Over 6,000 flora and fauna species, a full array of the alpine world’s icons like the chamois and the edelweiss, glacial lakes, a meadow of daffodils, caves and peaks soaring to 2,300 meters high, where snow can occur as early as September and stays until May next year – this is how the Rodna Mountains National Park offers itself to the eyes of nature lovers.
Photo credit: (c) Leontin CUPAR/ AGERPRES ARCHIVE
It is Romania’s second largest national park and in administrative terms, it stretches across the Bistrita-Nasaud and Maramures counties. It is also one of Romania’s three biosphere reserves, alongside the Retezat National Park and the Danube Delta.
The Rodna Mountains National Park is located in the north of the Eastern Carpathians, incorporating just a part of the Rodna Mts. chain. It covers more than 47,000 hectares, with 80 percent of the area lying in the Bistrita-Nasaud County. The only settlement inside the national park is the Valea Vinului (Wine Valley) village of the Bistrita commune of Rodna, plus seven hectares of the built-up area of the Borsa town — Maramures County.
The national park was established in 1932 through the Order of the Council of Ministers No. 1949/1932, reconfirmed by Law No. 5/2000, and is considered a protected area of national and international interest, classified in IUCN category II: National Park — biosphere reserve.
The Rodna Mountains have always attracted researchers concerned about the protection of nature, flora and wildlife. Thus, in 1932, 183 hectares of dwarf vegetation alpine strip in the area of the Pietrosu Mare Peak (2,303 m high) were declared scientific reserve, the first of its kind in Romania. The importance of the area, as well as its beauty were the driving force for the subsequent expansion of the surface to 3,300 hectares.
There are currently four scientific reserves within the boundaries of the Rodna Mountains National Park (Pietrosu Mare — 3,547.6 hectares; Piatra Rea — 291 hectares; Corongis — 614.9 hectares; and Bila-Lala — 1,318.2 hectares), completed by six natural reserves: the Cave and Iza’s Blue intermittent spring (100 hectares), Izvoarele Mihaiesei (61 hectares), the Valea Cormaia reserve (50 hectares), the Daffodil Meadow in the Saca Massif (7.8 hectares), the Cobasel Cave (one hectare) and the nature reserve Izvorul Batrana (0.5 hectares).
The Horses’ Waterfall, of glacial origin, located in Rodna Mountains, near to the Borsa Complex Resort, has a total height of 100 m
Photo credit: (c) Bogdan BARBULESCU/ AGERPRES ARCHIVE
A landmark in the evolution of the protected area in the Rodna Mountains is considered to be the award of the most important status, that of biosphere reserve, to a surface of 3,300 hectares, declared as such in 1979 in Paris, by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization — “Man and the Biosphere Programme (MAB).
In 2007 the park was designated a NATURA 2000 site (SCI — Site of Community Importance, and SPA — Special Protected Area) on a surface of 47,975 hectares which includes both the 47,177 hectares of the national park and the 1,576 hectare ice cauldron Gagi, in the east.
Over 2,300 hectares of the Rodna Mountains National Park represent a strictly protected area due to stretches of high scientific importance which include pristine areas with extremely sparse human intervention. Except for research, education and ecotourism, all human activities, including those related to the exploitation of natural resources are prohibited here.
A specific feature of the Rodna Mountains landscape are the lakes which, by genesis, fall into the category of glacial lakes formed in the valleys of former Quaternary glaciers. Some of the major glacial lakes in the Rodna Mountains are Lala Mare, Lala Mica, Iezer, the Buhaescu, Repedea, Negoiescu and Stiol chain of lakes. Caves are also richly represented here, with researchers mentioning about 80 caves and sinkholes, the most notable of which are the Cobasel Cave (570 meters long); Grota Zanelor /the Fairies Grotto (4,269 meters), Baia lui Schneider/Schneider’s mine (791 meters), Iza’s Blue Spring Cave (2,500 meters). The Tausoare Cave which, with its 20 kilometres is the longest in the Eastern Carpathians, also stretches in the vicinity of the national park.
The flora of the Rodna Mountains National Park has attracted researchers from the country and abroad ever since the end of the eighteenth century. This is home to rare species protected by law and glacial relicts. Alone the erudite botanist Florian Porcius, who lent his name to the secondary school in the Rodna commune, has identified over 800 mountain flower species on the Transylvanian slope of the Rodna Mountains. Among the species that can be seen in this national park are the alpine willow, the bicolor willow, the edelweiss, the mountain peony, the spotted gentian, the willow gentian, the angelica, the red vanilla orchid, or the yew.
This is also where Juncus castaneus, or the chestnut rush — an aquatic herbaceous swamp plant, to be also be found in Alaska or Greenland — grows. Of a particular beauty are the forests of the national park, covering almost 28,000 hectares and consisting of beech, spruce and fir trees, while at altitudes above 1,600 meters, the juniper shrubberies creep towards the loftier areas of the massif.
The biggest attraction for the tourists coming to the Rodna Mountains National Park in May is the daffodil meadow on the Saca Mountain. Spanning 7.8 hectares, this natural reserve lies at an altitude of 1,600 meters and access to the area from Valea Vinlului is possible via two routes that can be covered in about three hours.
The daffodil meadow in the Saca massif lies at a higher altitude than any other reserve of its kind in the country; other plants to be found here are the endemic Lychnis nivalis — or the ‘Multicolored candle’ in the local idiom, Heracleum carpaticum — called by the locals the ‘Earth cross’, and other rare species.
Thanks to the ecosystem diversity, the park boasts a varied fauna too. The “Monograph of the Rodna Mountains National Park” published in 2011 by the park’s administration states that about 3,000 species of animals live here, many of the invertebrate groups being still unexplored. The rivers are rich in trout, grayling and minnow; soaking the sun up the mountain are lizards (relict species), while the agile chamois, stags or marmots are a quite frequent sight. The forests of the park accommodate boars, wolves and bears, martens and lynxes, while large-size species like the birch rooster, the mountain rooster or the golden eagle are representative of the winged creatures’ category. Hunting and fishing are prohibited in the Rodna Mountains National Park with a view to protecting the fish and wildlife resources. AGERPRES