Polish kings, Russian tsars, and early dukes of Ruthenia appropriated the best wildlife habitat of Poland for their private hunting reserves. Their successors—Polish National Parks such as Bielowiecza—preserve not only rare animals such as the European bison but towering old-growth forest with trees up to 600 years of age.

Massive European bison brought back from near-extinction roam free in Polish National Parks, along with European wildcats, brown bears, wild boars, wolves, otters, and more than 400 kinds of birds.

Few European countries have such varied landscape and large tracts of wildlife-rich parkland preserving marsh, coastal dunes, lakes, streams, mountains, and ancient forests.

More than 400 plant associations are here of which 20 are endemic. Added to native floral and faunal types are those of Atlantic and Mediterranean origin, steppe species, and north northeastern species with post-glacial roots.

Beaver, lynx, and Polish elk (similar to North American moose) have been successfully reintroduced.

Birds include powerful white-tailed eagles—Poland’s national symbol and Europe’s largest raptor—along with Ural owls, alpine accentors, corncrakes, red-crested flycatchers, water-loving bitterns, and colorful warblers and bee-eaters.

White storks breed throughout the country on haystacks, chimneys, roof corners, and supports erected for their benefit, in huge nests in the sides of which sparrows and other small birds often excavate their own nest holes.

Poland’s national parks have an 80-year official history but like many of the world’s great wildlife reserves, some go back to nobility and monarchs—early dukes of Ruthenia, Polish kings, and Russian tsars—who set aside land as their private hunting preserves.

Now the reserves protect some 90 mammal species and hundreds of kinds of birds, insects, reptiles, amphibians, and fish in 23 national parks and altogether almost 1,200 natural setasides of various kinds in this 120,000-square-mile (312,000-km2) country on the Baltic Sea.

Reserves range in size from 259-square-mile (670-km2) BIEBRZANSKI NATIONAL PARK to little 3,800-acre (1,592-ha) OJCOWSKI with rare plants, foxes, martens, owls, black woodpeckers, masses of butterflies. Six of them—BABIOGORSKI, BIALOWIEZA, BIESZCZADY, KARKONOSKI, SLOWINSKI, and TATRZANSKI—have been designated by the U.N. as World Biosphere Reserves. Most have trails, nearby lodging, and guides—all in a country with some of the most environmentally degraded areas in Europe, forests dying of acid rain, streams polluted with chemical discharges while “developing the forest industry” in a country already heavily logged. But environmental interests are gaining support in efforts to improve conditions.



Babiogorski National Park

Biebrzanski National Park

Bieszczady National Park

Gorczanski National Park

Kampinos National Park

Karkonoski National Park

Magurski National Park

Narwianski National Park

Ojcowski National Park

Pieninski National Park

Poleski National Park

Slowinski National Park

Tatrzanski National Park

Wielkopolski National Park

Wigierski National Park

Wolinski National Park