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Europe's Grand Canyon

Posted Jan 02 2013 12:00am
Flowing northward through Montenegro, the Tara River has carved a spectacular canyon through the Mesozoic limestones and dolomites of the Dinaric Alps.  Fifty miles long and almost 4300 feet deep, the Tara River Canyon is the longest and deepest canyon in Europe and the second largest canyon on our planet (exceeded only by the Grand Canyon of the Colorado River in the American Southwest).

The Tara, a tertiary tributary of the Danube, is renowned for its clear, blue-green water and the steep walls of its canyon harbor an abundance of caves, springs and waterfalls, typical of karst topography.  The magnificent gorge, long protected by its depth and sheer rock cliffs, harbors large stands of ancient black pine (some more than 400 years old), mixed with a rich deciduous forest of ash, birch and beech. Native flora and fauna include over 700 plant species and wildlife such as gray wolves, brown bears, wild boars, chamois, Balkan lynx, golden eagles and river otters.

Threatened repeatedly by plans to build a hydroelectric plant in the gorge, the Tara River Canyon is, for now, protected within Durmitor National Park and has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Access to the gorge remains limited but ecotourism, including raft and kayak trips on the turbulent river could, unless carefully monitored, have a negative impact on this pristine wilderness.
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