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  14.03.2018, 07:16h

The new viewing point in Krka National Park - above the Čikola Canyon

To mark this year's International River Day, the Public Institute of Krka National Park presented the newly completed parking area and viewing point above the Čikola Canyon

overlooking the exceptional karst river pressed between the limestone cliffs, in the constant battle against drought. The viewing point stands above the right bank of the Čikola River, just after the river enters the canyon, and is reached from the direction of Šibenik along the road to Pakovo Selo. The construction works are valued at HRK 292,891.65.

The Čikola River is the largest tributary of the Krka River. It springs at the village of Čavoglava in the Dalmatinska Zagora highlands, and enters into the Krka above Skradinski Buk, such that the lower course of the river lies within the boundaries of Krka National Park. With the raising of the travertine barrier at Skradinski Buk, 13 kilometres of the Krka River and 3 kilometres of the Čikola River formed a lake-like section, creating the most unusual landscape of a river confluence in Croatia, made even more distinctive by the islet Kalički Busen, a travertine barrier about 700 m long and just 10 m wide, which separates the Krka from the mouth of the Čikola.

               The Čikola River flows through Petrovo Polje and the town of Drniš, and runs through the canyon that leads it towards the Krka River, where it enters above Skradinski Buk. At the mouth of the Čikola, we find a unique natural phenomenon: a spring in the form of Torak Lake. Though this is a spring, due to its round shape, Torak resembles a lake, and so it is referred to as a lake spring. It is 150 m in diameter, about 30 m deep, and the spring itself wells at the bottom of the lake. This karst spring and its amazing beauty are even more pronounced due to its unusual position at the confluence of two rivers, and due to the characteristic flora, particularly the grasslands and shrubs, that surround it.

               The Čikola is a paradoxical river. Until Drniš, it flows through the karst field like a lowland river, thereby giving its old name 'Poljšćica', meaning 'river that flows through a field'. After Drniš, it begins its canyon section, which give its present-day name: the word čikola (or rather čikojla) is of Turkish origin and means 'water through cliffs'.

               In the literature, data on the length of the Čikola vary from 39 to 47 km, with a catchment area of 836.8 km². The largest tributary of the Čikola is the Vrba River, which flows into it just 1 kilometre downstream of its source. The water level of the Čikola is highly variable: during wet winters, the river is known to overflow its banks and flood the fields, while in the summer months, the water levels are very low due to drought and irrigation of lands along its middle course, and the river regularly runs dry. Throughout the entire 19th century, the locals struggled with regulating the course of the Čikola, due to flooding of fields, destruction of crops and the spread of malaria. The Čikola was once a breeding ground for malarial mosquitos, with the local population often contracting the disease. Its course was first regulated during the time of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy (1908), and works continued during the period of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia.

               The Čikola Canyon stands out for its exceptional ruggedness, marked by the impressive rock forms, the impassable canyon and the frequent drying out of the river bed. This inaccessibility was a desirable trait in the past, as seen by the finds of two caves containing Palaeolithic artefacts, and by the Ključica fortress, the largest and best preserved medieval fortress in Krka National Park. The Čikola River canyon is 14 kilometres in length and is up to 170 metres deep in places. It begins immediately after the river leaves Petrovo Polje, near Drniš, and ends just 6 kilometres before its mouth at the Krka River, or 3 km from the lake-like sections of the river. It has been protected since 1965. The Gradina hillfort (Drniška tvrđava), under which the town of Drniš developed, stands on the cliffs of the canyon.

               Though the Čikola is typically mentioned as the largest tributary of the Krka River, due to its position, its importance for supplying the entire Drniš region with water, and the beauty of the landscape it has created, its significance is no less than other parts of Krka National Park. The gentler sloping sides of the canyon have become overgrown in dense macchia, with groups of oak, hornbeam and other trees. The river banks are home to cormorants and numerous waterbirds. Even during the dry periods, the river gives a remarkable impression, with the colourful rounded rocks created by the force of the river.