The Tajo International natural park is a relatively recently registered park in Extremadura which was initially partly covered by an area of special protection for birds ZEPA in 2000.
The area is predominantly waterways with steep banks and therefore a haven for wildlife. Two birds in particular that need this tranquility are the Black vulture and Black stork, both of which are endangered species in Spain.
Mediterranean woodland covers the hills with rich vegetation along the water courses.
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.
There are three peaks over 2000m within the Sierra Mágina park. The highest is Mágina which stands at 2,165m and dominates the limestone terrain. This area is part of the Cordillera Subbetica range and along with other mountains in the area has a selection of highly specialized plants that are endemic to the park.
The exposed rocky peaks, vertical cliffs, shaded woodland, river banks and extensive Olive and Almond groves each offer a different habitat.
The “Pinar de Cánavas” is a natural monument south of the village of Jimena. It is a small woodland of exceptionally large, centennial Aleppo pines (Pinus halepensis).
The sierra Magina contains many limestone caves, several of which are open to visitors. Neolithic cave paintings and Paleolithic tools date back to the 4th and 3rd century BC. (Ask about them in your hotel or one of the information centres.)
The Sierra de Castril, a limestone massif, is part of the Sierra Bética mountain range. Altitudes vary between 855 and 2138m with spectacular scenery holding caves and cliffs shaped by water erosion. The main river, Castril, flows from the north to south of the park added to which there are many natural springs, streams and waterfalls.
There are two outstanding cave formations, both in the Sierra Seca area of the park. The Cueva de Don Fernando is Granada’s largest cave and the second biggest in Andalucia. This 2.5km long cave drops to an amazing 241m below sea level. The Cueva del Muerto has spectacular stalactites and stalagmite formations. (Visit the information centre in Castril to fiond out more. See below)
The Sierra Cazorla, Segura y las Villas offers a great array of very well conserved ecosystems, each of high natural value with many endemics. Spectacular landscapes including waterfalls, deep valleys and lakes make this park unique. The important Guadalquivir and Segura rivers both begin in the park. Large pine forests clothe this limestone mountain range whose highest point is Pico Empanada at 2,107m. It is a very accessible park with many old donkey routes crisscrossing the mountains.