National park Rila: General information
The National Park Rila was proclaimed in 1992 and today it is the biggest among the three national parks with its area of 81 046 ha. The park includes woodless zone along the ridge of the mountain and a belt of coniferous and mixes forests, which represent 30 % of the whole mountain massif.
On the territory of the park there are more than 100 mountain peaks over 2000 meters in altitude. Among them is the highest mountain peak on the Balkan peninsula – Musala (2 925 м). Due to the glaciers in the Quaternary in the high mountain parts of Rila Mountain numerous glacial lakes have been formed – more than 120 permanent and 30 temporary, situated primarily in the deep circus beds. The numerous glacial lakes and the lay forms define the alpine landscape, typical for the park. There spring the longest and high-water rivers on the Balkans – Iskar, Maritza and Mesta. The water supplies, which are formed in the confines of the park, are very important source of clear drinking water for the municipalities in the vicinity, the capital and part of the population in Greece and Turkey. The territory of the National Park Rila includes forest ecosystems which are protected from human influence. The most impressive are the ecosystems of spruce and fir combined with endemic white fir, as well as that of mountain pine. About 95% of the forests are natural and their average age is 90 years. More than 1400 high species can be seen in the park. 42 species are protected by the law. 98 species are proclaimed in the Bulgarian Red Book as rare and threatened with extinction, 9 plants are mentioned in the red list of IUSN and 6 in the List of Rare, Threatened and Endemic Plants in Europe. The park is very precious also because of the existence of 105 relict species and numerous endemic species – 36 Balkan, 21 Bulgarian, 3 of which could be found only in Rila Mountain – primrose (Primula deorum), Lady’s mantle (Alschemilla pawlowskii) and Marygold (Rheum rhaponticum). At the territory of the park are registered: 282 species of moss, 130 species of algae and 233 species of mushrooms.
The National Park Rila is one of the most significant and safe places for protection of mountain fauna in Europe. This kind of fauna is represented by 172 species of vertebrates: 5 species of fish, 20 species of reptiles and amphibian, 99 species of birds and 48 species of mammals. The biggest population of Balkan chamois in Bulgaria, the biggest high mountain population of European souslik, one of the four habitats of Alpine newt and one of the two habitats of little owl can be found in the park. On the territory of the park live populations of birds of prey (15 species) as well as populations of Capercaillie. Unique is the collection of invertebrate species – 2934 species, among them 242 endemic and 244 relict species, have been registered up to now. Within the limits of the park there are four reserves with total area of 16 222, 1 ha or about 20% of the park’s territory. One of the reserves is called Parangaliza – the name comes from the stem “parangalos” which means something prohibited. It was established in 1933 and the oldest spruce forests in Europe with average age of 200 years can be found there. The Central Rila Reserve is the biggest reserve in Bulgaria and is situated over an area of 12 393.7 ha. Forest, sub alpine and alpine ecosystems are preserved at its territory. The third reserve is called Ibar and there are protected species of mountain pine as well as habitats of relict plants and rare animal species. Ibar is situated on the Northern slopes of the mountain between the mountain peaks Ibar and Belmecken. The Reserve Skakavitza is a typical forest reserve, where can be seen ancient Macedonian pine forests. All the reserves in the park are registered in the United Nations’ register of national parks and the equivalent reserves. Two of the reserves – Parangaliza and part of the Central Rila Reserve are proclaimed by UNESCO for biospheric reserves.
The directorate of the National Park Rila is responsible for the preservation of the natural resources. The management of the park aims at the preservation and maintenance of biodiversity and protection of wild life, granting of opportunities for science and educational activities, development of tourism and income generation for the local population. In 1996 a visitors’ center was built in the resort of Panichiste. It is part of the new approach in the development of tourist services. In the center through expositions, audio and video materials and various interpretative programmes is presented information for the biodiversity, the typical landscapes, the natural landmarks and tourist trails and objects in the National park.
The opportunities which the park presents for science researches are unlimited. Long term observation and assessment of the status of the biomonitors and the changes in the abiotic conditions make it possible to forecast the development, to foresee the negative events and to take preventive measures for preservation of biodiversity.
The National Park Rila with its biodiversity, natural beauty and cultural and historic heritage gives unlimited opportunities for development of the local communities. The revival of the traditional high mountain animal breeding and the production of ecological products, bearing the trade mark of the park is another way for income generation for the local population. The hot mineral springs in Sapareva banja and in the resorts Kostenetz and Momin prohod are also good opportunities for the development of tourism in the region. The mineral spring in Sapareva banja is one of the hottest mineral springs in the world (103° C).
The famous resort complexes situated in the vicinity of the park and the tourists infrastructure of the park are excellent prerequisites for provision of different tourist services. The tourist complexes in Borovetz, Semkovo, Panichiste, Maljovitza, Kostenetz etc. near the park provide excellent opportunities for recreation during the whole year – on foot or on horse back in the summer and on ski in the winter. The mountain hostels and the network of tourist trails are good basis for hiking.