Despeñaperros Natural Park

Despeñaperros Natural Park
 

Overview
The Natural Park of Despeñaperros is located in the north of the province of Jaén, in the heart of Sierra Morena mountains. The Sierra Morena is a mountain range which stretches for 400 kilometres east-west across southern Spain, and providing the watershed between the valleys of the Guadiana to the north and the Guadalquivir to the south.

The park covers over 7,000 hectares making it one of the smaller parks in Andalucia. It is centred on a steep gorge created by the erosion of the Despeñaperros river. This gorge runs from north to south forming a natural pass connecting the central plateau to Andalusia.

The park includes the magnificent Los Órganos Natural Monument, a rock shaped like a giant church organ and other erosion has resulted in spectacular organic-looking scenery with the appearance of giant vertical pipes. El Salto del Fraile and The Runners are other examples of these interesting formations.

In this wild environment with almost vertical walls, there are deep canyons and faults in which you can find many interesting plants. You can follow routes such as the ravine that runs through Valdeazores which is dominated by Mediterranean mountain pear trees, strawberry trees and durum.

Because of its strategic location, this area has been populated by numerous cultures since prehistoric times. The Iberians made offerings in the form of bronze statuettes which were placed in sacred locations such as the sanctuary of the Hill of the Gardens where you can find the Cave of the Dolls. In some of the caves can be found earlier and atypical examples of rock art.

The park is located to the east of the Sierra de Andújar Natural Park and to the west of the Sierras de Cazorla, Segura y Las Villas Natural Park.


 

Walking
The park has a visitors' centre, Centro de Visitantes Puerta de Andalucía which provides information and maps on the walks within the park.

Two of the signposted walks are as follows:
Sendero Cueva de los Muñecos is a 2km walk to a cave which is an ancient Iberian shrine in the Collado de los Jardines.
Sendero Barranco de Valdeazores is a much longer walk 13km walk which takes you through varied and beautiful scenery. This includes the Valdeazores ravine, woodland of pine and holm oak trees and a spectacular view point.

There is also a cobbled Roman road which runs through an area of lush natural vegetation and visitors can also walk the Empedraillo Trail.

Sightseeing
In the Despeñaperros Natural Park, one can admire outstanding places like ‘Los Órganos’ where the quartzite rocks are shaped like giant tubes, ‘El Salto del Fraile’ or ‘Las Correderas’ among others. In Santa Elena, one can visit the Sanctuary of Cueva de los Muñecos; many remains from the Neolithic have been found in the Sanctuary of Collado de los Jardines as well as cave painting in the Cuevas de las Vacas del Rematoso.

Geology
It is the natural passage and the entry door to Andalusia from the neighbouring plateau of Castilla which opens a way through an amazing gorge, hollowed out from the rocks naturally in the course of time by the Despeñaperros river.

 

Animals/Birds
The birds of prey which nest here include golden eagles, booted eagles, griffon vultures, sparrowhawks and kestrels. Blue rock thrushes and rock thrushes inhabit the stonier, higher slopes. The rivers are home to kingfishers. It is thought that the endangered lynx and wolf still inhabit this area. Other mammals include foxes, Egyptian mongoose and wildcats.

Plants
Away from the gorge the vegetation is woodland cork, gall and holm oak. Under these grow strawberry trees, Kermes oaks, myrtle, lentisc, wild olive trees and rock roses. In the Collado de la Estrella are gall oaks and Pyrenean oaks. Other areas of the Despeñaperros Natural Park have been reforested with Aleppo and Austrian pines.

 

 
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