Lower Dniester National Nature Park
Recreational appeal, favorable climatic conditions of the Dniester lower reaches, unique natural landscapes and biodiversity were the basis for the creation of the Dniester National Park eco-trail.Lower Dniester National Nature Park, located within the wetlands of international importance “Northern part of the Dniester Liman” and “The Dniester and Turunchuk interfluve”, plays an important role in biodiversity conservation and restoration of natural resources.
Lower Dniester National Nature Park was established according to the Decree of President of Ukraine of 13.11.2008 № 1033 “On creation of Lower Dniester National Nature Park” with the aim of conservation, restoration and sustainable use of typical and unique natural complexes of the lower reaches of the Dniester River.Protected area of the Dniester floodplains of 7620 ha, established in accordance with the decision of the Odessa Regional Council on October 1, 1993, is the core of the national park.
Official address: 65009, Odessa, Frantsuzskyi boulev., 89
1. Golovkivka. The village Golovkivka was named after the Black Sea Cossack Ataman Anton Golovaty. But in 1792 he moved to Kuban, and the place gradually regained its first name “Bilyaivka”, which originates from White Lake.
2. Wide Channel. Near the Moldovan village Chobruchy (146 km from the mouth) near the border with Ukraine, the riverbed is divided into two tributaries. The right one retains the name Dniester. It runs along many well-developed meanders; the left one, a more direct and affluent, is called the Turunchuk. The most part of the interfluve is wetland that belongs to Ukraine. Near Bilyaivka, 20 km from the mouth, the Dniester and the Turunchuk merge again near White Lake, and below Mayaky village the river again is divided into two tributaries: the Deep Turunchuk to the right, the navigable Dniester to the left. The Dniester and the Deep Turunchuk finally meet the Dniester Liman and form a small delta. Dniester Delta today is the only area in Europe where the European mink does not compete with its close relative – the American mink, which on the reproductive level is blocking reproduction of the European mink. This species has become a symbol of the Lower Dniester National Nature Park.
3. Tract “Dniester Floodplains”. In a remote corner of the lake a bunch of birds is lurking, their appearance resembles domestic ducks. They are Mallards (Anas platyrhynchos) – the most common species in the floodplains of large rivers of Ukraine. Raising your eyes, you can see amazing black birds with curved beaks and long legs flying over the lake. This is the Glossy Ibis (Plegadis falcinellus) – an indicator of ecological balance.
4. White Lake. White Lake is one of the largest lakes on the Dniester estuary after Lakes Tudorovo and Putryne. The number of white lilies on the lake is so great that its surface seems white. The lake is about 2 km long, 1.3 km wide. In some places it is up to 1.6 m deep. The lake is connected with the Dniester and Turunchuk by channels.
The total number of plant species is only about 25 species, but, nevertheless, it is a unique habitat of plant species, protected at different environmental levels.
5. Floodplain Forest. Sailing along the beautiful Broad Strait, visitors enter into the natural floodplain forest. It is located in riverine ridges and channels, and is also called “the gallery” forest. Floodplain forest in the national park does not occupy a large areа, but is typical for the landscape of the Dniester. Floodplain forests grow under extreme environmental conditions: in spring the forest areas are flooded for a long time (from 3 to 5 weeks). Therefore, the species composition is limited: the main tree species are the white willow (Salix alba) and the white poplar (Populus alba). The gray willow (Salix cinerea), the brittle willow (Salix fragilis), the black poplar (Populus nigra), and the wych elm (Ulmus glabra) and the common ash (Fraxinus excelsior) can be also found. Tiered structure of floodplain forests creates favorable conditions for the existence of many birds and animals, and forms many cozy corners.
6. Dniester Arrow. So finally we got to the Dniester itself. Our boat had sailed the Turunchuk and the Wide channel. The locals call the place where the Turunchuk meets the Dniester the arrow, as this place reminds a Tatar arrow directed towards the sea. Here begins the area which has long served as the place of crossing, because the high left bank approaches the joint in one riverbed Dniester water, and the way from the floodplains leads to the right side hill near Palanka. It is appropriate to talk about the origin of the name of the ninth longest European river. The oldest name came to us from the historical and geographical works of antiquity – the Dniester was called Tiras at that time. Local residents of those times – the Scythians and Sarmatians – spoke languages that are related to modern languages (the Iranian language family). “Tiras” means “fast”; indeed, the Dniester, flowing down the slopes of the Carpathians and Podolsk Upland, with its turbulence and velocity, is different from other steppe rivers. In Scythian the word “Danas” meant “river, water” – that’s the origin of the second part of the modern name of the river. “Danas Tiras” reduced to “Danastr”, later – to “Dniester”. Others have interpreted the name differently, e. g. the Turkic name “Turla” appeared – a modification of “Tiras”. But in the Turkic languages “turla” means “pasture”, hence the Tatars and Turks reinterpreted the ancient name, linking it with the word from their vocabulary. Now the Turla is often referred to the main riverbed of the Dniester in contrast to the Turunchuk, the young Dniester.
7. Bilyaivka Water Intake. Built in the late nineteenth century, the water supply station “Dniester” provides water to more than half of the population of Odessa region. On the left side you can see the channel that deepens in the lowlands of the bank. This is the element of a grand water supply system. Imagine, from this point the water flows to the homes of more than half a million people in urban Odessa, Yuzhny, Illichivsk, Ovidiopol, Bilyaivka and Bilhorod Dnistrovskyi. That’s more than half of the population of Odessa region, the largest in Ukraine. In the first decade of its existence (the last third of the nineteenth century) the water supply system from the Dniester to Odessa was the largest in the world.
8. Ferriage of King DARIUS. Famous kings and military commanders of the ancient world crossed the lower reaches of the Dniester. Imagine the grand Persian army of one to five hundred thousand men! Not all returned back, but only a pitiful handful of fugitives led by the “King of Kings” fled from the Scythians.
9. Black Castle. Somewhere here, on the left-hand bank of the Dniester mysterious castle – Chornohorod (Black Castle) – was situated. Black Castle was first mentioned in 1421, when the governor of Podolia Hedyhold by order of Grand Duke of Lithuania and Russia Vytautas built a castle opposite Belgorod. 12 000 employees constructed the fortress, brought stone and wood on carts. It was destroyed in the XVth century, but was designated on the XVIIth – and even XVIIIth – century maps. Historians still argue where exactly the legendary Chornohorod was situated. Most think it was on site of the Tatar tract Miyake Hechit. In the XVIIth century it was called Tatar-Hazan (“headquarter” of Tatar khan). On the ruins of Tatar Hazan Ukrainian Cossacks and peasants and Russian Old Believers, founded modern Mayaky in the late XVIIIth century.
10. Gontarenko Island. Islands of the Dniester delta are mostly nameless. Straits, corners, spits have names, but not islands. Gontarenko Island is one of a few exceptions. It was named only about ten years ago after Vadim Gontarenko (1926-2000) who led the local meteorological station for 40 years (1960-2000). The station was founded in 1947 and since then has been a center of the Dniester delta research. Vadim Gontarenko is remembered as a real fan of the Dniester delta protection.
11. Floodplain Meadows. Floodplain meadows occupy a small area of the Lower Dniester national park. Meadows are characterized by the dominance of perennial herbaceous plants, primarily grasses and sedges, which can exist in moisture. Meadows are in the riverine valleys and in spring are flooded for up to 2 months. In the Dniester delta there are meadows flooded for a short period (up to 20 days) and for a long period (2 months).
12. Deep Turunchuk. In the XIX century it took a long time to go from Mayaky to the Dniester Liman and even longer to come back. The long riverbed wriggled along the delta making scheduled flights impossible, complicating navigation. Unloading barges and rafts in Mayaky was quite expensive because transportation to Odessa significantly increased the price of goods. In 1838 a Russian merchant Alexander Surovtsev appealed to the local government to dig a canal. He was ready to cover the costs, but asked for a 10 year monopoly on transportation of goods from Mayaky to Odessa. However, he spent all his fortune to create the canal called Surovtsev’s canal but received no guaranteed benefits, went bankrupt and died in poverty. He created a surprisingly comfortable and effective canal. Now all the boats that follow from Mayaky and back choose it as the shortest and safest way. In 1840, merchant Alexander Surovtsev financed the construction of the canal from the Dniester River to the Dniester Liman, which significantly shortened the river way.
13. Kiliariysky Shallow Channel. Turunchuk is significantly affected by Kilyariyskyy shallow channel, artificially created by local fishermen in the nineteenth century. Despite the depth of only about 2 m, and width of 3.4 m, it plays an important role in the migration of bream and herring.
15. Dniester liman. The history of the formation of the Dniester Liman is similar to the formation of other Black Sea limans. About 3 thousand years ago the sea began to recede. These events are called the Phanagorian regression. The sea maximally receded in Vth century BC, when the sea level was 2 m below the current level (in some places up to 8 m). After the Vth century BC the sea levels began to increase again, Nymphaion transgression started, and the Dniester bay filled with the sea waters again.
16. Mouth of The Deep Turunchuk. Some old Moldovan and Ukrainian villages can be seen on the horizon. One of them is Udobne, which until 1944 was called Han-Kishla. In the VI century it became the residence of the head of the great Tatar Budzhak Nogai Horde, which was subject to the Crimean Khanate and the Ottoman Empire. Often Udobne was marked on maps as Budzhak, because it was the capital of the entire Tatar land at that time. In the XIX century the village to the west of the liman were inhabited by the Ukrainians and Moldovans. The villages became part of the lands of Novorossiysk Cossack troops – descendants of Zaporozhsky Cossacks. They continued history of the Cossacks in the south of Ukraine. The army was disbanded during the military reforms in 1863, but the population still remembers their Cossack roots. Villages near Udobne are called Cossatske and Starokozache.
17. White Castle. Now look to the right: over there on the horizon lies the ancient city of Bilhorod Dniestrovskyi. It is more than 2500 years old. The legendary fortress is situated in the centre, on the Dniester Liman bank, its towers are visible with a naked eye.
18. Karagol Bay. In addition, Karahol Bay is the wintering grounds for the carp, common carp, crucian carp. That is why commercial fishing is traditionally prohibited in the area. Karahol Bay overlooks the steep banks of the Dniester liman. In these circumstances typical steppe vegetation in the Lower Dniester National Park was preserved.
19. The Dniester Mouth. According to a prominent ancient geographer Strabo, ancient Greek settlers built a tower in the mouth of the Tiras (Dniester) and called it Neoptolemos, after the son of Achilles, the Trojan War hero. Neoptolemos never visited the place, but since his father was known as “Lord of the Sea” (Pontarh), the beacon tower and his name had to help mariners better locate the entrance to the river in the darkness. The search for traces of the tower led Odessa archaeologists to the conclusion that two and a half thousand years ago the Dniester Liman did not exist, and the Tiras met the Black Sea further south – in the Budaksky Liman. This is confirmed by ancient geographers, who wrote about a large island washed by two tributaries of the Tiras. On the right tributary stood Thira (Bilhorod- Dniestrovskyi), on the left – Nikon (today the village of Roksolany).
20. The Dniester Bed. Since time immemorial, the Dniester was used for export of goods produced in the Lower Dniester areas. The ancient Greeks traded with their northern neighbors. Later, in the XIII century, Genoese merchants used ships called galleys (in the form of a rectangular box), carrying capacity of 12 tons, to carry cargo down the Dniester. In Ottoman times the importance of the Dniester in trade decreased, but in the XVIII century the transit of goods came to life again. In 1843, Novorossiysk Governor General Mikhail Vorontsov bought a steamer in Great Britain. It was named “Dniester”. Trying to sail up to Tiraspol, the vessel ran aground. Subsequent attempts also failed: ship by ship headed for the Dniester, and stopped before reaching the Tiraspol. Then the main channel was deepened and navigable canals were dug. In 1881, Russian Society of shipping and commerce did a research on possibilities of using the Dniester River for navigation. In 1884, they started to deepen the Dniester, and in 1893 the river was made available for tugboats and passenger ships. From 1918 to 1940 the Dniester was a border zone and was strictly guarded. During that period the navigation on the Dniester stopped, and was resumed only in 1940.