Diving into the wonderous phenomenon of Skradinski Buk’s waterfalls in Croatia elates me. I think of waterfalls in the same class as a summer thunderstorm that drenches everyone in its path. It sneaks up like a bear and roars. Frightening. Primal. Deafening.
Watching water rush off a knife edge and plunge straight down like a parachute ejected from the big blue sky astounds me. I am a tiny speck compared to the raging waterfalls. If I stand close enough to the fence, the water will douse me.
I get to see the waterfall at Skradinski Buk in Krka National Park, Croatia in October 2018. Its height spans 45 meters from the highest and lowest points of the waterfall. Trip Advisor ranks it #14 of 137 things to do in Sibenik-Knin.
Grey, clear and primordial—the waters crash down and dash on the rocks below. Swirling pools of water whip up foam. It is hypnotizing to watch nature in its wildest state. This is why so many visitors just linger, meditating on nature’s fury.
The poet Mary Oliver describes a waterfall as howling “like thunder over the rocks all day and all night, unspooling like ribbons made of snow, or God’s white hair …”
I think of the waterfall as the Greek Goddess Amphitrite who can unfurl her fury on the unsuspecting if enraged.
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Krka National Park
Last October, as the leaves began to turn crimson, rust and gold in Croatia, I had the opportunity to hike in Krka National Park. The park is located less than 87 km via E65/E71 from Split. It is located on the western side of Croatia on the Dalmatian Coast. The contrast between cosmopolitan Split—which served as a Roman enclave for Emperor Diocletian in fourth century A.D.—and the forest-dense Krka is dramatic.
Vegetation is lush. The Krka and Cikola Rivers flow over the 17 steps at Skradinski Buk. It is 800 meters in length. The width of the cascades is between 200 and 400 meters with a total height distance of 45.7 meters. There is an abundance of flora and fauna. But let there be no mistake, the waterfall calls. Literally.
Even from a distance, I can hear its roar. And the crowds of people—surely mostly Croatians but also many foreign visitors—are here to see the waterfalls. They too want to see water transformed from an ordinary liquid that flows out of the faucet in our homes to a towering force that plunges from high above and summons us to watch.
There are also nine lakes at Skradinski Buk. Šupuk’s lake, which measures 2,000 square meters, powered one of the world’s first hydropower plants in the world. It was constructed in 1895.
After dawdling for a long time at the waterfalls, including moving to different locations to get a better vantage point, I begin to explore the terrain. There is a festive beer garden where tourists eat typical Croatian food and sip large mugs of Ožujsko (Croatia’s most popular beer).
But I prefer to move deeper into the park so I can survey the endemic flowers. The names of native flowers strike me as poetical—Adriatic violet, strawberry spurge and lady orchid. Chimney bellflowers stand tall, mirroring the water mills’ brick chimneys. Stone bellflowers hide among the pebbles and stones, twins to their terrain. And Croatia’s magnificent beachfront—the Dalmatian Coast—is honored by the humble Dalamantia pellitory.
I breathe deeply to inhale the scent of wildflowers. The pungent grass is still hot from the late summer’s sun. The pale yellow mullein inula flower is crowned with a bonnet of lemon-colored buds. It puts me in mind of verbana. Then I turn to admire the thorny centarian, a plucky desert flower. Its hairy stalk holds a lavender meadow flower, with tiny petals curved into a floral hand fist. Other endemic plants in this hot and dry habitat include the wolfen spurge and Bertolon’s sage.
I wander aimlessly over different hiking paths, hoping to learn as much about the flowers and trees as possible during my brief afternoon visit.
Then I decide to follow the shrieks of children bathing in the river. In a cool grotto, I discover a young girl, who is taking off her t-shirt and shorts so she can plunge into the pool of water. The area is hidden by boulders, which gives her privacy. She climbs up on a rock before plunging into the water.
Next I head further into the woods where I discover a watch tower. It is wall-to-wall people. Everyone is maneuvering to take a selfie from the platform so they can get the waterfalls in the background. I start to lose my “nature buzz” and decide to move on to less crowded areas of the park. My day ends in Krka at the visitors center when I can sit and observe the people.
To my delight, I see a calico kitten hiding in the tall grasses. When I try to walk toward her, she runs away … but turns to see if I will follow her game of hide and seek. Once again, I am frustrated that I didn’t bring a bag of kibble from home to feed the street cats.
But I do have a portion of my sandwich left in my backpack. I pull out a piece of cheese and ham and call “Kitty Kitty!” In Croatian, this would be “Mače mače!” She approaches me warily.
I leave a little piece of cheese about a foot away from me. She runs over and hastily eats it. Instead of disappearing, she is now prepared to lay down near me in the grass. I keep feeding her morsels until I finally get her to come close enough for me to pet her. I am elated.
Island of Visovac
There wasn’t time to take the boat from Skradinski Buk or Stinice to visit the nearby island of Visovac. It is the home of a Franciscan monastery, which includes a library. The orange tile roof home is almost hidden by the tall cypresses that cloak the island from view.