Ojcow National Park
Ojcow National Park – the smallest National Park in Poland. It has the total area of 2145 hectares. The woodland covers 1529 ha, which includes 251 ha of the strict conservation zone. This park is beset by 6777 ha of the buffer zone.
The ONP is situated in the southern part of the Krakow-Czestochowa Upland, 15 kilometers to the north from Krakow.
In the park you can find, among others, Valleys of two streams Prądnik and Sąspówka, as well as the adjoining fragments of the Jura plateau.
The geological ground was formed by the jurassic limestone, approximately 150 million years ago. The formation of a one of a kind landscape of Ojcow Valleys was a result of the activity of the karst water. The landscape consists steep canyons, some of which are 120 meters deep, as well as various stone formations and island mountains. There are approx 700 caves in this area. The park’s longest cave, the Lokietek’s cave, is 320 meters long.
Mixed tapering forests were predominant at the time of the park’s creation (38% of the park’s surface), mainly pine, fir and spruce trees. Meanwhile, mixed leafy forests took off 16% of the surface, and beech woods – 9%. Due to secondary succesion and the impact of industrial emissions of the forest structure, have undergone a huge change since then. Nowadays, the mixed slender forest inhabits barely 5% of the Park’s area. Currently, the predominant tree population consists of the mixed broadleaf forest (40%) as well as the Carpatian beech forest (31%).
The huge variety of the land morphology and microclimate cooperated to a rich and diverse vegetation. Approximately 950 species of plants of various environmental needs and origins have been noticed.
For instance, there are about 50 mountain species and more than 150 thermophilic species at the south of Europe. The most curious ones include Lady’s sliper, subalpine cornflower and the most unique one in Poland – the early thyme.
The Park’s wildlife is also extremely rich. Current research shows that the park’s area is a habitat for about 7000 species of animals and the overall figure is approx 12000 soecies. The park is a home to mammals, such as badger, dormouse, ermine and European beaver, which was introduced in 1985. But the most interesting mammal is probably the bat, which spends the winter the park’s cave. In this park, 19 species of bats were observed, including a bat from the family Vespertilionidae, which reached there the northernmost zone of its range. There are 100 species of birds, including the Water ouzel, which usually lives in the mountains, an the black stork. The insect world is best represented with 5600 species, including more than 1780 species of beetles, 1250 species of hymenoptera, and approximately 1100 species of butterflies.
Countless architectural monuments can be found in the Park, like the very well preserved Renaissance castle in Pieskowa Skała and the ruins of the Ojcow gothic castle. Both objects, nowadays known as „eagle’s nests” used to be a crucial link in a chain of of defense of the country’s south-west borders.
The most ancient traces of man’s presence in this area date back to the older Paleolith and are 120 thousand years old. More recent archeological findings represent Levallois-Moustier culture, as well as Prądnik culture from 70-54 thousand years B.C. and Jerzmanowicka culture from 36 thousand years B.C. The Neolith era brought flint mining and its treatment in the Ojcow area.