The Northwest Prespa Lakes National Park
Prespa Lakes National Park
Declared a National Park in 1974, the designated park area encompasses 48,165 acres (19,500 hectares), though a much larger area around its edges is of considerable interest as well.
The park boundaries include the Greek portions of the lakes called Mikri Prespa (Little Prespa) and Megali Prespa (Great Prespa), along with mountain areas that surround them. A causeway connects the two lakes. The smaller lake lies almost entirely within Greek borders (its southwest tip in Albania), and is essentially the core of the park. Of the larger lake, less than a fourth lies within Greece, the rest of it in FYROM and Albania.
Mikri Prespa, the smaller lake, has extensive reedbeds and shallow areas. 850 meters, or 2788 feet above sea level, its surrounding mountains are higher than those around the larger lake, and winters there are very cold. Mikri Prespa is an exceptional ornithological site, with over 260 species of birds recorded, 60 of these rare or threatened. Except for the Danube delta, it is the only area in Europe where both of the European species of pelican breed; a large proportion of the entire world population of Dalmatian pelican breeding here. Pygmy cormorants, all species of European herons, great white egrets, white storks, terns, greylag geese, and many birds of prey, including several special of eagles, peregrine and lanner falcons, and many other birds are found in this amazing area, some of them breeding here, some not.
The wooded areas outside of the park boundaries are still largely unexplored. In winter, the lakes usually freeze, though not always.
Forty species of mammals have been recorded in this area as well, though many of the larger ones are declining, these including brown bears and wolves. Wild cats have been seen in the surrounding hills, and otters live around the lake. There are also five species of bats and fourteen rodents counted to date, though there may well be manymore. Over thirty species of reptiles and amphibians have been counted. There are a number of endemic species of fish in the lakes.
Plant life, though dominated by various kinds of reeds, water lilies, rushes, etc, there are also many flowers, including some rare elsewhere in Greece. Except in winter, access into the park is easy, with a good road from Florina (N15), with good scenery along the way. In Aghios Yermanos (Germanos) there's a small information center. Based in the same town is the Society for the Protection of Prespa.
The European Union is not always to be praised, despite the many positive conservation projects it has initiated and funded in Europe. During the mid 1980s it financed an agricultural and piscicultural program within the Prespa Lakes National Park which resulted in environmental damage.