Carpathians Mountains

Nowadays, one third of Romania territory is mountain area, largely forested, where most of the interesting flora and fauna is to be found. Another third of the country territory is hills and plateaux areas, with a fair quantity of woodland still remaining, and another third is plain area, mostly intensively farmed.

The Carpathian Mountains form an arch starting from the south of Ukraine and running around Transylvania ending close to the Danube, at the Iron Gates. At lower levels (up to around 800 m.; 2625 ft) the natural vegetation consists of forests of oak and hornbeam, lime and ash. Romania still has impressive areas of this kind of forest, which have largely disappeared in other parts of Europe.

Romania - Carpathians Mountains These mountains highly influenced the Romanian history, way of living and traditions of the people which are living in and near the mountain areas.

Above 800m. (2625 ft), beech becomes increasingly common, and at around 1400m (4593 ft.) it joins with common silver fir and sycamore - known as the Carpathian Beech Forest. Spruce is dominant above this level and above 1700m (5577ft. ) we have the lower alpine zone, characterized by dwarf pine, juniper, and low growing, goat willow. From 1900m, upwards is the higher alpine zone with grass, creepers and shrubs, lichen, moss and bare rock.

The wildlife in the Carpathians is still very active and there are a lot of areas very popular for wild animals watching tours.

In the springtime the mountain meadows of Romania are a riot of wild flowers, 12 % percent of which are endemic to the Carpathians. From April to July you can find spectacular scenes of clover, hawk weed, burdock, fritillary, and ox-eye daisy covered in butterflies and on higher levels you can see gentians, white false hellebore, bulb flowers and crocus. Alpine plants also include campanulas, saxifrage, orchids, alpine buttercup, pinks and in a few places eidelweiss.

In the mountains, you can find golden eagles, ravens. Woodpeckers, common black redstart, water pipits, and alpine swifts, crag martins and rock buntings, hazel grouse and black grouse. The forests are also a home for birds of prey like buzzards, honey buzzards, sparrow hawks and goshawks as well as a number of owl species.

Linx in Romania Romania has the most important population of large carnivore species in Europe - bears, wolves and lynx. The bear population is around 6000. Brown bears are hunted in Romania, but in a strictly controlled way and their number is at a healthy level. Wolves’ population is around 2000 in Romania, generally restricted to forest areas. Although they do regularly hunt sheep in grazing areas, wolves represent no danger at all to mankind. Lynx are fairly widespread (but very hard to spot) in the hill forests and they are the most specialized large predator of all.

Red deer can be found in some lowland forests but the species is more widespread in spruce forests on hilly areas. Above the tree lines in the Transylvanian Alps (the Meridional Carpathians) the most visible mammal is the chamois. Wild boar is also very widespread, being found in the lower forests.

Other mammals include the European Bison, the golden jackal, the wild cat, the red fox, and the badger.

Last but not least the snakes-the most dangerous beings - like the horned viper can be found near BaileHerculane.

The Rich Forest

Along the way between Brasov and Sighisoara, the Rich Forest is to be found in the Persani Mountains. You can see here trees like hornbeam, oak and beech. In the same area we ca n find rich and typical rock vegetation. The fauna consists of a large number of rabbits, foxes, deer, wolves and brown bears.

The Cross of Caraiman Mountain

The Cross of Caraiman Mountain The historical monument was built between 1926-1928, through the persistence of Queen Mary, in memory of the fallen heroic railway employees, during World War I, in the battles on the Prahova Valley. Located at an altitude of 2291 m (7516 ft ), Heroes Cross has a height of 28 m (91,86 ft), with two branches each seven meters long. It is mounted on a base 7.5 m (26-24 ft) tall, dressed in stone concrete, which houses an electric generator that powers up the 120 bulbs of 500 watts each night.

The Romanian Sphinx

The Romanian Sphinx It is the most interesting rock formation in the Carpathians (in Bucegi Mountain) because of its close resemblance to the Egyptian Sphinx. People have always asked themselves the question if the appearance was particularly produced by erosion or it was a man-made work. From any angle you view it, appears as an anthropomorphic representation.

The Romanian Sphinx from the Bucegi Mountains is not only an interesting in appearance; it also has some mysterious attributes according to the visionaries who lived nearby with tales of unique insights and experiences.

Apuseni Nature Park

The Apuseni Nature Park is situated in Western Romania, in the Central-North-Western side of the Apuseni Mountains, comprising a part of the Bihor massif at the South and Vladeasa massif at the North, in the administrative territory of three counties (Cluj 40%, Bihor 32%, Alba 28%).

Apuseni Nature Park In the Northern Bihor Mountains, massive limestone prevails alternating with thin pockets or streams of conglomerates,gravel stones and purplish-blue (flint) schists. In the North (in MaguraVanata Mountain) such stones and conglomerates appear, while to the south we find limestone, like the Dolomites (Padis-Scarisoara area), then further South, a second band of gravel stones and flintsschists (the Barsa Pit, Cetati Valley, Gardisoara Valley), and lastly, a second band of limestone (Sighistel Valley, Galbena Valley, Ponorului Fortress, Garda Valley). All these are inclined from North to South, the strata being newer from North to South.

Of special interest for the Aries river and the majority of its tributary streams is the well differentiated fish species. In the aquatic ecosystems of ANP over 15 species of fish are found: brown trout (Salmo truttafario), rainbow trout (Salmo irideus), brook trout (Salvelinusfontinalis), grayling (Thymallusthymallus), bullhead (Cottusgobio), minnow(Phoxinusphoxinus), Danubianbarbel (Barbusmeridionalispetenyi), barbel (Barbusbarbus), nase (Chondrostomanasus), stone loach (Noemacheilusbarbatulus), spined loach (Cobitistaeniataenia), chub (Leuciscuscephalus) and roach (Rutilusrutiluscarpathorossicus). Two of these species have been introduced by man (rainbow trout, brook trout).

Among amphibians 10 species were identified, of which the fire salamander (Salamandrasalamandra), the yellow-bellied toad (Bombinavariegata), newts (Triturusalpestris, T. cristatus, Triturus vulgaris ampelensis) are worth mentioning. Of reptiles, 8 species can be listed: the common adder (Viperaberus), wall lizard (Podarcismuralis), viviparous lizard (Zootoca vivipara), sand lizard (Lacerta agilis), slow worm (Anguisfragiliscolchicus), smooth snake (Coronellaaustriaca), Aesculapian snake (Elaphelongissima) and the grass snake (Natrixnatrix).

All common mountain bird species live in the area. In coniferous forests the following prevail: ring ouzel (Turdustorquatus), crossbill (Loxiacurvirostra), nutcracker (Nucifragacaryocatactes), willow tit (Parusmontanus), goldcrest (Regulusregulus), three-toed woodpecker (Picoidestrydactilus), hazel grouse (Tetrastesbonasia), crested tit (Paruscristatus). In the deciduous forests, glades and meadows are encountered: wood-pigeon (Columba palumbus), raven (Corvuscorax), black wood-pecker (Dryocopusmartius), mistle thrush (Turdusviscivorus), bullfinch (Pyrrhulapyrrhula), chaffinch (Fringillacoelebs), etc. Near the watercourses are encountered: dipper (Cincluscinclus), grey wagtail (Motacillacinerea) and the common sandpiper (Actitishypoleucos).

The large mammals include: wolf (Canis lupus), lynx (Lynx lynx), bear (Ursusarctos), roe deer (Capreoluscapreolus), red deer (Cervuselaphus), wild boar (Sus scrofa). Among the carnivores we find the wild cat (Felissilvestris), the polecat (Mustelaputorius), and the otter (Lutralutra).

The Bicaz Gorges - Hasmas Mountain

The Bicaz Gorges - Hasmas Mountain The park is located in the Hasmas mountains - (Haghimas), situated in the central group of Oriental Carpathians, also known as the Moldo - Transylvanian Carpathians. The park is located in the central - north - eastern region of Romania, in the zone of Harghita and Neamt districts.

The Bicaz Gorges National Park is one of a great geological, geomorphologic and paleontologic interest. It is also interesting from the point of view of its landscapes, and biological diversity generated by the great variety of geoclimactic conditions. The Bicaz Gorges are famous in Romania also because of their impressive dimension. At the same time, the Red Lake, formed through the natural blocking of the Bicaz river’s waters (1837) offers lovely scenery to the eyes.

Specific to this region is the local endemic plant Astragaluspseudopurpureus (gusul).

Many rare species can be seen here, among which are: the juniper(Juniperussabina) the pyramidal bugle (Ajugapyramidalis), the low tufted perennial Silenezawadzkii, the Geum - like - barren wildstrawberry (Waldsteiniageoides) and the rose Daphne (Daphne cneorum).

Of a great scientific importance are the legally protected plants, declared monuments of nature:the Yellow Lady’s Slipper(Cypripedium calceolus), the Eidelweis (Leontopodiumalpinum) the Nigritellarubra (orchidacee) and the yew (Taxusbaccata).

The Bicaz Gorges - Hasmas Mountain The fauna of the park is very rich in rare and endangered species and also other species characteristic for the mountain region.

Here are some of these rare species, which are important links of a rich trophic network, indicating a subsisting well balanced eco system.: the Apollo butterfly (Parnassiusapollo)and the Polygonia alba. There are also amphibians and reptiles, such as Bombinavariegata (the yellow bellied toad), Rana ridibunda (the lake frog) Triturusalpestris (the Alpine newt), Trituruscristatus (the crested newt), the Triturusmontadoni (the carpathian newt), the Salamandrasalamandra (salamander), the Bufobufo (the toad), the Rana temporaria (the common frog) the Lacerta vivipara (the viviparous lizard), the Viperaberus (common viper), the Coronellaaustriaca (the smooth snake). There are also birds such as Tichodromamuraria (the wallcreeper), Picoidestridactylus (the woodpecker), Emberizacia (the rock Bunting), Corvuscorax (common raven) Tetraourogallus (Old World grouse), Strixuralensis (the Ural owl) Aquila chrysaetos (the golden eagle).

Some mammals which can be found in the region are Cervuselaphus (the red deer) Rupicaprarupicapra (the wild alpine goat) Ursusarctos (the bear) Lynx lynx (lynx) and Canis lupus (the wolf).

Jiu River Gorges

Jiu River Gorges The National Park The Jiu Gorges, was born in 2005 and extends to 11.000 hectares The park runs along the gorge of river Jiu between the massifs Parang and Valcan being crossed by the European Road 79 (E 79).

This area is covered by forests about 85%, the rest being meadows. The compact forests, many of them new, have trees like: beech, oak and hornbeam.

The diversity of the species offers a distinct note to the biodiversity of the park. We can mention some of the species of the fauna from the park: viper, brown bear, wolf, lynx, otter, marten, badger and wild cat The herbivorous species are represented by the deer, stag and chamois. The National Park has also species of Bats and birds like: the pigeon hawk, peregrine falcon, common buzzard, golden eagle and ouzel. Aquatic environments offer living conditions for triton species and for the frogs.

Iron Gates - Nature Park

Iron Gates - Nature Park The Natural Park around the Iron Gates is situated in the south-west of Romania on the state frontier with Serbia having a surface of 115 - 655 hectares, (285 - 900 acres)

The Flora of the park contains eastern elements, together with panonic and Mediterranean. The distinctive colour of vegetation is formed from plant species as: garn, wild lilac, Turkish hazel. There are also, elements such as mountain beech (Fagus sylvatica), yew (Taxusbaccata), bilberry (Vacciniummyrtillus) where it drops in elevation the Danube Gorge. Iron Gates Natural Park vegetation consists mainly of forests, shrubs and meadows, their distribution is conditioned on the particular substrata. Forests cover about 70-75% of the park and are entirely (deciduous)

The main types of forest are those of beech, beech mixed with oak, hornbeam with thermophilic oak.

The Fauna of the Iron Gates Nature Park includes 4.873 species of invertebrates with some special species like: Scorpio (Euscorpiuscarpathicus) Scolopendra (Scolopendracingulata) and 332 vertebrates. Among vertebrates, the class of Aves is important with 205 representatives, followed by Class Pisces - 63 representatives, the most poorly represented by 12 beeingAmphbia. The salamander, triton, and water snake are also well represented. As mammals we can include, bear, badger, wolf, fox, lynx, wild boar, marten and deer.

The present situation composing wetlands and bird fauna park are due to creation of the Iron Gates Dam I, which led to the emergence of new wetland habitats for waterfowl and waders: pygmy cormorant, cormorant, greay heron, little egret, great egret, little missratecaraitoare, rate spearmen, Northern Shoveller, brown-headed duck, Tufted duck, small Coot.

Piatra Craiului National Park

Piatra Craiului National Park The entire Piatra Craiului National Park is located in the Meridional Carpathians, and it also includes parts of the neighbouring mountain passes Rucar - Bran and Rucar - Zarnesti. The Piatra Craiului National Park stretches over the counties of Brasov and Arges, including areas belonging to the towns of Zarnesti, Moeciu (Magura and Pestera villages), Bran, Rucar and Dambovicioara. A special conservation area, covering 4879 hectares (Brasov 2624 hectares, Arges 2255 hectares), has been established inside the national park, including the scientific reserve of 683 hectares ( Brasov 443 hectares ; Arges 240 hectares ).

The special conservation area also includes 4 karst areas: theZarnesti Gorges in Brasov County, the Dambovicioarei and Brusturet Gorges in Arges County and also a protection area with the status of natural monument on 1.5 ha (the Bats Cave). In addition, an area of 1189 hectares where grazing is forbidden, is located inside the special conservation area. The rest of the park’s area, 9849 hectares constitute the national park area.

The geographical location of the Piatra Craiului National Park places the territory in the temperate climate area, within the region of transition between the western continental and the more extreme continental climates. Some of the area is located in the mountain climate sector, the high mountains sector. Generally speaking, the massif’s climate is not too different from the other neighbouring mountains’ climate. However, the orientation, the altitude and the massif’s configuration have determined several particularities.

Piatra Craiului National Park The mainly calcareous geology of the Piatra Craiului massif is characterized by the impossibility to retain infiltration or running waters to create phreatic water reserves and, in the end, to form water flows. This is why while the valleys crossing the massif’s body are dry; the only watered valleys are located at the foot of the mountain: Barsa, Dambovita, Dambovicioara, with some of their tributaries.

The rivers inside the national park belong to two main watersheds: The Olt river watershed to the North and the Dambovita watershed to the South, separated by the following route: La Umeri - Grindu Peak - La Table - Sasu Hill - Sterghiori Peak.

The invertebrates fauna is particularly rich counting 35 endemic species and 91 species identified as new to science. We mention two endemic species for Piatra Craiului: Nesticusconstantinescui (Arahnida) and Rhagidiacarpatica (Arahnida, Acari).

The Piatra Craiului National Park also holds a rich bird fauna, including the 111 species identified so far, in the territory, rendering the area an ideal destination for bird watching. Many of these species are strictly protected by the Bern Convention - The Convention for European wildlife and natural habitats protection (law 13 of the 11th of March 1993) and by the Bonn Convention - regarding the conservation of wild migratory species (Law 13 of the 8th of January 1998).

Piatra Craiului National Park Over 40% of the 100 mammal’s species found in Romania live here. Up until now 21 species of bats have been identified in caves or old tree hollows throughout the national park. Many of these species are included in the strictly protected species category, according to the Bern Convetion, 6 of them are listed in the European Council Directive 92/43 EEC (Rhinolophusferrumequinum, R. euriale, Myotisbechsteinii, M. blythii, M. myotys, Barbastellabarbastellus) and one species - Vespertiliomurinus - is included in the Bonn Convention. We should mention as well the fact that all bat species are protected in Romania, according to Law 90 of the 10th of May 2000, regarding the adherence of our country to the Agreement concerning the bats conservation in Europe settled at London on the 4th of December 1991.

The Piatra Craiului National Park also holds a large population of large carnivores: bears - Ursusarctos; wolves - Canis lupus; lynx - Lynx lynx. Studies conducted so far have revealed the presence of three migration corridors, used by these species, between the Piatra Craiului and Bucegi massifs. These corridors will benefit from special protection status.

The richness of the species inside the Piatra Craiului National Park is the result of the extremely diverse conditions the territory provides for the development of the vegetation. The altitude exceeding 2200 m provides the appropriate development conditions for almost all of the Carpathian Chain alpine and mountain species. The forests, bare rocks, scree slopes, meadows and swamp lakes, ensure the particularly rich botanical diversity. The fungi, moss, lichens and flower plants species find here a real paradise. A total number of 1170 plant species and subspecies have been identified throughout the national park’s territory. Taking into account the fact that Romania’s flora records 3136 species, it can be said that the Piatra Craiului National Park is home for 30% of the superior plant species in the country. 181 species have been included into the "Red List of superior plants in Romania" as endemic, rare or vulnerable species, proving the importance of the Piatra Craiului National Park from the point of view of flora species conservation, namely the Carpathian endemic species.
Piatra Craiului National Park
Among these species we name only the best known, which enchant the eyes of nature lovers visiting Piatra Craiului during summer. These species benefit from a strict conservation regime: garofitapietreicraiului (Dianthus callizonus) the symbol of the Piatra Craiului massif, this mountain being the only place in the world to house this species, Taxusbaccata, Angelica arhangelica, Nigritellanigra and N. rubra, Papaver alpinum ssp. corona-sancti-stefani; Linaria alpine, Leontopodiumalpinum, Troliuseuropaeus, Rhododendron mytifolium, Gladiolus imbricatus, Gentianalutea, Daphne blagayana, Daphne cneorum, etc.

The Piatra Craiului National Park houses an impressive number of mountain orchids 48 species out of the 53 species found in Romania. But don’t expect to find the exotic orchids from the warmer climate countries. The orchids in the temperate areas are small and less spectacular looking, yet they represent one of the most endangered plant groups worldwide.

Due to the sharp angle of the mountain slopes, the vegetation layers, formed according to the altitude are very noticeable here, the massif being surrounded, from the bottom towards the ridge, by hay fields, forests, bare rocks and alpine meadows.

Retezat National Park

Retezat National Park Retezat National Park comprises the Retezat- Godeanu mountain ranges. The Retezat range extends north from the centre, and rises from between the Petrosani and Hateg tectonic hollows.

The main characteristic of the Retezat Mountains is given by the presence of two big volcanic blocks that stretch out in the direction of Lapusnicul Mare and Barbat rivers: theRetezat type granodioritic massif to the North, stretching out over a length of more than 40 km and width of around 20 km and the Butagranodioritic massif, located in the south of the Lapusnic- Barbat valley corridor, which drops under the Jurassic deposits of the Retezatul Mic.

A strip of crystalline schists with quartz schists, mica-schists and clorito -amphbolic schists stretches between the two blocks. Another strip of crystalline schists, adherent to the Danube area, stretches out to the Northwest of the northern granite block. The crystalline mass fuses with the eruptive intrusions.

The sediments are represented by some Paleozoic and Mesozoic geological patches (especially Superior Jurassic and Inferior Cretaceous limestones), they are located on the eastern periphery of the Retezat (the Tulisa crest) and in the South- Southwest (Retezatul Mic). The crystalline of the getic layer can only be found on the northern face of the mountains, stretching further under the sediments of the Hateg and Petrosani hollows. The tectonic, lithology and morphologic conditions of the RetezatMountains, together with the positioning of the peaks in relation to the direction of the oceanic air masses, make the massif the area with the highest humidity and drainage in the Romanian Carpathians.

Retezat National Park The average temperature of the rivers decreases proportionally with the altitude. It is around 4C at 1600 m and around 20C at 2200m .The maximum temperatures of the rivers rise in July- August (12 to 22 C) and the minimum ones in December - March (20C to 0C). The most important watercourse is Lapusnicul Mare, having an annual average flow of 12.9 m 3 /s. Waterfalls can be found on any brook within the Park.

The ancient natural lakes play an important role in characterizing the hydrologic network of the Park. Their genesis was determined by the optimal conditions for the accumulation and transformation of the snow into glaciers, at altitudes higher than 1700 m, during the Superior Pleistocene era. Over 37.8% of the Romanian glacial lakes are situated within the Retezat National Park. Located at the bottom of the glacial basins, ranged in tieres, aligned, isolated or grouped in complexe patterns they represent a major attraction, not only for tourists, but also for the scientists who come to these places.

The morphometric elements of the lakes oscillate within large limits, some of them breaking the national records: Bucura- the largest glacial lakes, Zanoaga- the deepest. The surface of the lakes is between 300m 2 (Stanisoara I) and 88612m 2 (Bucura) and the maximum depth is between 0 - 3 m (Stanisoara I & II) and 29 m (Zanoaga). The volume of the lakes varies between 90.3 cubic m (Galesul II) and 693.152cubic m (Zanoaga).

Although they have relatively small surfaces, the glacial lakes have a highly important role in the regulating draining of the rivers in the Retezat Mountains. 58 permanent glacial lakes exist in the entire massif, located between 1700m and 2300m altitude. Some bibliographical sources mention the existence of over 80 glacial lakes.