National Park of Thethi
The History of the “National Park of Theth”
On the date of 11.21.1966 (Nr.96), the cabinet credited the area of Theth, with a surface of 2630 ha: from which 1680 ha are forest along the sea-line and the other part is gas-plot and grust. It is now declared a “National Park” and is overseen by the D.SH.P, district of Shkodra.
The Climate and the Geographic Position
The “National Park of Theth” lies into the center of the Albanians Alps, between the block “Bjeshket te Nëmuna” on the west, and the block of Jezerca on the east. Thethi is a tourist – alpinist region and it is the most important one north of the country. It is only 70 km away from the city of Shkodra. It is a part of the commune Shalë within the region of Dukagjin. The park is surrounded from all four angles with pitons (rocky) of the two blocks above, which ascend down towards the valley and create an amazing view. Some of the most astonishing parts of this national park are the following: The peak of Radoines (2570m), Arapit (2217m), Paplukës (2569m), Alisë (2471m) etc. Hanging 750–800 meters below within the valley stretches the pictorial village of Theth.
The Geological Features
The “National park of Theth” is 172 km north of the capital of Tirana: 148 km of which is asphalt and the last 24 km is un-asphalted. The valley of Theth is frequently visited from all local and foreign tourists. Right into the heart of the northern Alps, between the historic rocky mountains, amazingly green panoramas and the numerous crystal fountains, this valley lies 900 meters above the sea level.
The park defines two sectors:
- The Upper Sector
This sector is much steeper, due to his formation from the massive calcareous dolomite. This reaction conditioned the intensive developing physics of them. The changes in temperature and snow precipitation present most part of the year helped in the formation of various jags. These hostile climatic conditions throughout the years created the steep mountains and the distinct gorgeous views. On the other hand, this was the main reason behind the absolute lack of flora and fauna in this region.
- The Lower Sector
This sector is less steep than the upper sector. There is a different panorama compared to the rocky profile of the hillside. This distinction is connected with the change of the calcareous forms. It changed from massive dolomite to a more narrow film. This other type is made of less dolomite and is more dissolvable in water. This is due to the fact that gravitational plump processes developed less frequent and with less intensity than in the upper sector. Also, even other weathering processes are less developed in this sector. This is mainly the reason why only in this sector the flora is constantly and gradually growing. At present times, we can find massive woodland of beech, coniferous and oak in this region.
The park lies in the valley that the river of Theth created. The mountain slopes are very steep and fracture around 16°-35° however, in some parts 45°-60° or even 90°. The form of the valley resembles that of a deep hole surrounded by mountains. That is stimulated by the glacier activity throughout the years. The river of Shala has formed terraces on each side which are made of gritty soil.
The Climatic Features
The Park has hostile climate in the winter with snowfalls that range from 1.5 meters in the lower part up to 3 meters in the higher part of the park. The park has an average of 2900-3000 mm rainfall per year. The temperatures range from (+20 ºC to +26 ºC) in June and goes down to (-14 ºC to -20 ºC) in the freezing winters.
The Hydrographic Features
The river of Theth originates from Okol, in the northen part of the country. It joins the Kaprres stream close to the village of Nderlyse; it therefore forms the river of Shala which ultimately flows into the Drin. The river of Theth is crystal clear and foamy in some places. It flows with a range of 1000-1300 L/sec and an average water temperature of 7ºC. One of the most distinguished characteristics of this river is the abundance of mountain trout. The Park contains many other streams named the “Sheep”, “Gurra” and the stream of “Shkafi”. There are also many springs of water named “Okol”, “Nikgjonaj” etc. Two of the most sensational parts of the “National park of Theth” is the “Gruna’s Waterfalls” and “Gjeçaj Waterfalls”. The height of the first one reaches 30 meters of root water and the second 24 meters. They originate from rocky parts of the mountain.
The park lies within the dun forest lands, in which are located all the forests of the park. Also, partly in the meadow of mountain lands, in which are located the alpine pastures. In the southern part of the park stretches out the canyon of Grunas which is about 2 km long, 60 meters deep, and varies from 2-3 meters up to 30-40 meters in width. Here you can also find many famous caves like the one of “Harapi” and Bira e Rratheve”. Inside the caves there are astonishing underground lakes, huge galleries and gigantic siphons. Theth also contains 12 small mills and a functional hydro plant. During the period of May to September, Theth is visited by around 5000-10000 foreign tourists yearly. All of them became amazed by the fresh crisp air, stunning views and most importantly the unthinkable beauty of the famous canyon of Grunas.
The Biological Environment and its distinct Flora
This National Park has a very complex environment, with a great variety of habitats and various forms of vegetation. Most of the forests consist of beech trees (Fagus silvatica), lots of bushes, predominantly cranberries (Vaccinium myrtilus). They alternate with alpine pastures (Poion alpinae) and dwarf shrubs of the alpine areas such as: (Juniperus communis nana, Juniperus sibrica), eight petals dryads (Drias octopetala), etc. In this park grow over 1500 species of plants, which represent almost half of the flora of the whole country. About a 100 species of plants are medicinal plants and very useful taniferes. However, unfortunately about 70 different plants within this rich area are endangered by extinction.
The most common varieties of Fagion illyricum are:
One of the most valuable assets of this region is the presence of (Taxus baccata), almost a relict, within the forest floor of the beech trees. Some of the rare exemplars we can find in this area are the following: The endemic plants (Wulfenia Baldacci), (Dukaginica viola), (Lilium albanicum) and the sub-endemic plants (Aquilegia dinarica and Teucrium arduin). In this region you can also find the “Gentiana”: The flower used by the “The king of Illyria, Genti”, as a very important medicinal plant.
In the “National Park of Theth” three different plant floors can be distinguished:
- The Oak Floor
It is located at a 600-800 meters altitude and it lies on the edge of the mountainous inclines as in the field of Theth and Gjelaj. Some of the most important plants of this floor are: Quercus ceris, Östra carpenifolia, the hornbeam (Crapinus Orientalist), the white ash (Fraxinus ornus), the cornel (Cornus mas), etc.
2. The Beech Floor
It is located at a 700-1900 meters altitude. As a result of the appropriate climatic-land conditions, the forests beech occupies the greatest part of the park. Some of the most important plants of this floor are: The beech (Fagus silvatica), the white fir (Abies alba), the mountain maple (Acer pseudoplatanus), etc.
3. The Alpine Pastures Floor
It is located at 1900-2300 meters altitude above the sea level. This floor consists of herbaceous plants and a few bushes such as: The junipers (Juniperus), the osiers (Salix), etc. Some of the most important plants of this floor are: the brunette (POA alpina), the caterpillar (Sesler nitida), the aster (Aster alpinus), the trefoil of the Alps (Trifolium alpestre), etc. Due to the great distance from the habited areas, the state of the beech forest is generally in good conditions. However, there have been some cases of great damage done by humans (Illegal cutting) and natural causes (Unexpected fires).
In some of the more flat areas, with average moisture and acidic PH we can find the “Tassel”. Its nutritional value is very poor and not preferable by the local animals. The plants residing in this section are low in number and relatively rare, and therefore the economic value of these pastures is below the average.
Another characteristic of the Theth jags (over 2300 meters altitude above sea level), is the presence of Pinus mughus, a type of pine resembling a bush with up to 3 meters in length.
The fauna of park is very rich in diversity of species. There are around 20 mammal types, around 50 breading birds, 10 type of reptiles and 8 types of amphibians. Of significant importance are the birds and mammals classes. Their diversity is connected to the presence of high forest stands and mountain alpine ecosystems. Some of the numerous mammals of the park are the following: Brown bears, Wolfs, Lynx, Wild goats and Roe deer.
Within the high forest exist predominately birds of the Fragillidae family (4 species) and the Paridae family (4 species). Other typical high forest bird species of this region are the Woodpeckers (3 kinds), Euroasian Nuthatchs (Sitta europea), etc.
In the bushes floor we meet other interesting species as the: European Robins (Erithacus rubecula), Blackbirds (Turdus merula), Red-Backed Shrike (Lanus collurio), etc. The general state of these habitats is relatively good and preserved.
Local participation in Resource Management
Even thought in these hard economic conditions the local population remains critical against any kind of action that may damage the park. Their help is vital in maintaining and preserving the distinct fauna and flora. All of them have very good relations with the forest management technical unit. A good contribution has also been made from different national and international awareness campaigns. They have had a positive impact in helping restore and increasing the public awareness of possible distinction in the future.
There is a trend of movement of families to the lower levels of the region near the towns. However, in the summer most families turn back to their houses and small businesses. There have been some attempts, supported from international organizations, to help develop tourism in the area. The pleasant conditions and the incredible landscape seems very appealing to Albanian and foreign tourists.
The region of Thethi is characterized from a rich diversity of habitats starting from beach forests and Bosnian pine:
Creeks and rivers with gravel and clear water
Caves and mezzo caves
Wetlands and agriculture lands
This diversity of habitats which is closely related to the mountain-mediterranean climate has created through centuries a rich diversity of flora and fauna in the region of Thethi.