Sebastian Bielak - Podróż po Alasce

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Panorama of the Biebrza Valley during spring inundation of the Biebrza River (photo by Sebastian R. Bielak)
View of the Biebrza Valley a few months after spring inundation of the Biebrza River (photo by S. R. Bielak)

The Biebrza Valley – last wild wetlands of Europe

Undoubtedly, one of the most beautiful places in the Podlasie region is the valley of the Biebrza River, which has been resisting attempts of drying and intensive developing during last few decades. There are vast lowland peatlands with fragments of raised bogs, which are the biggest in Poland and one of the biggest in Europe. In scale of the whole continent the Biebrza Valley, and especially its Lower Basin, is a unique refuge for migratory water birds and birds of prey. Most of 280 bird species seen in the valley nest there and some of them are very rare or even endangered. Local wetlands are also the refuge for the most numerous population of European moose in Poland. In 1993, because of high natural values of the valley, the Biebrza National Park was established and its main purpose is to protect wetlands. This is the biggest national park of Poland as it encompasses over 146 000 acres, whereof 43% are the famous Biebrza Marshes. As an area of global importance in wildlife protection the Biebrza Valley has been registered in the Ramsar Convention. It also belongs to two European nets of wildlife protected areas: Nature 2000 and Econet. Importance of the Biebrza Valley is so great because nowadays there is only half of natural wetlands around the world, which existed in the past.

View of the Dunajec River Gap through the Pieniny Mountains, seen from the Sokolica Mountain (2451 feet a.s.l.), (photo by Sebastian R. Bielak)
View of the Dunajec River Gap through the Pieniny Mountains, seen from the Sokolica Mountain (2451 feet a.s.l.), (photo by Sebastian R. Bielak)

The Pieniny Mountains with the Dunajec River Gap

The Pieniny Mountains, right behind the Tatra and the Bieszczady Mountains, belong to the most popular mountain ranges in Poland. Their size is not impressive because they are 22 miles long, 4 miles wide and their highest peak reaches merely 3451 feet a.s.l. They owe their unqestionable charm and montane character not to dimensions but to different relief-formative factors, including the Dunajec River. Over last few million of years the river has broken through this mountain range creating a gap, which is now considered to be one of the most beautiful in Europe. The actual Dunajec River Gap stretches from the town of Szczawnica in Poland to the Red Monastery in Slovakia. On this distance of 5.5 miles (1.5 mile in straight line) the river creates 7 big meanders with turn angles up to 135°. Unique natural values of this mountain range had been appreciated and in 1932 the Pieniny Mountains National Park was established (5792 acres of acreage). In neighboring Slovakia there is a twin park the Pieninsky Narodny Park, which encompasses area of 9259 acres. Considerable part of the park is covered by forests, including the Carpathian beech forest and aggregations of relict Scotch pine. Among them there are montane meadows on which sheep still graze, being guarded by traditional shepherds. The Pieniny Mountains are famous of huge diversity of insects, especially butterflies, and occurrence of endemic species which are not encountered nowhere else in the world.