Orjen at the Bay of Kotor is the most heavily karstified range of the Dinarides
|Peak||Maja Jezercë (Albania)|
|Elevation||2,694 m (8,839 ft)|
|Length||645 km (401 mi) NW-SE|
|Borders on||Julian Alps|
|Type of rock||Sedimentary|
They extend for 645 kilometres (401 mi) along the coast of the Adriatic Sea (northwest-southeast), from the Julian Alps in the northwest down to the Šar-Korab massif, where the mountain direction changes to north-south. The highest mountain of the Dinaric Alps is Mount Prokletije, located on the border of eastern Montenegro and northern Albania, with the peak called "Lake Crest" at 2,693 metres (8,835 ft).
The Dinaric Alps are the fifth most rugged and extensively mountainous area of Europe after the Caucasus Mountains, Alps, Pyrenees and Scandinavian Mountains. They are formed largely of secondary and tertiary sedimentary rocks of dolomite, limestone, sand and conglomerates formed by seas and lakes that had once covered the area.
During the Alpine earth movements that occurred 50–100 million years ago, immense lateral pressures folded and overthrust the rocks in a great arc around the old rigid block of the northeast. The Dinaric Alps were thrown up in more or less parallel ranges, stretching like necklaces from the Julian Alps as far as the areas of northern Albania and Kosovo, where the mountainous terrain subsides to make way for the waters of Drin and the fields of Kosovo. The Šar and Korab mountains then rise and the mountainous terrain continues southwards to the Pindus of Greece and the mountains of the Peloponnese and Crete, Rhodes to the Taurus Mountains of southern Turkey.
The Dinarides are named after Mount Dinara (1,913 m), a prominent peak in the center of the mountain range on the border of Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The Mesozoic limestone forms a very distinctive region of the Balkans, notable for features such as the Karst, which has given its name to all such terrains of limestone eroded by groundwater. The Quaternary ice ages had relatively little direct geologic influence on the Balkans. No permanent ice caps existed, and there is little evidence of extensive glaciation. Only the highest summits of Durmitor, Orjen and Prenj have glacial valleys and moraines as low as 600 m (1,969 ft). However, in the Prokletije, a range on the northern Albanian border that runs east to west (thus breaking the general geographic trend of the Dinaric system), there is evidence of major glaciation.
One geological feature of great importance to the present-day landscape of the Dinarides must be considered in more detail: that of the limestone mountains, often with their attendant faulting. They are hard and slow to erode, and often persist as steep jagged escarpments, through which steep-sided gorges and canyons are cleft by the rivers draining the higher slopes.
The most extensive example of limestone mountains in Europe are those of the Karst of the Dinaric Alps. Here, all the characteristic features are encountered again and again as one travels through this wild and underpopulated country. Limestone is a very porous rock, yet very hard and resistant to erosion. Water is the most important corrosive force, dissolving the limestone by chemical action of its natural acidity. As it percolates down through cracks in the limestone it opens up fissures and channels, often of considerable depth, so that whole systems of underground drainage develop. During subsequent millennia these work deeper, leaving in their wake enormous waterless caverns, sinkholes and grottoes and forming underground labyrinths of channels and shafts. The roofs of some of these caverns may eventually fall in, to produce great perpendicular-sided gorges, exposing the water to the surface once more. The magnificent gorges of many of the Dinaric rivers, for example those of the Vrbas, Neretva, Tara and Lim, are justly famous. The partially submerged western Dinaric Alps form the numerous islands and harbours along the Croatian coast.
Only along the Dinaric gorges is communication possible across the Karst, and roads and railways tunnel through precipitous cliffs and traverse narrow ledges above roaring torrents. A number of springs and rivers rise in the Dinaric range, including Jadro Spring noted for having been the source of water for Diocletian's Palace at Split. At the same time, the purity of these rocks is such that the rivers are crystal clear, and there is little soil-making residue. Water quality testing of the Jadro River, for example, indicates the low pollutant levels present. Rock faces are often bare of vegetation and glaring white, but what little soil there is may collect in the hollows and support lush lime-tolerant vegetation, or yield narrow strips of cultivation.
Ruins of fortresses dot the mountainous landscape, evidence of centuries of war and the refuge the Dinaric Alps have provided to various armed forces. During the Roman period, the Dinarides provided shelter to the Illyrians resisting Roman conquest of the Balkans, which began with the conquest of the eastern Adriatic coast in the 3rd century BC. Rome conquered the whole of Illyria in 168 BC, but these mountains sheltered Illyrian resistance forces for many years until the area's complete subjugation by 14 AD. More recently, the Ottoman Empire failed to fully subjugate the mountainous areas of Montenegro. In the 20th century, too, the mountains provided favourable terrain for guerrilla warfare, with Yugoslav Partisans organising one of the most successful Allied resistance movements of World War II.
The area remains underpopulated, and forestry and mining remain the chief economic activities in the Dinaric Alps. The people of the Dinaric Alps are on record as being the tallest in the world, with a male average height of 185.6 cm (6 ft 1.1 in) and a female average height of 171.0 cm (5 ft 7.3 in).
- Postojna Gate (Postojnska vrata), Slovenia (606 m or 1,988 ft),
- Vratnik pass, Croatia (850 m or 2,789 ft)
- Thickly hill (Debelo brdo), Serbia (1,094 m or 3,589 ft)
- Knin Gate (Kninska vrata) (about 700 m or 2,297 ft)
- Vaganj (1,137 m or 3,730 ft)
- Ivan-Saddle (Ivan-sedlo), Bosnia-Herzegovina (967 m or 3,173 ft)
- Cemerno, Bosnia-Herzegovina (1,329 m or 4,360 ft)
- Crkvine, Montenegro (1,045 m or 3,428 ft)
- Cakor, Montenegro (1,849 m or 6,066 ft)
Major tunnels transversing the Dinaric Alps include:
Mountains and plateaux
The mountains and plateaux within the Dinarides are found in the following regions.
Bosnia and Herzegovina
- Gusan/Maja Gusanit
- Bogićaj/Maja Bogiçaj
- Bijela gora means "White Mountain" in Montenegrin, which is the opposite of "Crna Gora" or "Black Mountain" which is the local name for Montenegro
- Zla Kolata (bordering Albania; Kolata e Keq in Albanian)
Notes and references
- Kosovo is the subject of a territorial dispute between the Republic of Serbia and the self-proclaimed Republic of Kosovo. The latter declared independence on 17 February 2008, but Serbia continues to claim it as part of its own sovereign territory. Kosovo's independence has been recognised by 101 out of 193 United Nations member states.
- "C.Michael Hogan, "Diocletian's Palace", A. Burnham ed, Oct 6, 2007". The Megalithic Portal. Retrieved 2012-08-19.
- "Nives Štambuk-Giljanović, ''The Pollution Load by Nitrogen and Phosphorus in the Jadro River'', Springer Netherlands, ISSN 0167-6369 (Print) 1573–2959 (Online), Volume 123, Numbers 1–3 / December, 2006". Springerlink.com. Retrieved 2012-08-19.
- USA (2012-05-24). "Average height of adolescents in the Dinaric Alps. They are also reputed to have the tallest males in Europe. Study claims it is not complete as yet". Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. Retrieved 2012-08-19.
- Summitpost. Dinaric Alps: Passes in the Dinaric Alps, accessed 11-19-2008
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