Ojcow National Park is the smallest National Park of Poland with the total area of 2145 ha. Forest covers 1529 ha, including 251 ha of the strict conservation zone. The Park is surrounded by 6777 ha of the buffer zone.
ONP is located in southrn part of the Krakow-Częstochowa Upland, 15 kilometers north of Kraków.
Valleys of two streams Prądnik and Sąspówka as well as the adjacent fragments of tje Jura plateau, are part of the Park.
The geological bed was formed by the jurassic limestone some 150 milion years ago.The activity of the karst water resulted in the formation of a unique landscape of Ojców valleys, with steep canyons, some of them 120 meters deep, and various stone formations and island mountains. There are about 700 caves here. The Lokietek’s cave (320 m) is teh Park’s longest cave.
Mixed coniferous forest s were predominant at the time, when the Park was created (38% Park’s surface) with the domination of pine, fir and spruce trees. Mixed deciduous forests occupied 16% of the surface and beech woods 9%.As a result of secondary succesion and due to the impact of industrial emissions the forest structure have undergone a significant change since then. Today, the mixed coniferous forest occupies barely 5% of the Park’s area. The current predominant tree populatiopn is composed of mixed broadleaf forest (40%) and the Carpatian beech forest (31%).
Great variety of the land morphology and microclimate contributed to a rich and diverse vegetation. About 950 species of plants of different environmental needs and various origins have been noted.
There are for example about 50 mountain species and over 150 thermophilous species of the south of Europe. The most interesting ones are: Lady’s sliper, subalpine cornflower, steppe esparto grass an dunique in Poland the early thyme.
The Park’s fauna is also very rich. Current reaserch indicates that the park’s ground are habitat for some 7000 species of animals and overall figure i s approximately 12000 species. Mammals, such as: badger, dormouse, ermine or introduced in 1985 the European beaver, live there. However, the most interesting mammals are bats, which Spend winters in the Park’s cave. 19 species of bats were observed, among others a bat of the family Vespertilionidae, which reached there the northternmost zone of its range. There are 100 species of birds such as the Water ouzel normally living in the mountain, or the black stork. The world of insects is best represented with 5600 species, including over 1780 species of beetles, 1250 species of hymenoptera and about 1100 species of butterflies.
Numerous architectural landmarks can be found on the Park area, like the well preserved Renaissance castle in Pieskowa Skała or ruins of the gothic castle in Ojcow. Both objects, called today „eagle’s nests”, were once an important link in a chain of defend the south-west borders of the country.
The oldest traces of man’s presence in this area date back from the older Paleolith and are 120 thousand years old. Later archeological findings represent Levallois-Moustier culture and Prądnik culture from 70-54 thousand years B.C. and Jerzmanowicka culture from 36 thousands ters B.C. The Neolith era brought mining of flint and its treatment in the Ojców area.