Hutovo Blato is a nature reserve and bird reserve located in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It is primarily composed of marshlands that were created by the underground aquifer system of the Krupa River. It is fed from the limestone massif of Ostrvo that divides the Deransko lake and Svitavsko lake. The reserve is on the list of BirdLife International's Important Bird Areas. It is the largest reserve of its kind in the region, in terms of both size and diversity. It is home to over 240 types of migratory birds and dozens that make their permanent home in the sub-Mediterranean wetlands surrounding Deransko Lake. In the migration season, tens of thousands of birds fill the lake and its surroundings
The valley along the last 30 km of the Neretva River, and the river itself, comprise a remarkable landscape. Downstream from the confluence of its tributaries, the Trebižat and Bregava Rivers, the valley spreads into an alluvial fan covering 20,000 hectares. The upper valley, the 7,411 hectares in Bosnia and Herzegovina, is called Hutovo Blato.
The Neretva Delta has been recognised as a Ramsar site since 1992, and Hutovo Blato since 2001. Both areas form one integrated Ramsar site that is a natural entity divided by the state border. The Important Bird Areas programme, conducted by Birdlife International, covers protected areas in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Since 1995, Hutovo Blato has been protected as Hutovo Blato Nature Park and managed by a public authority. The whole zone is well protected from human impact and functions as an important habitat for many plants and animals. The historical site Old Fortress Hutovo Blato is in the area of Nature Park.
The nature park “Hutovo Blato” is in the south-western part of Bosnia and Herzegovina, 30 km from the city of Mostar and near the Croatian border. It stretches over an area of about 7400 ha and represents one of the richest wetland reserves in Europe. Until 1995, when the cantonal protected area was founded, Hutovo Blato represented an area well-known mainly for its hunting and fishing tourism. Every winter over 200 species of birds find their shelter inside this untouched nature. Visitors can enjoy relaxation, recreational activities in nature, sport-fishing, cycling and the main tourist attraction – photo safari. There is also an educational path providing information on the park and for rising environmental awareness and the need for preservation of the natural heritage of the nature park “Hutovo Blato”.
GORNJE BLATO - DERANSKO LAKE
The part of the park which kept its original form and almost untouched nature. Gornje Blato-Deransko Lake is supplied by the karstic water sources of the Trebišnjica River, emerging in the proximity of the bordering hills. It is hydro-geologically connected to the Neretva River through its effluent, the Krupa River, formed out of five lakes (Škrka, Deranja, Jelim, Orah, Drijen) and by large portions permanently flooded, also isolated by wide groves of reedbebds and trees, thus representing the most interesting preserved area.
The Krupa River is a Neretva left tributary and the main water current of Hutovo Blato, which leads the waters from Gornje Blato and Svitavsko Lake into the Neretva River. The length of Krupa is 9 km with an average depth of 5 meters. The Krupa does not have an actual source, but is actually an arm of Deransko Lake. Also, the Krupa is a unique river in Europe, because the river flows both ways. It flows ‘normally’ from the ‘source’ to the mouth and from the mouth to the ‘source’. This happens when, due to a high water level and a large quantity of water, the river Neretva pushes the Krupa River in the opposite direction.
Running past towns and villages in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Neretva spills out into the Adriatic Sea, building a delta of wetlands so rich, it is listed under the Ramsar Convention as internationally important. In this lower valley in Croatia, the Neretva River splinters into multiple courses, creating a delta covering approximately 12,000 hectares. The delta in Croatia has been reduced by extensive land reclamation projects, and now the river flows in just three branches, a drop from the previous twelve. The marshes, lagoons and lakes that once dotted this plain have disappeared and only fragments of the old Mediterranean wetlands have survived. Hopefully the area of the Neretva Delta will become a Nature Park, as has been proposed. The area presents a variety of habitats which form a beautiful and remarkable landscape. Wetlands, marshes and lagoons, lakes, beaches, rivers, hummocks (limestone hills) and mountains combine into a mosaic of natural habitats of the Neretva Delta, although five protected localities with a total surface of 1,620 ha already exist. These are the ornithological, ichthyologic reserves and the protected landscapes.
CULTURAL AND HISTORICAL SIGNIFICANCE
During classical antiquity, the Neretva was known as Narenta, Narona and Naro(n), and was the inland home to the ancient Illyrian tribe of Ardiaei. The Neretva provided them life, and turned them into ship makers, seafarers and fishermen that were renowned in ancient times. There have been numerous archaeological discoveries of material and spiritual Illyrian culture, such as the discovery of ancient Illyrian shipwrecks found in Hutovo Blato, in the vicinity of the Neretva River.
After intense excavations in the area of Hutovo Blato in the autumn of 2008, archaeologists from Bosnia and Herzegovina University of Mostar and Norway University of Lund found the very first traces of an Illyrian trading post that is more than two thousand years old. The find is unique in a European perspective and archaeologists have concluded that Desilo, as the location is called, was an important trading post of great significance for contact between the Illyrians and the Romans. Surprisingly large finds have been made in a short period of time. The archaeologists have discovered the ruins of a settlement, the remains of a harbour that probably functioned as a trading post, as well as many sunken boats, fully-laden with wine pitchers – so-called amphorae – from the 1st century B.C. The archaeologist Adam Lindhagen, who has a PhD from the University of Lund and has specialised in Roman wine amphorae, says that this is the most important find of all time from the Illyrian areas.