Natural Park ”Mehedinți Plateau Geopark” – Asociaţia Pro-Mehedinţi

Natural Park” Geopark Plateau Mehedinti” is located in the south-western of Romania, noth of the Drobeta Turnu Severin City and covers an area of 106.000 hectars.

The climate is temperate continental with mediterranean influences and varied topography and has created conditions for many species of rare plants and animals to grow there. Its unique geological structure has led to the formation of numerous geological formations and caving. Most of this values are protected in over 17 nature reserves. In adition to these natural values in this space we meet many historical and cutural traditions and crafts (weaving, pottery) which are still present.

Mehedinți Plateau is a relief unit located between two mountains ridges, Mehedinti – west and Piemontul Getic – east characterized by a very similar geographical and geological evolution.

The limestones jurassic – cretaceous belong to the Danubian Autochthonous and are arranged in two main strands, parallel to each other. The west gaza belongs to the Mehedinți Mountains and is characterized by an extremely stong tectonic. The falling in steps westward withers contributed to the apparition of Cerna ridge.
The east gaza appears in the central of Mehedinți Plateau between Baia de Aramă and Cireșu. The limestone package is 200-300 m thick and consists of layers of 4-10 m thick tilt to south – east. Although occupying only 5% of the total area of limestone layers generated many and varied karsts in Mehedinți Plateau.

Almost all the rivers coming from the west from the impermeable formations are trapped underground at the entrance of the bar limestone. Downstream the point of water capture, the valleys remain dry, forming in time santithetical steps as those of Topolnița, Ponorat and Ponorel rivers. Upstream capture occurs pronounced alluvial meadows running of meters wide are formed as closed depressions, flat-bottomed and the overall appearance of poles. The typical phenomenon of this kind is the hidrocarstic system in the Ponoarele village that generated the depressions Zaton and Ponoarele.

Except depressions, other karst forms are poory represented in the Mehedinti Plateau area. Noteworthy are the sinkholes from western of Balta and Marga and the ditches from Natural Bridge from Ponoarele ( Bridge of God). Groundwaters dug caves renowned in size and ornamentation such as for example caves: Topolnița, Epuran, Bulba, Gramei, Isverna.

The Mehedinți mountains morphology is different from that of the plateau. If the plateau is typical karst limestone bar lowered in its karst Mehedinți Mountains prevailing high growth and slope.

Much of limestone of the Mehedinți Plateau and mountains are deforested or covered with hawthorn, corn, smoke tree (Cotinus coggygria), juniper and lilac. In many places wild lilac forms real forests, famous as those on cornets of Isverna, Nadanova or Ponoarele. Here, every year, in May, when the lilac blooms is organised the ”Lilac Feast”.

The geographic individuality of the Mehedinti Plateau is combining the characteristics of mountain and hill. It can be likened to mountains which it resembles in terms of lithology ( crystalline schists and mesozoic limestones) relief aspects (narrow valleys, canyons), presence of caves and tectonic fragmentation and at the same time can be likened hills (height low, smooth peaks, numerous human settlements).

Its uniqueness is materialliezed also in the vegetation structure. By its geographical position, the unit lies in the alternation of beech and oak forests. The climate is temperate with mediterranean influences with an average of 500-600 m, the terrain and proximity to the Balkan Peninsula, lithological constitution (extensive limestone surfaces) had a role in the current configuration flora and vegetation structure. In large areas on the south and southwest is emerging oak, fluffy oak, flasks, balkan oak, hornbeam, Carpinus orientalis, walnut, Turkish hazelnut. Beech is represented by balkan beech species. On the limestone rocks there are submediteranean shrubs known as ”șibleaguri”composed by a complex of Carpathian-Balkan Mediterranean and Southern Europe elements, thermophilic.

The ancient and outgoing populating of this natural regions caused significant changes in surface structure and floristic composition of the vegetation. Cleared forest land were replaced by meadows and cropland agriculture, but on low yield.

Forests are well stored to the east side of the plateau. On Cosustea valley and its affluents, the forest roads facilitated clearings, in some places are plantations of spurce and black pine. On the Crivei, Lapusnicului and Borovatului valley there are still unaffected forests of beeh, fir tree and pine. In the south – west of the plateau can be found downy forests, hornbeam, linden and even sambovina on Topolnița valley and on the hillside leading down to the Danube. On the Coșuștea and Topolnița valley are lilac shrubs that made the locals to meet annual traditional lilac feast in May in Ponoarele, Balta and Nadanova.

A mild climate with mediterranean influences, as well as specific vegetaion is reflected in the presence of many reptile and insects of various varieties. Characteristic are two varieties fauna, horne vipera(vipera ammodytes) and tortoise(testundo hermanni), mediterranean species protecte by law and the limestones are widespread in the south-west of the plateau. Also included are poisonous sanekes and common ones. On the limestone surfaces there is a species of scorpions small but venoumous. Noteworthy are the lizards, especially those of the southern origin throught the southwestern part of the plateau. The vertebrates have widespread snails, spiders, beetles and especially butterflies. In the forests of beech and oak meets bears, squirrel, marten, badger, deer, wolf, and the big pars. Among birds are grouse, forest bud, jay, robin,etc.

Due its natural originality, in Mehedinți Plateau are reported denset and varied natural reserves of a geographical unit size.
Thus, over 17 have been declared natural reserves such as the Karst complex from Ponoarele, The complex reservation Topolnița Cave, Epuran Cave, Cornetul Băii and Monastery Valley, Cornetul Obarșia Cloșani, Borovaț Forest, Coșustea Canyon. Stepping into Mehedinți Plateau we have the opportunity to collect material rhythms of the time. The durability inhabit of these lands was brought to light during archaeological excavations which have revealed traces of civilization dating from the Neoithical and of Cotofeni culture (Cireșu, Bunoaica Village, Jupanești). At several points in Mehedinți Plateau were discovered traces of Dacians settlements dating from IV-I BC (Balta, Bala de Sus, Malovaț), evidence of Romans settlements (Șișesti, Crăguiești Village).

The oldest written record of the Plateau Mehedinți localities is from 1581 Baia de Aramă. The figures seems to come out of the naturalness of their significance in today’s world dominated by the pursuit of quick gains. Everywhere, in every locality can meet folk arhitecture monumets: churches, crosses, traditional houses or mills.

The multitude of churches, mostly built out of wood, demonstrate that, the inhabitants of this area need to be close to God. The oldest church is Tolopnița Hermitage, built in the sixteenth century and painted in 1673. The oldest wooden church dates from 1757 and is located in Brebina village, near the Baia de Aramă.

The village, as the basic element of Geopark Mehedinti Plateau is a result of specific social and historical developments. Retention over the time of a traditional way of life can be achieved by preserving the rural settlements. On the Mehedinți Plateau there are etnographic sites in the villages: Balta (XVIII-XIX), Costești (XIX), Prejna(XIX).

Traditional crafts are still present: wool carpet weaving, dyeing wool using natural dyes, pottery (Șișesti and Noaptesea ceramics).

A number of settlements in the plateau area have been known since antiquity through non-ferrous ore deposits.

Cooper mining area from Ponoarele – Baia de Aramă are attested since the reign of Mircea the Elder.