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A Carpathian trip along the trail of the earliest history of the Carpathians

Knowledge of the formations of the geological history of a given area seems rather theoretical and difficult to check. However, with every step, you pass by evidence of the very old geological processes which confirm the existing scientific descriptions.

We suggest a nature trail based on the discovery of the earliest history of the Carpathians. This is an interesting adventure, because the peaks of the Carpathians used to stick out of the warm Thethys Ocean! Hard to believe? And yet it is not difficult to check!
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We suggest an easy trail, upon which you can find, point out and trace the existence of a warm sea in the location of today’s Carpathians. This is a trail for the patient and observant, since this adventure is demanding.


As it dried out, the warm Tethys Ocean revealed more and more islands. When you look at the Sądecka Valley today, this vision seems like a frame from a fantasy movie, the more so because some of these former islands on the warm sea are the peaks of the then-young Carpathians.

            During this trip, you should remember that the limestone rocks which compose the Pieniny originate from the sea and their approximate age is 200 million years, while the Pliocene forest in the region of Szczawnica looked more like current primeval forests of south Japan and southwest China than the Carpathian Primeval Forest and its current remains.


What are you looking for and how are you looking for it? You should pay attention to the exposures caused by floods or those caused through erosion and slides on river banks directly above the water. The small shells characteristic of this rock are between a few millimetres and a few centimetres long, other preserved organisms are usually very small and form a packed mass. The objects are exceptionally fragile and fall apart when improperly touched. A magnifying glass and small shovel are very useful in the terrain, as is equipment to make macro photographs. The ammonites (because you will easily encounter the prints and fossils of these animals) have a characteristic, spiral shape (“shells”), and can have a diameter between a few centimetres and half a metre.


PLEASE NOTE! Our meetings and discoveries on the nature trail are worthy of being written down, sketched inside a notebook and photographed. It is also obvious that the discoveries should not be dug up, chipped away, or taken home. There is good news for those who desire to have a beautiful print of an ammonite at home: they can be easily purchased at low prices at every geological fair and in many stores. They come from active and abandoned rock quarries.




You start in the Little Pieniny and the White Water reserve. You can get here easily from Szczawnica through Jaworki, on the yellow tourist trail, which runs right through the White Water reserve. The ammonite deposits can be found in White Water on the bed of the stream and the rock ledges alongside it. You should also search the rock walls.




JARABINA  (Jarabinsky Prielom – tiesnavy)


When you reach the Slovak village of Jarabina and the rock quarry, you will find fossils of ammonites – tropical sea creatures, which were close relatives of today’s cephalopods. Besides the ammonites, you can encounter the shells of belemnoids, radiolarians and bivalves.






You will find particularly big and slightly pink ammonites in the Slovak village of Udol, which is located on the road from Plavnica to Mały Lipnik, on the Poprad, in a location marked on maps as Skalky pri Udole. These ammonites are visible on the rock walls of the rock group near the village of Udol.






To see that knowledge and observant eyes are enough on our journey for adventure, let us look for the tropical sea beach on the mountain river of Kamienica Nawojowska in… Nowy Sącz. This discovery was described in the form of a scientific report entitled Nowe stanowisko morskich osadów miocenu w Kotlinie Sądeckiej (New positions of Miocene sea sediment in the Sącz Valley)[1]. Vast gatherings of shells and other sea organisms have been noticed in the layers of clay exposed by the floodwaters in Kamienica Nawojowska. In several locations, they formed such clusters that the bank of the small Carpathian river looks like the beach of a tropical island. The gathered fossils included organisms typical of sea fauna, but also pieces of carbonified (fossilised) wood of prehistoric tree species. The so-called fossilised wood is wood transformed into lignite, i.e. a variation of brown coal.


            Extensive research has allowed experts to identify great amounts of bryozoans, ostracods, otoliths, green algae, echinoderms and foraminifers on this old beach. The group of species has allowed those in the know to identify the era of their origin as Miocene.


            You can reach the prehistoric beach from the town square, through the bridge on the Kamienica, towards the area of Lwowska Street. Farther along, you need to go down to the left river bank and find the traces of this unusual discovery in the area of Gorzków district.


            Analogical sediments on the edges of the Sącz Valley were discovered and described by a certain Uhlig, in the village of Niskowa, near Nowy Sącz. This was a while ago, back in 1888. The discovery on the banks of the Kamienica Nawojowska in the centre of town and the central part of the Sącz Valley confirmed that this area was once covered by a warm, salty sea, and the climate of its edges and islands was tropical. Thanks to the flood discoveries, the geological map of this part of the Carpathians was corrected 114 years after the discovery in Niskowa.


[1]              M. Gonera, M. Styczyński, “Przegląd Geologiczny” (Geological Review), vol.50, No. 8, 2002, p. 16

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