Kampinoski National Park
Kampinoski National Park is located north-west of Warsaw, being the only national park which borders on a capital with over a million inhabitants. It is also one of the largest national parks of the European lowland, which stretches from the Atlantic Ocean to the Bug River. The Park was founded on January 19, 1959 in order to protect the remnants of the Kampinos Forest in the old valley of the Vistula River. The current Park area is 36,533 ha, of which 15 % is under strict protection.
The symbol of the Park is the elk (Alces alces, North American - moose), one of the most popular game animals in this region.
A peculiar, natural feature of this area is sand dunes, either isolated or in groups, covered by forests , spreading over a vast Park area. They form one of the largest midland dune complexes in Europe, at some places reaching 28 m in height. Some of them have fossil character.
The typical contrast in the Park landscape is the direct neighborhood of sand dunes and extensive peat-bogs. Different vegetation on these grounds makes this contrast appear even more sharp. The dunes are covered by primeval pine forest, some parts of which are more than two hundred years old, while the peat-bogs are covered by deciduous forests, containing mainly alder carrs, and marshy meadows. Most of the peat-bogs are occupied by meadows and sedges. There are also some areas of wet-ground forest, which add more variety to the forest flora. This morphological, and resulting floral variety in the Park is a feature, which differentiates it from the surrounding landscape.
The abundance of plant life is due to the Park's location at a conglomeration of river valleys, as well as to the morphological variety of its soil and variable water conditions. The flora of the Kampinos Forest includes species typical of many geographic environments including glacial, Atlantic or mountainous. Even some halophytes and Pontian xerophytes live in the Park. Among the 66 rare and protected species, the most interesting are Chamaedaphne calyculata, sour cherry (Cerasus acida) and river birch (Betula obscura). The forest is embellished by Martagon lily (Lilium martagon), mezereon (Daphne mezereum), Corydalis colida and Corydalis cava, a few species of pasque-flower (Pulsatilla), a mass of lily of the valley (Convallaria maialis) and other beautiful plants.
There are altogether 1,100 species of vascular plants including 27 species of trees and 40 species of shrubs growing in Poland. Some of the trees are of immense size, especially oak (Quercus robur) and small-leaved linden (Tilia cordata). In the protection zone, some imposing cottonwood (Populus alba) and black poplar (Populus nigra) trees may be found. Yew (Taxus baccata) has been reintroduced into the Park.
The Kampinos fauna consists of an amazing number of rare species. Unlike other big European cities, only Warsaw can boast so many species of animals living in the wilderness, close to such a huge human agglomeration. The emblem of the Kampinoski National Park is the elk (Alces alces, North American - moose), which lives here again after 150 years of its absence from the Park. The European beaver (Castor fiber) was reintroduced in 1980, after several hundred years of absence, while the lynx (Lynx lynx) returned to the park in 1992. Also the red deer (Cervus elaphus), the roe-deer (Capreolus capreolus), wild boar (Sus scrofa), badger (Meles meles) and the fox (Vulpes vulpes) inhabit the forest.
A great number of birds live in the Park , since it is located on a bird migration route. Crane (Grus grus), black stork (Ciconia nigra), white stork (Ciconia ciconia), common heron (Ardea cinerea), and raven (Corvus corax), inhabit the area. Nearly twenty bird of prey species nest in the Kampinos Forest, including the lesser spotted eagle (Aquila pomarina), the honey buzzard (Pernis apivorus), as well as great numbers of buzzards (Buteo buteo), and goshawks (Acipiter gontilis). The European golden eagle (Aquila chrysateos), the white-tailed eagle (Haliaetus albicilla), and the osprey (Pandion haliaetus), were observed many times. With the inclusion of amphibians, reptiles and insects, over 4,000 species of fauna live in the Kampinoski National Park.
Some area of the Park is owned by farmers, who live in the villages within the park boundaries (together they make ca. 3,000 inhabitants). This creates a problem and poses a threat to the protected environment. The Park's plan to buy villages out is hampered by the lack of financial means.
The territory of the Kampinoski National Park has close ties with history. The park was the site of many battles, including those fought in September 1939, i.e. the first month of the Second World War. The Park and its surroundings contain many graves of Polish insurgents of 1831, 1863, soldiers and partisans of WW II, killed in the Kampinos Forest. There are cemeteries of Nazi victims like the one at the Palmiry village, where a number of Poles and Jews were shot and then buried in mass graves.
In the Park's protection zone there are some historic and architectural monuments of great value. Thousands of tourists visit the museum located in the small mansion at Zelazowa Wola, where Frederic Chopin was born in 1810. He was baptized at the nearby Brochow defensive church, built in the 16th century of red brick.
Over 300 km of marked tourist trails, mostly walking paths, cross the Park and its protection zone. There are parking areas for motor vehicles and special picnic areas. A narrow-gauge train from the Museum of Narrow-Gauge Railways at Sochaczew takes tourists to the western edge of the Park. The neatly designed Museum and Educational Center at Granica, near the village of Kampinos, has been named after the initiators of this national park, Professors Jadwiga and Roman Kobendza.
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