10. April 2015.   •     Guest Writer

Upper Mreznica Canyon

Mreznica River spring is 7 km air distance from Slunj city, in WSW direction (west-southwest). Total length from the spring to the junction with Korana River, in Karlovac, is 64, 7 kilometers. Information source by me, myself Marko Kovač, I measured it.

General information about Mreznica River

Best section for kayaking is the upper part of the river. Beautiful canyon covered by deciduous forest. During that amazing one-day kayaking trip one paddles 3,3 km and bypasses 14 waterfalls and rapids. The entire flow consists of 93 waterfalls and rapids, so that means you actually pass 15 % of all waterfalls in only 5 % of the total Mreznica River length. This most attractive and easily accessible part of the river includes the highest waterfall of 8, 5 meters.

Upper Mreznica Canyon is 30 meters deep at the starting point. After the “Big waterfall” section the river depth rises up to 50 meters and by the finish point, near Juzbasici Bridge, it goes up to 60 meters. Canyon slopes are very steep terrain (32°-55°), in few parts even so steep that they form a cliff shape and they hold a little bit of soil, just enough for tree roots, to make this forest beautifully green.

In winter time this canyon looks totally different, no leaves on trees, no dense forest to cover up little rock shelters and small caves that are above river banks. Adding cloudy weather and cold air to it, the look is pretty spooky and mystic. Even though the forest looks bare the good thing is that you can spot animals. There is always something new and good to find in this amazing canyon even if it looks different than usual.

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Mreznica River summer time

Here are some statistical facts for an avid kayaker.

The kayaking part of Mreznica River has an average drop of 11, 2 ‰. That drop configures because you start paddling on 225 meters above sea level and finish on 188 meters, length is 3300 meters and finish is 37 meters below start point, so when you calculate average drop you get 11, 2 ‰. With the drop percentage, one would think Mreznica River is pure whitewater not for beginners, but the truth is that river Mreznica is more like a long lake divided with waterfalls between flat parts.

It is great for canoeing too. The only problem while canoeing is that you need to carry your canoe over the waterfalls because every waterfall is alive travertine barrier or natural dam so it is not good to pass it with a canoe. That is the reason why kayaking is better, you don’t need to get out of the boat passing over each waterfall. As earlier mentioned the highest waterfall on this part is 8, 5 meters high and there are three bigger waterfalls which are 4, 3 and 2 meters high. Others are around one meter high or less.

First, descend on Mreznica River (17.03.2015.)

We, us, four Raftrek guides met at the agency head office early in the morning. After taking all needed equipment for the trip we picked up our two Puerto Rican guests who were to join us on the trip.  Leaving Zagreb city center we were ready for our first river descent of the season. 17th of March is still winter so this was the first winter kayaking trip with guests in the history of Raftrek.

After two hours of driving on the highway, national, local and gravel road we arrived at the village Gornje Primišlje where we start the trip. The weather was cloudy and the air temperature was around 13° C. Few degrees less was the water temperature at the start location. Unfortunately, I didn’t take my thermometer to measure temperature in situ but I remember the average temperature from last spring.

To warm up I started to pump the kayaks because we use inflatable kayaks for two persons. I had a wetsuit for diving, not the regular kayaking one because I thought I might swim today in this cold river, well I know I won’t flip but better to be careful than sorry. This wetsuit is really tight to my body which is great. With shoes and an extra jacket, I was totally protected from coldness. After I put on my buoyancy aid and the helmet on my head I was ready for the river!!! Let’s go swimming, I said! It was a joke, of course, but the look the others gave me was priceless. The only thing I didn’t have was gloves but I solve that, I used my buoyancy aid to warm them up when they got cold.

Raftrek designed environment-friendly kayaks for Croatian Karst rivers

Branimir, my colleague, and the trip leader did the safety talk to our guests and we started to put kayaks in the river. The river was so cold, that Branimir didn’t want to stand immediately in the cold water but after 3 seconds girls went towards the waterfall so he had to run to redirect them from it. For him, that meant swimming in cold river, at the very beginning of the trip.

“Vacho” (my other college guide) and I

were surprised how quickly Branimir reacted even though we were silently laughing to this funny situation. The water level was ideal. Every waterfall was possible to pass by kayak. On first double waterfall, we had to secure some places so our guests don’t enter the waterfall sideways as the result of that is falling out. All went well, except the fact that I had to swim to catch Vacho with the kayak few meters downstream. Good thing I was swimming “grandmother” style which means without getting my hair wet.

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Raftrek river guides and our dear guests having fun on the Mreznica river

I didn’t get wet a lot, as my great wetsuit, was almost acting like a dry suit. Next waterfall was the “Big waterfall” earlier mentioned, 8,5 meters high. That waterfall we usually pass by jumping from it, but today nobody wouldn’t jump you can imagine why! Especially because Sara, one of our guests, fell out of her kayak and swam a little bit. Her reaction was: “Oh, it is sooo cold”, so there you go no one else wanted to swim! We had a really good laugh at that moment.

Deep canyon of Mreznica River

We continue with kayaking till the next waterfall called forest or bush because you go through it and have to steer after 1, 6 meters drop. Everything went well cause Branimir and I secure that waterfall in key places so our guests passed it as easy as possible. After that waterfall, there are 900 meters of flat water, surrounded by green forest on very steep slopes of 50 meters deep canyon. Because is winter time there was no green forest, only trees, and rocks behind the trees Vacho and I saw two deer. After they saw us they run away, what a surprise :).

Mreznica River
Slopes are in shape of cliffs so high that the sun comes only for an hour

The canyon where the slopes are in shape of cliffs so high that the sun comes only for an hour is the coldest part with the most shade. After four smaller waterfalls, we came to the famous “Double waterfall”. It is 5 meters high with small pool between two falls. Usually, here we have picnic time but guest wanted to go to finish because it was cold, let’s be honest. After the “Double waterfall” air temperature usually gets higher and so it did today. Next thing was the two rapids ahead of us and the last two waterfalls. We pass them without problems. Branimir secures the last one, and I did the one before.

So-called “Dvoslap” (double waterfall) Waterfall on Mreznica river

So in total after one hour and 30 min, we came to the finish point. Where Tin (our third guide college) was waiting with our heated van, so our guests could warm up. Usually, the trip least’s one hour long but today’s air temperature and winter time made us shorten it a bit. We made no long breaks and swimming time was just mandatory for some, due to safety reasons. As I said my swimming and Sara’s falling out of the kayak I don’t count because it was special and mandatory as said.

Back to Zagreb

After we packed all the equipment, changed into dry clothes, we drove back to Zagreb. On our way back we had a great time, talking and laughing about our day on the river. The landscape of Mreznica is amazing in the winter time but totally different to compare with spring and summertime.

With all this written it might seem that we were the only ones on the river today, but to correct that fact we were not. There were some ducks, two deer and two eagles matting on one of the bare tree. I am very happy how my kayaking season started even though it did start with swimming in March. But if you remember my equipment description, I was ready.  If I didn’t have it I would be frozen or in shape of an ice cream!

I’m looking forward to springtime, as Mreznica will than get her amazing and beautiful green-blue color and it will look like Plitvice Lakes. Their genesis of the landscape is almost the same. But remember Mreznica River is better than Plitvice Lakes.

Within these three reasons to follow:

  1. Mreznica River: it is allowed to swim. On Plitvice Lakes, it is not!
  2. Plitvice Lakes: you are not allowed to walk on beautiful waterfalls.
  3. Mreznica River: you can go with kayak and also down the waterfalls!

Amazing Mreznica River!!!

Visit both, Mreznica River and Plitvice Lakes, when you come to Croatia!