When you find yourself in the area of the Dalmatian karst, which gulps water in constant thirst due to its subterranean limestone structure, and you come across a spot where up to 500 thousand liters of water literally rumbles through in a second – it is, indeed, a sight resembling a miracle.
The Krka National Park is packed with such astounding places.
The Krka River source is located near the city of Knin, and the river passes through the Knin valley and enters into a canyon that will accompany the river along most of its course. Quite nearby, sixteen kilometers downstream from Knin, is the first place where the Krka River takes a plunge, creating the Bilušića buk cascade over 20 meters high.
Through a large portion of its course, the Krka forms lakes. Brljansko Lake (1,300 x 400 meters) ends with the cascade of Brljan. The highest waterfall on the Krka River is Manojlovac, with the total height of 59.6 meters, and with the highest individual cascade reaching over 30 meters. The water colossus of the Krka is in full force there.
A sightseeing point is there as well, from where you can see an extraordinarily steep canyon, roughly two hundred meters deep. So-called “Hollow Churches”, Šupljaje, can be seen there. That’s how the folk refers to arcs made of stone, the remains of the ancient Roman camps.
Downstream of Manojlovac, one comes across the waterfall of Rošnjak, with water flowing over just one single barrier. That is precisely what makes it unique – a single cascade among multiple cascades. One kilometer downstream – there is the cascade of Miljacka. Above the river at that point, one can see two medieval fortresses: Trošenj (also referred to as Čučevo) and Nečven. The owners of Trošenj were the family Šubić, and the owners of Nečven were the families of Nelipić and Martinušić. The Turkish forces took over these fortresses in their conquests back in 1522. From that point until 1686, the view from the fortresses belonged to the various aghas, beys, fortress commanders and qadis of the Ottoman Era.
The course of the Krka is a natural picture book with so many different pages. From the first to the last page, the Krka changes its temperament countless times: it can be calm; it can form lakes; it can be wide in the valleys, and narrow and immensely strong in the canyons.
The valleys of the Krka River are green, because the soil contains more marl than limestone. That is why the water was retained, the nature turned green, and people came along. Carigradska draga is one such valley, located next to the Orthodox Christian Monastery of the Holy Archangel, better known as the Krka Monastery, mentioned for the first time as early as 1402. Its architecture is an interesting mix of Byzantine and Mediterranean elements. In the same valley, but high above the river, there are the ruins of Vilingrad or Bogočin, dating from the 14th century as well.
At the locality of Bogočin, calm water enters the lake, and proceeds further through a canyon 150 meters deep. The end of that canyon is the beginning of the cascades of Roški slap.
The dimensions of that particular waterfall are astounding. Its maximum width is 450 meters, and it is 650 meters long, with the river dancing its dance over the tufa barriers in a manner incredibly intriguing to the eye. Silver necklaces announce the cascades of Roški slap – the phenomenon of rippling water that will soon head for the cascade, creating an image resembling necklaces in silver color scattered across the river. These necklaces will soon disappear down the Roški slap.
Given the abundance of force in the river, man took advantage of it to increase his strength. Many water mills have thus been built on the Krka River, and the water mill complex on the cascades of Roški slap is arguably the most attractive ethnographic locality of the Dalmatian hinterland.
The borrowed force of water was used to grind wheat and feed the people of the Dalmatian hinterland, and to wash the cloth and heavy homespun blankets and rugs made from sheep wool. Since the latter was considered to be women’s work at the time, the river used to be a meeting point of sorts for women of the Dalmatian hinterland, with donkeys as means of transport. There would sometimes be sufficient place in the basket for a child, looking forward to bathing in the Krka River.
Water mills are monuments of traditional architecture. Nowadays, revived water mills are used to present ancient crafts. Above the Roški slap, there is the attractive prehistoric locality of Oziđana cave. One can enter the cave and witness the presence of man in the area by looking at the archaeological collection from the Neolithic times.
The area of the Park is designed in a manner that offers visitors close and safe contact with nature. Educational trails, sightseeing points, and one of the best educational hiking trails in Croatia, Stinice – Roški slap – Oziđana cave, eight and a half kilometers long, enable visitors to fully experience the area of the Park. The entire trail is a pathway through extraordinary biodiversity. Mediterranean species are particularly prominent in the flora, and when it comes to the fauna, it includes fourteen endemic fish species of the Adriatic area present in the freshwater of the Krka River.
The lake below Roški slap is approximately 300 meters wide, and the surrounding vegetation, mostly reed and sedge, is a refuge for waterfowl. The lake then enters the narrow passage Među gredama, approximately 500 meters long and between 50 and 100 meters wide. The view from the vessels below, towards the high peaks of the canyon, brings joy to visitors, but also awareness of the insignificance of man in the rugged grounds of nature. Following that canyon, the Krka River again opens into the Visovac Lake.
In the middle of Visovac Lake, there is a small island of the same name – a widely recognizable image of the Krka National Park, for it houses a church and a monastery, making the view of the island quite special. This small space, slightly over one hectare, has had quite diverse inhabitants over the years. In the 14th century, the hermits of St. Augustine built the monastery and the church. During the Ottoman conquests, they left the island, with Bosnian Franciscans arriving in 1445. The Franciscans stayed there until the present day, with smaller interruptions. One can visit the monastery and examine the valuable inventory and historical documents, many of them Turkish.
Above Skradinski buk, the valley of the Krka River merges with the valley of the Čikola River, forming a unique lake surface with two extensions. In the downstream part of the meadows, one comes across a highly unusual water surface – a perfect circle 150 meters in diameter. This is the karst well Torak, its surface calm and smooth like a mirror, for the water rises from the depth of 30 meters.
The area of Skradinski buk is most frequently the main aim of the visitors. It is the biggest cascade on the Krka River, and the richest in water, its flow over seventeen barriers creating a wonderful sight and sound of nature. The cascade is 400 meters wide, and approximately 46 meters high in total. Many water mills are built here as well. The older generations will tell you that the sound of the cascade reminds them of the turning of mill stones, and the sound of stamper mills for cloth and baskets full of blankets being washed in the river. The last whirlpool of Skradinski buk is the end of the freshwater course of the Krka. The distance from Visovac to Skradinski buk is approximately six kilometers.
All that noise, the metamorphosis of green water into noisy white foam plunging down the cascades, makes one think as if nature is laughing from its very essence on Skradinski buk. The joy of the river is immense.
All the shades of green are perfectly clear in this place. The cool blue is as fresh as it can be. The two merge together in the spluttering joy of the river. This is where the Krka River celebrates each and every day, each and every moment. No matter when you come, you are certain to arrive to a ceremony of that most joyful form of nature – the cascade.