© The Nature Conservancy / Chip Carroon
A right tributary of the Lim River, Bistrica spans a length of 26 kilometers. The river originates on the western slopes of Giljeva Mountain in Montenegro. It flows across the Pešterska Plateau where it disappears underground before resurfacing at the bottom of the Đalovića Gorge.
The river continues flowing through a valley before it joins the Lim River north of Bijelo Polje. Throughout its course, the river supports a vast biodiversity and is in excellent ecological status, free from any pressures. This makes the river ideal for activities such as fly fishing, kayaking, and canyoning.
One of the most remarkable features of the Bistrica River are the Đalovića Gorge and the Đalovića Cave, a natural wonder carved in limestone. It is the largest and most beautiful cave system in Montenegro. Surrounded by pristine forests and crystal-clear waters of the Bistrica River, the cave features many of the typical cave ornaments that leave visitors breathless.
The natural and geological values of the area were recognized in the 1970s when the gorge was declared a monument of nature. Today, efforts are underway to revise the old protection, gather new data, and expand the protection zones. By engaging local communities and ensuring good and sustainable management of the protected area, we can preserve one of the most spectacular natural monuments of Montenegro.
The Buna River in Bosnia and Herzegovina is a natural wonder that captivates visitors throughout the year. With a length of only nine kilometers, it is hard to imagine a river with a shorter course that is more beautiful or popular.
The river springs from a cave at the foot of the Old town Blagaj. Its source, Vrelo Bune, is one of its most popular attractions and one of the strongest water sources in Europe. It flows for nine kilometers to the Neretva River where it forms a series of waterfalls.
The clear and cool waters of the Buna River have attracted people throughout history. The Dervish Tekke, an impressive cultural monument, is located right next to the spring. Built at the beginning of the 16th century, it belonged to various dervish orders throughout its history. Legend has it that the Tekke was built at the command of a Sultan who was mesmerized by the Vrelo Bune source. Above it, one can find the medieval fortress of Stjepangrad, one of the seats of the Grand Duke of Bosnia, Stjepan Vukčić Kosača.
In addition to its cultural significance, the Buna River is significant for a variety of plant and animal species, and the diverse habitats it provides. It supports a variety of animals, including the critically endangered endemic softmouth trout, a fish species found only in the Adriatic rivers of Southeast Europe, as well as pygmy cormorants, Levant sparrowhawks, and grey-headed woodpeckers.
For the locals, the river is a blessing during the hot summer months. For those seeking an active vacation, the Buna River is a great kayaking and canoeing destination that allows you to enjoy the breathtaking scenery. The river is also popular with fly fishers from all over the world. This is one of the reasons why the 2023 World Youth Flyfishing Championship will be held there.
At the end of the river's short course, visitors can marvel at the Buna Waterfalls, where the river flows into the Neretva. The waterfalls are a unique and rare natural phenomenon, and the sediments that have been formed over thousands of years give them a unique charm.
For such a short river, it has a strong impact on the landscape and the lives of its people. While the river faces many challenges, local nongovernmental organizations and our partners from the Novi Val Youth Club are doing everything to protect the natural and cultural heritage of the Buna River for future generations.
The Ćehotina River is the northernmost river in Montenegro, originating under the Stožer Mountain and flowing along 125 kilometers until it meets the Drina River in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It is a true hidden gem, not well known even among the locals living in Pljevlja, a town that receives its drinking water from the river.
However, the Ćehotina River is well known to fish experts as one of the most important natural spawning grounds for salmonid fish species. Although it has changed over the years, it remains a river teeming with brown trout and grayling, as well as the Danube salmon, the queen of the Ćehotina rapids.
In its upper course, the river flows through a canyon and is a true mountain river, while its lower course is gentle and calm. Apart from fish that attract anglers and fly fishers to the area, the river and its surrounding area is a natural habitat for many plant, mushroom, and animal species, including the endangered stone crayfish, endemic Greek stream frogs, majestic golden eagles, brown bears, and wildcats.
The upper course of the river holds many cultural monuments. In caves that surround the river, archaeologists have found the oldest traces of human habitation dating back to the Paleolithic. Traditional village architecture gives a special charm to the entire area. Constructed using natural materials found in the area, these houses now have the potential to attract visitors looking for unique experiences surrounded by incredible nature.
Recognizing the natural and cultural values of the upper part of the Ćehotina River, our partners from Eco-Team and The Nature Conservancy, in cooperation with WWF Adria and a local nongovernmental organization Da Zaživi Selo, have started the initiative to establish the Upper Ćehotina River Nature Park. The new nature park will contribute to the protection of the natural and cultural values of the area and create new opportunities for local communities, ensuring its long-term sustainability.
The source of the Korana River is located in one of the most magnificent places in the world – Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia. It is a crucial waterway that has been used by local communities for centuries and offers a glimpse into the country’s rich history and biodiversity.
Along its 134 kilometer journey from the source of the river to its mouth in the Kupa River in Karlovac, Korana passes through several limestone canyons and fertile valleys. At Rastoke, the river's waters are strengthened by the Slunjčica River which creates an impressive waterfall display.
Hills overlooking the Korana River hide ruins of medieval towns and fortresses, while many watermills and wooden houses add a fairytale character to the landscape. However, the river is not just a beautiful destination for tourists, it is also a vital habitat for many plant and animal species, which is why the entire river is included in the Natura 2000 Network. The river is home to various fish species such as the brown trout and grayling, while the wider area is an important habitat for birds, including the common kingfisher and heron.
The Korana River is a natural wonder at the heart of Croatia. It has shaped the landscape it flows through, but more importantly, it has shaped the lives of local communities. One only needs to visit the city of Karlovac during the summer season to witness the unbreakable bond between its citizens and the Korana River – a living proof of our connection to rivers and the positive impact they have on our wellbeing.
The Mrežnica River is one of the most beautiful waterways of the Croatian karst. As a left tributary of the Korana River, it stretches for 64 kilometers from its source near the town of Slunj to its confluence with the Korana in Karlovac.
Mrežnica is truly a sight to behold. Throughout its entire course, the river cascades over numerous waterfalls and tufa barriers, some say more than a hundred! They add a unique charm to the river and attract locals and visitors alike, who enjoy its refreshing clear waters. It is also a paradise for kayaking and rafting enthusiasts, as well as other recreational activities.
The river is a perfect habitat for many fish species, especially in the salmonid family. This includes the Danube barbel, grayling, spined loach, cactus roach and similar Cyprinides, as well as the brown trout and European bullhead. Apart from fish, the river supports numerous other species, like the European tree frog, otter, thick-shelled river mussel, stone crayfish, common kingfisher and many others. For this reason, the entire Mrežnica River is part of the Natura 2000 Network.
Recognizing the importance of preserving the Mrežnica River, The Nature Conservancy teamed up with the Public Institution Natura Viva and the Karlovac County to establish two protected areas on the river. Through support of the local community, we can protect the river and create new opportunities that benefit the people and nature.
Originating under the Maganik Mountain and collecting water from various mountain streams, the Mrtvica River forms a large torrent flowing for 10 kilometers. Along its path, it creates one of the most beautiful canyons in Southeast Europe, measured at over 1,100 meters.
One of the highlights of the canyon is the stone bridge of Prince Danilo II that dates back to the 19th century. The Montenegrin prince built the bridge in honor of his mother who was born in the area. Deep in the canyon, the river has sculpted the Gates of Desire, a natural passageway formed between two rocks. According to legend, if you throw a stone in the river without making a sound and make a wish, it will come true. Another natural feature of the Mrtvica River is the Baths of Aphrodite, where its turquoise waters fill a natural stone basin.
Amongst the many natural spectacles that the river offers, the most spectacular is the biodiversity it supports. Its waters are rich in fish, especially brown trouts and graylings, while the surrounding forests offer shelter for many other animal species like chamois, wild boars, brown bears, and wolves.
The Mrtvica River is one of the most pristine rivers in Montenegro. To protect its natural beauty and geological and biological diversity, our partners from Eco-Team have started the process of protecting the Mrtvica River, preserving the incredible natural and social potential of this river.
The Neretva River is steeped in legend, a place that has fascinated humans since the earliest prehistory. According to some, the name of the river comes from the ancient Illyrian name Nera-Etwa meaning “Divinity that flows”. A fitting name for a river that has inspired artists, poets, and scientists throughout history.
Its source is situated at the base of the Zelengora and Lebršnik mountains in Bosnia and Herzegovina, at the height of 1,227 meters above sea level. Flowing for 230 kilometers before it empties into the Adriatic Sea in Croatia, the Neretva River is the largest karst river in the entire eastern part of the Adriatic Sea basin. Throughout its course, the river shapes different landscapes: from deep canyons in the upper and middle parts to fertile valleys and wetlands as it nears the sea.
The river is teeming with life, supporting rich biodiversity with species such as the Adriatic and softmouth trout, Mosor rock lizard, white-clawed crayfish, golden eagle, otter, lynx, and many others. In fact, recent scientific studies done in the upper part of the river have confirmed the presence of more than 1,300 animal and plant species, making the Neretva one of the most biodiverse rivers in Europe.
The Neretva River has played an important role throughout the history of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The river and its valley have been inhabited since prehistoric times, and the Illyrians, Romans, and Ottomans all left their mark on the region.
Today, the river has become a hub for recreational activities. Every summer, the city of Mostar is the place to be for many of the world’s best professional divers who want to show off their skill and bravery by jumping off the Old Bridge in the city center. Those interested in experiencing the river from a different perspective, choose rafting and kayaking down its emerald-green waters.
The Neretva River is a cultural and ecological treasure, as well as a symbol and a source of identity for people who live on its banks. To protect its breathtaking landscapes and tremendous biodiversity, efforts led by our partners from the Center for Environment in Banja Luka are underway to protect the upper part of the river and its tributaries. This would preserve one of the most pristine ecosystems in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Neretva River would continue to be a source of inspiration, enjoyment, and pride for generations to come.
Flowing through the heart of North Macedonia, the Vardar River is a vital natural resource of the country. Originating in the Vrutok village on the slopes of the Bistra Mountain, it spans over 388 kilometers before it reaches the Aegean Sea near Thessaloniki in Greece. It is one of the most important rivers in the region, holding immense ecological, cultural, historical, and recreational significance.
First mentioned by Homer in The Iliad, the wide-running waters of the Vardar River are home to a diverse range of plants and animals, including many rare and endangered species. These include the endemic Vardar spined loach, Pelagos trout, and the Prespa trout, as well as numerous bird species like the griffon and Egyptian vultures, or the rare pygmy cormorant.
Apart from its ecological importance, the Vardar River has also been a significant cultural and economic force in the region for centuries. It has shaped the lives of local communities, serving as a transportation route for trade and commerce while the fertile lands of the Vardar Valley enabled agriculture. The river has also been a source of inspiration for art, literature, and folklore, bearing testament to its historical and cultural significance.
Despite its importance, the Vardar River is under significant threat from pollution, unsustainable land use and development, and climate change. Our partners from Eko-Svest, a non-governmental organization from North Macedonia, have started the process to protect the Vardar River in the Demir Kapija Gorge.
The gorge is a famous rock-climbing and hiking site in North Macedonia and is one of the most valuable ornithological reserves in the country. It is also popular with kayakers and attracts visitors from all over who spend their visit swimming in the river and visiting numerous cultural landmarks in the area.
The Vardar River is a precious natural resource that holds ecological, cultural, and recreational significance in North Macedonia. It is a haven for diverse plant and animal species, a source of inspiration for art and culture, and a lifeline for local communities. Conservation efforts are essential to protect and preserve this natural treasure for all to enjoy.
The most pristine river in Serbia, as it is often called, the Veliki Rzav River starts in Močioci village where the Presečka and Jamčica rivers meet. Its crystal-clear waters run for 66 kilometers through picturesque landscapes of the Stari Vlah region, cutting an impressive limestone canyon-like valley.
One of the most striking features of the Veliki Rzav River is its dramatic northern section, where it carves a valley with distinct canyon-like sections. The canyon from the mouth of the Ljubišnica River until Visočka Banja, Radoševski Canyon, and Orlovača Canyon are particularly popular among whitewater rafters, who come from all over the world to experience the river's rapids as well as the stunning scenery.
But the beauty of this river goes beyond its scenic views. The Veliki Rzav River is a biodiversity hotspot that is home to an impressive array of plant and animal species. Recent studies have confirmed the existence of 132 species of benthic algae, 121 bird species, 44 mammalian species, and 13 species of fish. From the threatened stone crayfish to the majestic golden eagle, this river is a true haven for biodiversity.
The waters of the Veliki Rzav are also known for their healing properties. The thermal water that rises from deep underground at Visočka Banja, with a temperature of 27°C, is said to be beneficial for rheumatic and cardiac illnesses.
In recognition of its natural, cultural, social, and recreational values, our partners from the Environmental Association Rzav are working on establishing the Veliki Rzav Special Nature Reserve. Once in place, the protection will enable the preservation of all the features that make the Veliki Rzav River unique.
The Vrbas River in Bosnia and Herzegovina is a natural wonder that has captured the hearts of locals and visitors alike. Flowing for 250 kilometers, the river is known for its breathtaking canyons, stunning natural scenery, and cultural landmarks. It has played an essential role in the region’s history and culture, and is a popular destination for outdoor recreation.
Starting high in the Vranica Mountain, the Vrbas River meanders through the central part of the northern slopes of the Dinaric Mountain range. As it winds its way through the landscape, it passes through dense forests, green valleys, and rocky gorges before it joins the Sava River.
The Vrbas River is home to numerous fish species, such as the endangered endemic Danube salmon, common nase, and grayling. Other aquatic species, such as freshwater mussels and crayfish, also call the river their home. The river’s surrounding habitats support a variety of bird species, including kingfishers, herons, owls, and wild ducks. On land, the river banks are lined with lush vegetation which provides shelter and food for a range of wildlife, such as otters, beavers, and various small mammals. The surrounding forests support large species, like deer, wild boars, and brown bears.
Apart from supporting incredible biodiversity, the Vrbas River is a great destination for different types of outdoor activities. The river’s canyons and rapids have made it a popular destination with rafters and kayakers, hosting several international competitions, while the surrounding landscape is a great spot for hiking or free climbing.
To preserve the natural values of the Vrbas River, our partners from the Center for Environment in Banja Luka have started the process of establishing two new protected areas. We hope that this will provide the necessary protection and create new opportunities for developing sustainable tourism and other nature-positive practices. The Vrbas River is a unique and beautiful natural heritage of Bosnia and Herzegovina, playing an important role in the lives of people living on its banks.
© Vaso Knežević
© Vaso Knežević