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Natural Parks in Andalusia

Despeñaperros Natural Park Santa Elena Jaen

Natural Parks in Andalusia

Despeñaperros Natural Park Santa Elena Jaen

The Natural Park of Despeñaperros is located to the north of the province of Jaén in Sierra Morena. It was the natural way of communication between the Castilian and Andalusian plateau, through a gorge carved into the rock by the river that gives the name to this park.

It has an area of 7,649 hectares, making it one of the Andalusian less extensive parks and over its territory there is only a municipality immersed, Santa Elena, with a population of about 1,000 inhabitants.

It has a high landscape value, due in large part, to its geography, with the verticality of the walls covered in lichens, making up the gorge and forms acquired by some of them, the most relevant. This variant orography makes that in it is combined both typical Mediterranean vegetation, including riparian vegetation around the rivers that run.

The dominant vegetation landscape consists of oak and cork, a refuge for species that like the wild boar and the deer are shot in traditional camps. The amateur botanists may contemplate plants that can only be found in this enclave, as well as others that are unique in the Iberian Peninsula.

The area of the park, included in its totality n the town of Santa Elena, is 7,649 hectares. The great gorge that runs through north-south direction has a sharp profile with steep slopes and near vertical walls. It can be seen exceptional sites, such as “Los Órganos” where quartzite rocks take the form of giant tubes, “El Salto del Fraile”, “Las Corredera”, etc.

Channelled in the canyon of the Despeñaperros River runs transversely to the ridges of the Sierra Morena and flows into the river Guarrizas. There are other rivers and streams, also belonging to the Guadalquivir basin, where appear gallery forests consisting of the typical alders, ashes and willows.

The vegetation in the Park is well adapted to the climatic conditions of summer drought. Holm oaks, cork oaks, gall oaks and oak trees in the shady cool and moist as the one of El Collado de la Estrella, are the most representative tree species although there also are pine trees, Kermes oaks and Corsican pines coming from reforestation. The scrub is composed of arbutus, heather, rock roses, myrtle, kermes oaks … There are also about 30 species of worldwide distribution falls within the limits of the park.

Many species of birds inhabit Despeñaperros, from the imperial eagle and the griffon vulture to small greenfinches, rocks and wheatears. Although limited by the disappearance of their characteristic habitat or due to the persecution they have suffered for years, can still be found in this place the Iberian lynx or wolf. Other carnivores are also common like the fox, the mongoose and the wild cat.

The main activity of this environment lies in harnessing livestock and forestry. Hunting is also a very common practice, widespread throughout much of Sierra Morena, which affects the local cuisine.

The presence of man in this environment is very old. In the Iberian shrine of the Cueva de los Muñecos, on the Mount Collado de los Jardines, have been found numerous remains dating from the Neolithic. There are also interesting the paintings in the Cuevas de las Vacas del Rematoso. In the area north of the park, in an area known as Aldea Magaña, there is an XVIII century farmhouse from the time of the planting carried out in this territory during the reign of Carlos III. In the neighbourhood of Despeñaperros and along the history have been fought decisive battles like the Navas de Tolosa in 1212.


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