- Region: Extremadura
- Province: Badajoz
- Declared a Natural Park: 2004
- Park surface area: 11,601 hectares
- ZEPA (Zona Especial Protección para las Aves) (1979)
Points of interest
The Natural Park of Cornalvo and Sierra Bermeja is situated close to Mérida, the capital of Extremadura.
It consists mainly of oak dehesas, (open oak woodland rotated with pasture and cereal crops) on rolling hills with the small mountain ranges of the Sierra del Moro and Sierra Bermeja on the western flank. The highest point is “Pico Terrero” at 546 m above sea level.
The ground is littered with large granite boulders, a stone which was put to great use in the time that the Romans occupied this area.
At the south of the park is a small reservoir whose dam was constructed by the Romans in the 1st century with the intention of holding water for use in Emérita Augusta (now called Mérida)
This town was founded in 25BC by the Emperor Augustus to protect a pass and a bridge over the Guadiana river. The water was moved by means of an aqueduct some 15km in length. The dam, which still retains water, is 200m in length, 18m in height, built using granite blocks with concrete, it was declared a National Monument in 1912 and is well worth a visit.
The Natural Park of Cornalvo and Sierra Bermeja is an important habitat for many migratory and resident species of aquatic birds in an area known for its arid plains. As well as the reservoir in the southern part the river Aljucén cuts east to west across the northern area.
Find a hotel in The Natural Park of Cornalvo and Sierra Bermeja
The climatic conditions of the park have a Mediterranean influence with the predominant trees being Holm oak (Quercus rotundifolia) and Cork oak (Quercus suber), they are allowed to grow densely in steep areas of the mountains but are openly spaced in the fertile lower parts.
Where the scrub is not cleared amongst the oaks there are Strawberry trees (Arbutus unedo), Wild pear (Pyrus bourgaeana), False olive (Phillyrea angustifolia), Southern heath (Erica australis), Lentisco (Pistacia lentiscus) and Kermes oak (Quercus coccifera).
There are three types of flowering rock rose shrubs; Gum cistus(Cistus ladanifer), Sage-leaved (C. salvifolius) and Wavy-leaved (C. crispus) .
Other scrub plants are Spanish lavender (Lavandula stoechas) and from the gorse family Needle furze (Genista hirsuta), with its distinctively formed dome and the cone shaped flower heads.
Along the river margins are ash trees, willows, the bright pink flowering Oleander (Nerium oleander) and a deciduous member of the euphorbia family Flueggea tinctoria, a shrub that has small leaves and berry type fruit.
There is one type of orchid that grows within the park that is found only in the Guadiana river basin of Extremadura and the adjacent area of Portugal. It is the Serapia perez-chiscanoi, which has very pale green flowers, some with a red throat. Extremadura has a list of 10 orchids under protection and this particular one receives the highest status as being at risk of extinction.
The fish of the rivers and lakes within Extremadura are of exceptional importance due to the high number of endemic species. One species which is from the Guadiana River basin is the ray-finned fish Anaecypris hispanica. It is found in the river Aljucén in Cornalvo Natural Park and is considered the most endangered primary fish in Iberian waters. Others include the Bermejuela nase (Chondrostoma arcasii), Iberian loach (Cobitis paludicola), the Iberian Barbel (Barbus comiza).
Amongst the many birds which may be seen is the protected Black stork (Ciconia nigra) which nests in secluded areas of the oak trees. White stork (Ciconia ciconia), Black winged kite (Elanus caeruleus), Red kite (Milvus milvus), Black kite (Milvus migrans), Montagu’s harrier (Circus pygargus), Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus), Great bustard (Otis tarda) and wintering Common crane (Grus grus) are just a few of the other species.
Waterfowl include, Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus), Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos), Shoveler (Anas clypeata), Gadwall (Anas strepera), Teal (Anas crecca), Little grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis), Great crested grebe (Podiceps cristatus), Grey heron (Ardea cinerea) and Black-headed Gull (Larus ridibundus).
Otters (Lutra lutra) live in the various waterways with other mammals being Badger (Meles meles), Fox (Vulpes Vulpes), Egyptian mongoose (Herpestes ichneumon) and Genet (Genetta Genetta).
Amphibians that are within the park include the Common midwife toad (Alytes obstetricans), Bosca’s newt, (Triturus boscai), European pond terrapin (Emys orbicularis) and Mediterranean pond terrapin (Mauremys leprosa).
Also in the area
- The dolmen Lácara (Aljucén) is the largest dolmen in Extremadura. It has a long, well preserved corridor. Some of the top stones have been removed for use elsewhere. This dolmen is signposted on the road from Aljucén to La Nava de Santiago.
- At the Sierra de la Calderita, in La Zarza, there is a rock shelter with schematic cave paintings from the Bronze Age. Inhabited from the Paleolithic period this area has provided the Museum of Archaeology in Badajoz with numerous interesting finds, including the famous jug “Jarro de La Zarza”.
Remember, your hotel or apartment is the first place where you should ask for information about the local area.
Interpretation centre – on the road between Trujillanos and the Embalse (reservoir) de Cornalvo.
In Extremadura there is little published in English however, this Info centre should be on your priority list to visit just for the excellent displays and enthusiastic staff.
They have a facebook page as well.
Watch the video!
There are 6 different sign posted walks within the park from 1km to 15kms, taking in dehesas, reservoirs or spectacular granite formations created by water erosion.
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