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The Dovžan Gorge
Who will be the first to find a dinosaur?

The Dovžan Gorge is located in the central part of the Karavanke Mountains, Slovenia’s longest mountain range. Within it lies a unique site of rocks dating from the late Paleozoic Era. Take a walk through the gorge and learn about the rich geological heritage uncovered by the Tržič Bistrica River, a mountain river that carved a riverbed through the diverse rock deposits.

The gorge is a journey through time. Although it is older than the dinosaurs, no dinosaur ever trod here. They did, however, swim: 300 million years ago this place was the site of a tropical sea, teeming with marine animals. Today in the walls of the gorge we can see their fossilized remains in abundance, including some that are found nowhere else in the world.

Dovžan Gorge – through the Born Tunnel into a colourful sea and onto the shores of sand and gravel
There is good reason for the Dovžan Gorge's status as a protected natural monument for more than 25 years. It is geologically one of the most fascinating areas of Slovenia. The picturesque valley, which is located 3.2 kilometres northeast of Tržič, was carved out by the Tržič Bistrica River deep into the heart of the Karawanks, laying bare the most complete sequence of rocks from the younger Paleozoic period, ranging in age from 300 to 260 million years. The layers of rock are like the pages of a thick book, recording a fantastic story about unusual living creatures and a changing environment in the distant geological past.

The Dovžan Gorge is distniguished by its extraordinary variety of sedimentary rocks and abundance and diversity of fossilized remains. It is these fossils that have made a name for the gorge in the international specialized literature. The list of plant and animal species that have been found here is indeed long, but most notable are the brachiopod Karavankina schellwieni and the foraminifera Sphaeroschwagerina carniolica. Both were first discovered and described in the Dovžan Gorge and were even featured on Slovenian postage stamps. Schwagerina carniolica has become the symbol for the geological richness of the gorge, and so it will accompany you at every step along the scenic educational trail.

Tectonic forces and erosion processes have also left a particular imprint on the gorge, having sculpted tall rock pyramids or towers and piled up huge blocks of quartz conglomerate in the riverbed of the Tržič Bistrica, over which the river finds its way in a series of lively cascades. The Dovžan Gorge is a textbook example of how rock composition and tectonic elements have shaped the surface and the vegetation as well as influencing human life and activities.

Every rock in the Dovžan Gorge contributes its part to the story of the seas, reefs, shores, and colourful deserts that once existed in this place.

Today there is a spectacular narrow gorge here.

The Tržič Bistrica has its source in the area of the mountain pasture of Brsnina. It flows first towards the west, then turns sharply south at Dolina through the Dovžan Gorge, where it is compressed into a spectacular narrow gorge about 150 metres in length. It is so narrow that there was not enough space for a road, and so almost 120 years ago a picturesque tunnel was carved out, through which traffic still flows today.

We have already mentioned that the surface of the Dovžan Gorge is highly varied as a result of powerful erosion processes. Large fissures have arisen in the sandstone and siltstone conglomerate, which weathers more rapidly, of the steep sides. These fill with water only during periods of heavy rain and remain dry most of the year. Below the steep rock pyramids, called Kušpegar's Belfries, lie piles of scree, and in their practically vertical limestone walls are entrances into underground caves. The location of these underground caves is evidence that the river once flowed through here at a much higher level and that it continues to carve out its channel even today.

In the immediate vicinity of the conglomerate cascades, the Paleozoic rocks of the Dovžan Gorge as well as the younger rocks from its wider vicinity are presented in an interesting way in a geological column, which shows them in chronological sequence. Alongside it the development of life forms and environments during the time of its creation are summarized. The geological column, which was erected in 1992 on the initiative of Prof. Stanko Buser, is the first column of this kind in Slovenia.

A special feature of the Dovžan Gorge is also the area of the hamlet called Na Jamah, which lies beneath Borova Peč (Pine Crag). The surface is covered by numerous large blocks of quartz conglomerate that broke off from the steep sides of Borova Peč. These breaks have been occurring for millenia and still happen today. The last one was seen just last winter. Among the blocks of rock there arose empty spaces similar to caves, and so the hamlet is called Na Jamah, which means "on the caves". A large number of blocks of rock have come to rest in the stream bed of the Tržič Bistrica River. The river has smoothed and rounded them and created a small waterfall that becomes especially powerful after heavy rains. How about you? Would you dare to live in one of the houses at Na Jamah?

This is a paradise for admirers of beauty and for free climbers.

You can learn all about the interesting features of the Dovžan Gorge by following the scenic educational trail, which begins at the parking area in the village of Čadovlje pri Tržiču. Past Jamenšnik paštba - a shed that used to be used for drying flax - the path winds alongside information panels describing the formation of various rocks and fossils. The path will lead you between the steep variegated walls, over a bridge and through a tunnel, past the longest cascades in Slovenia and by the geological column, across the hamlet Na Jamah and Bence House all the way to the Dolina Exhibition and Education Centre in the village of the same name above the Dovžan Gorge. The former primary school houses exhibits of the fossils and rocks of the Dovžan Gorge as well as specialized and popular publications about the geological treasures of the gorge. Fossils from other parts of Slovenia are also on display. There is a small laboratory with magnifying glasses where you can explore the world of tiny fossils in prepared rock samples. The centre also occasionally hosts other exhibitions.

For bold explorers there is a steep panoramic trail, Bence Trail, equipped with iron rungs and steel cables, which anyone can traverse so long as they don't suffer from vertigo. Free climbers can squeeze their fingers into hidden holds on Kušpegar's Belfries, five vertical rock formations that are the remnants of a prehistoric coral reef.

Take note of the rich natural and cultrual heritage! As you hold in your hand unique rocks that are millions of years old, try to imagine what a prehisoric, now vanished world looked like…

So many rocks, so many mysteries

Although the Dovžan Gorge is full of fossils at every turn, a dinosaur has not yet been found. Somewhere buried deep it is waiting for someone to discover it.

ContaCt AND additional INFORMATION

TPIC Tržič, Trg svobode 18, 4290 Tržič
T: 04 59 71 536 / 051 627 057

Opening hours

Dolina Exhibition and Education Centre is open in good weather from May until the end of September on Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays from 11 am to 6 pm, (in October from 11 am to 5 pm) and at other times by appointment.

Tours must be arranged in advance in TPIC Tržič.

Entrance fee

  • groups with more than 12 people: children, students, retired: 4,50 EUR/person, adults 6,50 EUR/person
  • groups with less than 12 people: 76.00 EUR/group
  • school groups and retired to 15 people: 67.00 EUR/group

Entrance fee for Dovžan gorge and Dolina Exhibition and Education Centre

  • groups with more than 12 people: children, students, retired: 7,00 EUR/person, adults 9,50 EUR/person
  • groups with less than 12 people: 115,00 EUR/group
  • school groups and retired to 15 people: 107,00 EUR/group

The Dovžan Gorge brochure

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