THE JERMA RIVER CANYON
The Jerma River canyon is situated in southeastern Serbia, on the territory of the municipality of Pirot, Caribrod and Babušnica. The Jerma River, which is 72 km long, connects two countries – Serbia and Bulgaria. It springs in Serbia, near the Vlasina Lake, it passes through Bulgaria, and near the village Petaćinci it flows back to Serbia. Jerma created vivid canyons and gorges with steep cliffs. In Bulgaria, it is the impressive Trnsko gorge, and in Serbia it is one of the most vivid canyons – the Jerma River canyon. Next to the exit of the village Sukovo, Jerma flows into the Nišava River.
Owing to the accessibility and isolation of the terrain until the 1970s, the nature of the Jerma River canyon had been hidden for a long time, and today it has mostly remained preserved in terms of its original beauty. The road built in the 1970s was replaced by a narrow railroad where the train “Ćira” transported ore from the former mine “Jerma” in the village Rakita next to the village Sukovo.
For the purposes of preservation and protection, in 2014 this unique combination of valleys and limestone canyons was declared to be a category I area under protection, of international and national significance, as the Special Nature Reserve „Jerma”.
The Jerma River made its way through Greben and the Vlaška Planina and it created a majestic canyon. The canyon comprises two gorges – the Vlaško and Odorovačko gorge which were named after the nearby villages – Vlasi and Trnski Odorovci. The steep cliffs, which make the greatest impression on most visitors, are 300-400m high and 10 - 30 m wide.
In SNR “Jerma” and its surroundings, there are several mountains which surround the Jerma river and its tributaries with their huge peaks.
The Greben Planina with a limestone range and the highest peak – “Bežanište” (1338m above sea level) is on the right bank of the Jerma River. The narrow, rocky ridge, with its spiky tips, hides a natural phenomenon – rocky towers similar to the ones found in the Devil’s Town.
The Vlaška Planina, with limestone boulders, magical beech forests and villages on plateaus, is located on the left bank. The highest peaks of the mountain are actually “dents”, and that is how the name “Panica” – meaning bowl (1443m above sea level) was derived.
A few kilometers from the canyon, the Ruj Mountain and its peak are located (1706m above sea level), and a rocky hill Asenovo kale (1033 m above sea level). At the foot of the hill Asenovo kale, on the river Blatašnica, “Cedilka” is located, which is one of the narrowest canyons in Serbia, the rocky sides of which nearly touch each other, being 1.5m from one another.
The mostly forested mountain Ruj stretches between the villages Rakita in Serbia and Ezdimirci in Bulgaria. Its highest parts and peaks are pastures and lookout points. The village Rakita, once known for its high quality brown coal and the mine “Jerma”, is now a synonym for the struggle to preserve rivers and the nature.
On the mountain slopes of SNR “Jerma”, there are numerous karst relief forms, caves and pits. The cave Vetrena dupka and the Pešterica pit are of special significance. They are 2km far from the village Vlasi. The length of the cave channel is around 4,000m and it consists of a meander channel and a court where the stalactites and stalagmites are located. In one of the erosive dents, there is a siphon lake.
PLANT AND ANIMAL LIFE
Cliffs of the Jerma River canyon are the habitat of numerous endemic, rare and endangered plant species:
- 887 plant taxons with the most significant endemic and relict species (the Pančic maple, the lilac and the Serbian bellflower)
- relict, climatic and zonal forest communities.
The diversity of animal species is reflected in the existence of:
- 25 mammal species (bat, lynx, otter),
- 110 bird types, 98 of which are nesting birds (the golden eagle, the red-necked buzzard, the partridge, the Eurasia eagle-owl),
- 11 types of reptiles and amphibians (horned viper, the Aesculapian snake, the fire salamander),
- nine types of fish (the Mediterranean barbell, the striped bleak),
- 181 types of butterflies (the swallowtail, the mourning cloak butterfly, the Duke of Burgundy butterfly) of national and international significance.
The only habitat of the plant species “the Southern maidenhair fern” – Adiantum capillus veneris – in Serbia is in the settlement of the Zvonačka Spa, around 6km from the Jerma River canyon. This decorative type of fern is a true natural rarity and it belongs to the category of utterly endangered species in Serbia. Although it is far from the Mediterranean area where it is widespread, the hot springs of Zvonačka Spa made favorable conditions for its survival. Its habitat is protected as the Special Nature Reserve “Venerina padina”.
The Vetrensko and Sukovsko Lakes are located near the Jerma River canyon.
The Vetrensko Lake is near the Zvonačka Spa, at the foot of the Asenovo kale hill. The lake belongs to a group of barrier lakes, created by the damming of the Vetrenska River (stream) which then flows out and into the Zvonačka River – the Blatašnica River. It is familiar only to true nature lovers.
The Sukovsko Lake is located in the village, approximately 15 km from the Jerma River canyon. The lake was created by damming of the Tivoj dol stream. It is 1km long, 300m wide, whereas the depth in certain parts reaches 15m. The lake is abundant with pike, carp and other fish types, and so it is convenient for fishing. The lake environment is convenient for walking, biking and resting in nature.
The relief diversity and specificity of the area affect the climate which is moderate to continental, which affects the great difference in climate phenomena, temperatures and atmospheric precipitation. During the hot summer months, the nights near the rivers and the mountains are often cold.
PROTECT THE NATURE
Nature was not inherited by us, but it was rather borrowed from the future generations, so we kindly ask you to respect the ecological principles and rules of behavior during your stay in nature and in protected nature areas.