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Ojców National Park, Poland

March 25th, 2007 / / Links: Google Earth, Google Maps, Yahoo! Maps, Virtual Earth / Nearest places

Ojców National Park (Polish: Ojcowski Park Narodowy) is a national park in Lesser Poland Voivodeship, southern Poland, established in 1956.

It is Poland's smallest national park, with an original area of 14.40 km², since expanded to 21.46 km². Of this area, 15.28 km² is forested and 2.51 km² strictly protected. The park is approximately 16 kilometers north of Kraków, in the Kraków-Czestochowa Upland.

Karst topography characterizes the park, which in addition to two river valleys (the Pradnik and Saspówka) contains numerous limestone cliffs, ravines, and over 400 caves. The largest of these, Lokietko Cave (said to have sheltered King Władysław I Łokietek, for whom it was named), is 320 meters deep. The area is also noted for its rock formations, the most famous being Hercules' Club, a 25-meter-high limestone column.

Ojkowski is very biodiverse; over 5500 species reside in the park. These include 4600 species of insects (including 1700 of beetles and 1075 of butterflies) and 135 of birds. Mammals include the beaver, badger, ermine, and 15 species of bats, many of which hibernate in the park's caves during the winter.

The earliest settlement in the area dates to the Paleolithic, approximately 120,000 years ago. The Ojcow region is rich in flint, which attracted early humans.

The park contains numerous castles, including a ruined Gothic castle at Ojcow and a better-preserved Renaissance castle at Pieskowa Skała, both of which were part of a late-medieval system of defenses in southwestern Poland.

There are two museums in the park, the Professor Władyslaw Szafer Museum (named for the first person to advocate the creation of a national park in the Ojcow), and a branch of the Kraków-based State Art Collection located in the Pieskowa Skała castle.

[Source: Wikipedia]

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