JUPP KOPAČKI RIT
Kopački rit – a wetland home to thousands of species. A paradise for birds, and
shelter to hundreds of bird species. A natural triangle between the rivers Danube and
Drava, and the largest internal delta of the Danube. This area is one of the largest
European wetlands, and it never looks the same, with every new visit bringing a new
insight into nature. Kopački rit is a mystical place where one returns to the
unhindered fullness of life.
Kopački rit is the most valuable zoological reserve in Croatia. It is the largest nursery
and spawning area for freshwater fish in the Danube region, and one of the largest
alluvial wetlands of Europe. Over 2,300 species have found their home in the Nature
Park, and more than 140 bird species are nesting in it.
This is an area where the mighty Danube decided to share its strength with the lakes,
ponds, elevations and flooded areas. Kopački Rit Nature Park is located in Eastern
Croatia, in the Baranja region belonging to Osječko-baranjska County.
The name of the Park stems from two Hungarian words: kapocs, which means link,
and ret, which means meadow in Hungarian. The role of today’s link between
wetland meadows is played by wooden bridges that allow visitors to enter deep into
the area of the Park, which is a natural phenomenon of biodiversity.
Kopački rit is never the same. In its perpetual changes, nature is shaping the face of
this major European wetland. The appearance of the entire area depends upon the
intensity of flooding and the volume of water brought by the Danube.
The land and waters of Kopački rit merge into a majestic and unique natural mosaic,
which people decided to manage a long time ago. As early as 1699, the deed of gift
by Leopold I, the King of Hungary and Croatia, led to the establishment of the
renowned farm of Belje. Prince Eugene of Savoy soon became entrusted with the
management of the property, with the Habsburg sin charge of the lease until 1918.
The turbulent history of this Eastern-Slavonian area resulted in many changes to the
names of managers of the area over the years.
There is a very interesting example of country architecture in the Nature Park – the
Tikveš Castle complex. The complex, consisting of the old castle of Tikveš, together
with the new castle with annex, a chapel and catering facilities, is located in the forest
and the accompanying gardens.
The Tikveš complex provides a historical dimension of tourism to the area of Kopački
rit. And here is a short history of the place: after the Treaty of Versailles, the castle
complex became property of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, later the
Kingdom of Yugoslavia. Between 1941 and 1944, Prince Albrecht Habsburg was in
charge of the complex. Following World War II, the complex became nationalized,
and was used solely as a residential hunting center.
The Habsburgs had built the castle in order to enjoy splendid moments of rest from
princely hunting. The castle of Tikveš is also known as the castle of President Tito.
All these rulers and statesmen recognized the oak forests of Tikveš as hunting
grounds rich in game. The castle certainly contributed a lot to the pleasant and
luxurious nature of their stay.
Kopački Rit Nature Park was established in 1976, and it is the oldest proclaimed
Nature Park in Croatia.
Located between the Danube in the east and the Drava River in the south, Kopački
rit covers the area of 231 square kilometer. The area of the special zoological reserve
includes approximately 70 square kilometers. The Nature Park is listed as an
Important Bird Area (IBA), and, in 1993, it became a Wetland of International
Importance in the framework of the Ramsar Convention. In 2012, UNESCO
established the Mura-Drava-Danube Transboundary Biosphere Reserve, with
Kopački rit as its extraordinarily valuable part.
The unique appearance of Kopački rit is a result of constant flooding. Due to that
phenomenon, water deepens the terrain in some areas, creating ponds. On the other
hand, sedimentation of the material carried by the river results in occasional soil
elevations, joining the ponds in creating a fascinating mosaic of submerged and
exposed layers of the terrain.
There are two major lakes in the Park – Kopačko jezero and Sakadaš. The latter is
the deepest point of the Park area, at seven meters of water depth. On average, the
area of the Park is flooded 99 days per year.
White willow forest is the predominant vegetation cover of Kopački rit, and higher
terrain includes valuable forests of pedunculate oak, the noblest and the most
appreciated tree species of the country.
The value and beauty of the flora and fauna of Kopački rit is extraordinary. Entire
hectares of white water lily cover the waters of the Park. They feed the visitors with
their beauty, and deer with their deep and lush roots in the wintertime.
One outstanding feature of the fauna of Kopački rit are great cormorants, birds the
survival of which is founded upon the abundance and quality of fish stock, given the
fact that an adult bird eats approximately half a kilo of fish per day. Great cormorants
certainly do not face hunger in Kopački rit, and yet they leave more than enough to
nature, in the vibrant network of a complex ecosystem.
Kopački rit is precisely that – a mosaic ecosystem with highly valuable and rare
On top of that, the Park is richly mosaic in its tourist dimension as well. It is a place
for rest and recreation, a source of many attractions, and a globally renowned
destination for birdwatching. It is up to you, the visitor, to make your choice. Maybe
you would like to go for a tourist boat tour through the wetlands, either as part of a
group or individually? Or take the challenge of rowing in a canoe, joined by Park staff
with their expert guidance? Perhaps you would like to cycle through the Park? Or
maybe just sit on a tourist train, and have a look at the Park from that perspective?
Whatever the decision, Kopački rit certainly offers attractive choices…
Kopački Rit Nature Park is truly a place of harmony.
It is a place where even the white-tailed eagle, a globally endangered species, can
freely spread its wings spanning almost two and a half meters.
In September, mornings are frequently marked by very thick fog. Watching as the fog
rises, the view gradually opening towards the wetlands, is almost a mystical
experience. And, as the fog rises, one’s eyes open to the magnificence of wetland