Why is swimming not allowed in the Plitvice Lakes (and more)

If you’re thinking of going for a dip in one of Plitvice’s pristine lakes, and feel the beating of waterfalls against your back, unfortunately, it’s not very possible.

As of 2010, the fine for bathing in the lakes is €70 (I’m pretty sure it would have risen due to inflation). If the monetary dis-incentive is not enough for you, I’m sure many avid park go-ers would have something to say if they see you stripping down and jumping into the lakes.

1. So, why is swimming not allowed in the Plitvice Lakes?

swimming unallowed plitvice lakes
The waters look inviting, but you are not.

According to Wikipedia, uncontrolled tourism and water pollution caused by waste water from  hotels and agricultural activities in the surroundings of the lakes led to a higher rate of eutrophication of the lakes (increased concentrations of organic substances within the water). For the sustainable formation of tufa (porous rock), it was therefore imperative to protect the fragile ecosystem from excessive human influence. Therefore since 2006, it bathing or swimming in the lakes have been banned.

However, according to this blog Croatian Traveller, it is possible to take a dip near the village of Korana. I suggest that if swimming near the Lakes is a very important activity for you, you could consider renting a house nearby. I did a Google search and this house on AirBnB popped up.  It looked pretty decent and costs $165 per night for 6 people.

Here’s another top question which puzzles me ever so much.

2. Why are the Plitvice Lakes so blue?

plitvice lakes green pool water
Why are the Plitvice Lakes so blue?

According to Wiki, the colour of the Lakes change constantly, depending on the quantity of minerals or organisms in the water, and angle of sunlight. The lakes are renowned for their distinctive colors, ranging from azure to green, grey or blue and the surroundings change according to the seasons.

3. How are cascading waterfalls formed?

plitvice lakes rock sediment
How waterfalls are formed.

According to UNESCO, the waters flowing over the limestone and chalk have, over thousands of years, deposited travertine barriers, creating natural dams which in turn have created a series of beautiful lakes, caves and waterfalls.

The Plitvice Lakes basin is a karst river basin of limestone and dolomite, with approximately 20 lakes, created by the deposition of calcium carbonate precipitated in water through the agency of moss, algae and aquatic bacteria. These create strange, characteristic shapes and contain travertine-roofed and vaulted caves.

3. Wow. How do mosses play an important part in the formation of waterfalls?

plitvice lakes green mosses sedimentation
Green moss. That’s the young moss which aids in tufa formation.

Plants indirectly contribute to tufa formation. Pivotal for the sedimentation is the deceleration, aeration and spraying of the water. Mosses are a substrate (surface for an organism to grow on) for sedimentation. They give form to the created travertine, and the Plitvice Lakes waterfalls could not have been formed without them.

plitvice lakes green mosses sedimentation
Found this tree trunk curiously coloured.

Photosynthesis activities of algae and mosses in conjunction with the water, however, foster the crystallization of sediments due to the extraction of carbon dioxide.These effects are fostered by millions of microscopically-small bacteria and algae that grow on such plants.

plitvice lakes green mosses sedimentation
Mosses are crucial to forming new waterfalls.

One can clearly see that young shoots of mosses are green and soft. They are mostly without travertine, while older shoots are encrusted by a thin and fragile yellow layer, completely covered and petrified by plant-formed travertine. The mosses foster not only the creation of tufa barriers but they also become part of the barrier. The moss gets encrusted with travertine and fresh moss grows further out.

First a crag is formed but later a cave roof forms under the crag. If the water continues flowing, the cave becomes progressively bigger. Older travertine is filled with fossilized algae and mosses. This type of tufa rock typical of the Plitvice Lakes is called “phytogeneous tufa.

Source: Wikipedia

4. Is the Plitvice Lakes different from other lakes? Do the waterfalls dry out, some day?

plitvice lakes waterfalls drying out
Will the waterfalls ever dry out?


According to Wikipedia, the Plitvice Lakes are different because they do not represent separated, stationary waters. The lakes are always been seen as one composed system of lakes. Due to constant changes it is not even possible to pursue individual analyses of single lakes. The water masses reaching the lakes at the upper or lower part of the system are continuously changing the outlook of the lakes and the surrounding landscape. They finally exit the lakes as river Korana.

On the one hand, chalk tufa is being washed away partly. On the other hand, new sediments are continuously being formed. Thus, new waterfalls are being formed while others run dry. Nature itself is continuously adapting to these new conditions. As a whole, the complex of lakes represents a very sensitive and labile ecosystem.

* * *

Hope you enjoyed the post – thought it would be a good start to explain the science behind the Plitvice Lakes. It’s pretty interesting. The Wikipedia page included a string of formulas on tufa formation, but I thought it would be a tad much for a blogpost.

Stay tuned for more on the Plitvice Lakes!

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