Doñana National Park

Doñana National Park
 

Overview
The Doñana National Park is a huge area north of Cadiz on the Atlantic coast covering 104,970 hectares. The park is an area of marsh, shallow streams, and sand dunes in Las Marismas, the Guadalquivir River Delta region where it flows into the Atlantic Ocean. As with all of Spain’s wetland parks and reserves it is crucial to migrating birds and a permanent home for many others. During the winter months its large expanse of wetlands are home to numerous species of waterfowl, typically up to 200,000 individuals, which makes it one of the largest and most important parks in Europe.

There are two areas within the park that have different legal status. The 50,720 hectare national park was established in 1963 when the World Wildlife Fund joined with the Spanish government and purchased a section of marshes to protect them from drainage to boost agricultural production by irrigating land along the coast. In 1989 the surroundings of the national park were given more protection when a buffer zone of 54,250 hectares was declared a natural park under the management of the regional government. The two parks, national and natural, have since been classified as a single natural landscape.

Doñana Park has a mild, Mediterranean climate characterized by relatively wet winters and dry summers. Much of the rain in autumn is caused by the accumulation of heat in bodies of water during the summer and the arrival of cooler winds. Temperatures are mild throughout the year and there are typically three to five months of drought in the summer.

The park is located to the north west of the Bahía de Cadiz Natural Park.

 

Walking
The main visitor centre is at El Acebuche, although there is another at La Rocina, and El Palacio del Acebrón.  Half day trips are available with official guides or alternatively some of the area can be explored by foot.  Much of the Doñana National Park is unavailable to unaccompanied visitors.

At La Rocina there is a 3km walk.  This takes the visitor along a path by the fresh water lake and marshland of Charco de la Boca.  There are bird hides along the way where resident and visitor birds can be viewed. 

The Sendero Laguna del Jaral Medano del Asperillo is a circular 5.6km walk.  It takes the visitor through sand dunes and pine woods and provides wonderful views of the views of the sea.

Another signposted walk is the Sendero Cuesta del Maneli.  Again this is a circular walk but is shorter than the above mentioned (2.3km).  The walk takes you through dunes and pine woodland.

If your particular interest is in birds, then spring and winter are the best times to visit.

Sightseeing
The Palace of Doña Ana Gomez de Mendoza, (whom the park is named after) is worth visiting. 

There are no towns or villages within the Doñana National Park.  However, there few around the national park which should be visited if possible such as the town of El Rocio, a unique and strange place of worship.  Here you will also find a large lake that is home to flamingos and other birds.

If its beaches that you require then head for Matalascañas, Mazagón or Chipiona.

Geology
The make-up of the Parque Nacional de Doñana is a consequence of its past as the delta of the Guadalquivir river, the 'big river', or Wada-I-Kebir, of the Moors. Unlike most, the river has only one outlet to the sea, just below Sanlúcar de Barrameda. The rest of what used to be its delta has gradually been blocked off by a huge sandbar that stretches from the mouth of the Río Tinto, near Palos de la Frontera, to the riverbank opposite Sanlúcar, and which the sea winds have gradually formed into high dunes. Behind this natural barrier stretches the marshlands (marismas).

     

Animals/Birds
Doñana is well known for its enormous variety of bird species – permanent or migratory.  It has one of the world's largest colonies of Spanish imperial eagles. This is a vast wilderness that supports an unmatched wealth of fauna.  Some of the many hundreds of migratory and resident birds include geese, flamingos, ducks and eagles.  The variety is diverse and dependant on the time of year.   There are also known to be 17 reptiles species, 9 amphibians and 8 species of fish. The rare lynx and the Egyptian mongoose as well as badgers, rabbits and otters are also found here.

Plants
More than 900 plant species have been recorded in the Doñana National Park including: Oleander, oak, prickly tumbleweed, beach grass, heather, lavender, sea thistle, reed, carnation, cattail, common fern, rushes, palm, pine, , broom rosemary, juniper, gorse, thyme, and blackberry. An ongoing effort is also being made to remove non-native species such as eucalyptus and acacia (Acacia longifolia) from the park.

This dune ecosystem found in the Doñana National Park is almost unique in the Iberian Peninsula. The burial and subsequent revealing of trees is one of the best known phenomena of the park beach area.

 

 
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