Tatra National Park was created in 1955 to protect Polish Tatra mountain area which consists of the only mountain range in Poland with alpine character. The park area is 21 197 hectares, 70% of it is covered in forests, 30% consist of meadows, rocks and water. It is also the only place in the country where we can observe a chamois, a marmot and over 200 species of mountain plants. The highest peak in the park and whole Poland is Rysy 2499 m above sea level. Tatra mountains have climate zones which also influences creation of fauna and flora zones. Currently, Tatra National Park is visited by about 2.5 million tourists every year and the main city of the region Zakopane is called a winter capital of Poland.
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The Tatra National Park is located in the south of Poland, in the Lesser Poland Voivodeship, right on the border with Slovakia. The boundaries of the Park cover the entire area of the Polish part of the Tatra Mountains and nearly 3,700 ha of forest complexes adjacent to them from the north. From the south it is adjacent to the Slovak Tatra National Park, and from the north to the city of Zakopane and the communes of: Kościelisko, Poronin and Bukowina Tatrzańska. About 70% of the park is covered by forests and mountain pine thickets, the rest are alpine grasslands, rocks and waters. Due to the uniqueness of this area, in 1993 the Tatra National Park was included in the list of UNESCO Biosphere Reserves.
The park is characterized by crags, rough rocks, mountain caves, steep peaks and numerous glacial lakes. The highest peaks are above 2,000 meters above sea level, and the first place in this respect is occupied by Rysy (2,499 m above sea level). A significant advantage of the Tatra National Park are numerous glacial lakes (called ponds), characterized by exceptional water transparency. The largest of them are Morskie Oko (34.5 ha and 50.8 m deep) and the Great Polish Pond. There are also springs and waterfalls (the largest is Wielka Siklawa - 70 m). Wodogrzmoty Mickiewicza is also a big attraction.
The main goal of the Tatra National Park is to protect the cultural heritage and natural resources, and thus also to counteract the devastation of the environment and deforestation. The area of over 12,000 hectares, consisting of halls, crags, dwarf pine and partly forests of the upper and lower montane zone, is under strict protection. Partial protection covers an area of over 6,000 hectares, which are forest ecosystems. About 3,000 hectares have the status of a landscape protection area. There is a Nature Protection Department in the Park, which includes, among others: Forest Ecosystem Protection Team (DOP1), Non-Forest Ecosystem Protection and Environment Team (DOP2), Fauna Protection Section (DOP3) and 10 protection circuits (Morskie Oko, Łysa Polana, Kośnie Hamry, Zazadnia, Brzeziny, Gąsienicowa, Strążyska, Kuźnice, Kościeliska, Chochołowska).
The Tatra National Park is home to many protected species of animals and plants.
The vegetation of the Tatra Mountains is multi-layered. Up to 1,250 meters (4,100 ft) there are mainly Silver fir (Abies alba) and European beech (Fagus sylvatica) forests. Higher levels, up to 1,550 meters (5,090 ft), are covered with European spruce (Picea abies) forests, which turn into meadows and grasslands at higher elevations up to 1,800 meters (5,900 ft). The highest elevations, above 1,800 meters (5,900 ft), have alpine flora habitats. Other typical species include Swiss pine (Pinus cembra), Edelweiss (Leontopodium alpinum), and Stemless carline thistle (Carlina acaulis). Spring in the Kościeliska Valley is notable for the fields of Giant crocus.
The number of animal species living in the Tatra Mountains is over 8,000. Invertebrates dominate here. In the mountain forests tourist can meet deer, roe deer, lynx, wolf and brown bear, and slightly higher (outside the forests) chamois and marmot. A large group of birds is represented, among others, by: falcon, black grouse, hazel grouse, capercaillie, nutcracker, lesser spotted eagle, eagle owl and very rare specimens of golden eagle.
Many attractions await tourists in the Tatra National Park. Among other things, hiking, skiing, biking, mountaineering, downhill skiing. Park visitors have at their disposal as many as 275 km of marked hiking trails of various difficulty levels. Some trails are equipped with chains, buckles and ladders. Marked trails also lead to 6 caves available for tourists. There are 8 tourist hostels in the area of the Park, which are open all year round. In addition, in the territory of the TPN there is a cable car from Kuźnice to Kasprowy Wierch and two ski lifts on the slopes of Kasprowy Wierch. The places most frequently visited by tourists are: Morskie Oko, Kościeliska Valley, Chochołowska Valley and Strążyska Valley. The most popular Tatra peaks are also attractions: Rysy - the highest peak in Poland, of course Giewont - the symbol of the Tatra Mountains, Kasprowy Wierch or Świnica. A gondola lift leads to Kasprowy, which in summer massively carries tourists, and in winter additionally skiers.
In the spring and autumn period, visitors can also use horse-drawn vehicles running in the Chochołowska and Kościeliska Valley, as well as in the vicinity of Morskie Oko. In addition to hiking trails, 160 km long ski routes and trails have also been marked in the area of Kasprowy Wierch. Visitors can get there (only in winter) by a chairlift from the Gąsienicowa and Goryczkowa valleys or by a cable car from Kuźnice. There are also bicycle routes not only within our country.