Untold stories: Gorge of river Gradac, Serbia

Gorge of river Gradac

There are stories I haven’t had time to tell. While the impressions settle, I am already on the way to another place, to some new story. Sometimes I’m late with photo processing (ha, sometimes), and sometimes the universe tries to balance the happiness of being free in nature on one side with business madness on another. There are many reasons…
This is my attempt to tell you some of the untold stories.

Gorge of river Gradac

At the end of 2020, in quest of something that would fill the year mostly lost in isolation, the decision was made to visit the river Gradac and walk through its gorge. For me, it was the second visit to this beauty in the year 2020. After the rich greenery of summer, I was eager to experience it during the rustling golden autumn.

The river Gradac is unusual in many aspects. 

It springs, for the first time, somewhere below mountain Povlen in Western Serbia. 

After a few kilometers, it disappears in the rich limestone rocks of the surrounding hills. As it flows at unknown depths, the dry riverbed remains on the surface. Suitably, this place is called Dryland (ser: Suvaja).

Gradac reappears again a few kilometers further in a green-soaked spring. 

For the next 28 kilometers river flows through an unrealistically beautiful, winding gorge to end its journey in the city of Valjevo as the largest tributary of the river Kolubara. On its lower course, Gradac has carved out an enchantingly beautiful gorge with almost 70 caves, lush greenery and a wide variety of fauna and flora.

Second source of the river is the spring with another suitable name – Greenwell (ser: Zelenac). The surroundings of the spring are lush green even in late autumn. 

At this place, the temperature of the springing water is only 10 degrees Celsius. At the rest of the flow, the average temperature of the river is about 13 degrees. In the warmest part, at the very entrance to Valjevo near the old dam, even during the hottest summer days, Gradac does not have more than 19-20 degrees. 

Gradac is surprisingly cold for the non-glacier formed river. My previous, summer visit to the gorge took place on a blazing hot day, but along the river itself, I wished I had carried something more than a T-shirt and shorts. Swimming in Gradac is reserved for the bravest, and close to the urban city center – swimming is very often forbidden.

However, the game of hide-and-seek with springing and disappearing, and low water temperature are not the most prominent features of the river Gradac. The most beautiful fact about Gradac is that it is an amazingly clean river. 

According to official tests, Gradac is one of two cleanest rivers in Serbia and one of the top ten purest rivers in the whole of Europe.

Gradac is crystal clear in the part of the stream where it flows across the rocky gardens, as well as it finds its way through the lush vegetation of the gorge in slow meanders. Although it is a relatively shallow river, there are a couple of deeper parts where flow have dug wells and pools. Even in these places, you can clearly see the bottom of the riverbed.

These waters are home to many trouts and other freshwater fishes. River is very popular with anglers, fly fishers and other fishermen…

about which I could not give a single meaningful piece of information since I know absolutely nothing about fishing 🙂

However, what I know something about is that a couple of small, obviously ecological camps, along the course of the river, deserve a visit. With the murmur of the river, the song of birds and the deep peace that the gorge spreads, you will fully recharge your batteries in a couple of days of camping.

When talking about peace, let me tell you that dry riverbed – Suvaja, is the quietest place I have ever been. The day was calm, without wind, there was no rustling of leaves, the song of birds, or even the buzzing of insects … literally not a single sound.
The surrounding cliffs additionally absorbed the beat of footsteps, sounds of words, laughter … so that the eerie silence completely overwhelmed me.

Suvaja was so quiet that after a few minutes spent in it, we agreed that there was no point in proceeding further through this part of the gorge. We decided that ‘there is certainly nothing interesting to see’.

The real reason was that we actually felt extremely uncomfortable surrounded by deep and complete silence.

Gorge of river Gradac

Given the length and diversity of the gorge, it is unlikely that you will hike the whole gorge in one day.

Most often, the path is divided into two parts – from the spring Zelenac to the monastery Ćelije and from the monastery to the entrance to the city of Valjevo.

I can’t decide which part of the gorge is more beautiful. Both are quite similar, although in general, I have the impression that with the flow of the river Gradac, its banks become gentler and more accessible.

These photos were taken on the upper part of the stream. It is a little less landscaped, and nature is almost completely untouched.

The lower course of the river is a bit more settled and the trail does not go for more than a few meters away from the the river.

Of course, the entire course of the gorge is rideable for skilled MTB cyclists. In a few places, the road will take you to rural roads high above the gorge with some amazing views.

In the end, it turned out that this untold story is not so short.

Who knows, maybe in the summer it will get camping or cycling sequel 😉

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Author: Vuckovic Dejan

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