|Monfragüe National Park|
A view of the Salto del Gitano
|Area||179 km² (17 852 ha)|
|Visitors||331,788 (in 2008)|
From 1979 the area was protected as a natural park (a lower level of protection than national park status) until national park status was granted in 2007. Since 2003 it has been recognised by UNESCO as a Biosphere reserve. The park is north of Trujillo and runs from east to west along the valley of the River Tagus. It includes a long mountainous ridge, which the river has cut through, creating on the western side an impressive rock face, the Penafalcon. On the eastern side is the Castle of Monfragüe. The River Tietar enters the park from the north-east and joins the Tagus just to the east of Penafalcon. There is only one village in the park, Villareal de San Carlos (population 28).
Habitats in the park include extensive dense scrub, small oak woodlands, and numerous cliffs and rock faces. The land is mainly used for traditional, low-intensive farming. However, there were two major changes in the years 1960-70:
- the river Tagus was dammed, affecting its course through the park;
- parts of the park were affected by a project of planting eucalyptus. This non-indigenous species is being eradicated: commercial forestry is prohibited in Spanish national parks.
In 1988 the European Union designated Monfrague a Special Protection Area for bird-life. The area of the SPA (or ZEPA, the equivalent acronym in Spanish) extends beyond the park (where the nesting sites are concentrated) into the surrounding dehesas, which provide food for the birds.
Monfrague is an outstanding site for raptors, with more than 15 regular breeding species, including the world's largest breeding concentration of Eurasian black vulture, a large population of griffon vulture, and several pairs of Spanish imperial eagle, golden eagle and Bonelli's eagle. The crags and cliffs on the north side of the river midway through the park draw photographers from all over Europe and the Americas. The government has built observation blinds throughout the course of the river.
Other breeding birds for which the park is important are black stork and Eurasian eagle owl and there is a high density of azure-winged magpie. It is also one of the few locations in Europe where white-rumped swift breed.
Deer and wild boar live in the park.
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