of the northern Velebit. From the mountain
peaks there is a beautiful view at the Adriatic Sea and the
island Pag, Rab, Goli, Prvić and Krk, as well as at Lika on the
continental side. The cultural heritage of the park includes
numerous ruins of old cattle breeder houses and drystone walls
witnessing the past time as this area was inhabited by
significantly larger number of people migrating later on
around the world and leaving the traces of their presence behind in this exceptionally beautiful area.
Fig. 17: National Park Northern Velebit
Bonaca, J.; Udovičić, D. (2010): Nacionalni parkovi Hrvatske (National Parks of Croatia), seminar thesis
(tutor: Cigrovski-Detelić), University of Zagreb, Faculty of Geodesy.
Cigrovski-Detelić, B. (2009): Topografija (Topography), University of Zagreb, Faculty of Geodesy, Zagreb,
Črep, J.; Jurčić, D.; Loparić, I. (2009): Nacionalni parkovi i parkovi prirode, (National Parks and Nature
Parks), seminar thesis (tutor: Cigrovski-Detelić), University of Zagreb, Faculty of Geodesy.
Croatia, although a small country, is rich with many relief particularities and natural scenery. It
has got 8 national parks: Brijuni, Kornati, Krka, Mljet, Paklenica, Plitvice Lakes, Risnjak and
Northern Velebit. All national parks are located in Karst area covering 52% of the territory of the
Republic of Croatia. On an interactive map in the paper there are all particularities of national parks
presented. Their importance in the preservation of original natural values and environmental
protection are pointed out, as well as their significant economic influence as attractive tourist
Keywords: National Park, original natural values, relief particularities