Biogradska Gora National Park

Biogradska Gora National Park in autumn by Dusko Miljanic

Biogradska Gora, the oldest of Montenegro's national parks was founded as long ago as 1878 by King Nikola, who decided with great foresight to preserve its incredible natural heritage for posterity. It can be easily accessed - the entrance to the park is 17 km away from Kolasin on the road towards Mojkovac. It extends over a total of 5,400 hectares, with the exception of the high plateaus which can be found at altitudes ranging between 1,900 and 2,100 metres, of which forests take up no less than 4,258 hectares, or 80% of its surface, a record among European parks.

Looking at the map of the park, the layout of the mountains is distinctive. The peaks of Crna Glava (2,139 m), Zekova Glava (2,117 m) and Troglava (2,072 m) form a large "U" shape with the largest forest in its centre.

The woods stretch out like a huge carpet in the large valley of Biogradsko Stream at a height that rises from 900 to 1,900 metres, with a height differential of as much as one thousand metres over only a short distance. The combination of different altitudes, exposure to the sun and the steep incline give the valley an amazing variety of microclimates, which is further accentuated by the presence of the big glacial lake (Lake Biograd). These unique conditions, together with the variety of substrata and the high rainfall (2,160 mm annually), have resulted in an exceptional biodiversity in the vegetation.

Spring in Biogradska Gora National Park by Cindy Rauth

According to latest studies 26 plant communities, 86 tree species and over 2000 plant species exist in the park. The floral component is much more abundant in non-forest ecosystems. It is claimed that in this small area the vegetation of the entire northern hemisphere has been reproduced - but many of the species are endangered.

Among the incredible variety of vegetation present in the park, the most typical are Fageto-Aceretum Visiani, Abieto-Fagetum moesiacae, Aceri-Fraxinetum montenegrinum. The various species of trees and shrubs are those which contribute most to the forest. The conifers include the endemic Serbian Spruce (Picea omorika), Silver Fir (Abies alba), Norwegian Spruce (Picea abies), Mugo Pine (Pinus mugo), the rare and very localised Macedonian Pine (Pinus heidreichi), and various types of junipers.

Broad-leaf trees are much more numerous, the most characteristic being undoubtedly the Montenegrin beech (Fagus moesiaca), truly a botanical riddle in that it combines morphological traits which fall somewhat between the European Beech (Fagus sylvatica) and the Oriental Beech (Fagus orientalis). The presence of the Acer heldreichii Visiani (Greek Maple), a species endemic to the Balkans, is of great phytogeographical interest. There are also many species of oak, hornbeam, maple and sorb, as well as over 220 species of herbaceous plants closely associated with the forest ecosystem. The effect of these factors and especially the protection accorded to the area, which has preserved it from any kind of human interference, have resulted in a breath-taking natural environment. Rare endemic or relict plants are often seen in bloom, including Edraianthus montenegrinus (a member of the bellflower family), Aconitum pantheri and Pancicia serbica.

Winter in Biogradska Gora National Park

In the main areas of the highlands and forest you can see many animal species even where human presence is constant.

The forest echoes with the deep tapping of woodpeckers, the whistling calls of tits, long-tailed tits, the musical voice of thrushes, the howling call of the Yellow-bellied Toad, the croaking of frogs. Particularly noteworthy is the sighting of the goshawk, the king of the forest's winged predators.

Wolves, roe deer and wild boars are diminishing, while some large mammals are rare or extinct, including brown bears and chamois. The weasel family is present in force, with seven species: badgers, weasels, Western polecats, pine martens, otters and stoats. The large number of these carnivorous animals is an indication of a similarly rich presence of micromammals, of which the park is home to 11 species. You can also encounter the Fire Salamander (Salamandra salamandra) and tritons. There are many family groups of Grey Partridges present at the unusual altitude of almost 2,000 metres.

The national park is inhabited by a wide variety of birds, which are of interest to the ornithologists or bird-watchers. Registered so far are 150 species of birds in the region, including the: grouse, lark, Crested Titmouse, Yellow and Blue Titmouse, and the Dipper... The Imperial Eagle, as well as hawks, kestrels and buzzards, are protected species.