Gorges in HĹ™ensko.
One of the best-known attractions in Czech Switzerland are the gorges on the Kamenice River.
The landscape started to develop many millions of years ago at the bottom of an sea. When the sea receded it started to transform the landscape by natural processes that continue to this day. For a long time the area around the Kamenice River was hard to access and its mystery instead turned people away. It was not until the late 19 th century that the area was investigated and modified for the purposes of tourism.
Visitors can expect walks through romantic nature along the Kamenice River surrounded on both sides by a wall of high rocks. You will walk beneath rock ledges, through several tunnels and across narrow footbridges. Two sections of the trail are passable only by boat â€“ Edmund Gorge (also known as Quiet Gorge) and Wild Gorge. A boat driven by human power carries us between rock formations and the ferryman acquaints us with the living and petrified denizens of the gorges.
Between the gorges you can expect a rest stop at a restaurant where you can cook a nice delicacy over an open fire.
Boat rides can be made in both directions on two river segments called Edmund's Gorge and Wild Gorge. Access to the gorges is allowed only by boat. The gorges have the form of a rocky canyon with sheer, often vertical, walls from 50 â€“ 150 metres high. Some pieces of rock broke off a long time ago and slid down to the bottom of the gorge. Many rock towers have interesting shapes (â€śRock Familyâ€ť, â€śGuardâ€ť et al.)
The ferryman steers the boat with a pole, just as it had been done with this attraction was first created. During the journey he gives a talk on the gorge's past and present and describes the odd rock shapes â€“ the so-called "denizens of the gorge".
Edmund (Quiet) Gorge measures 960 m and Wild Gorge is 450m. The ride through Edmund Gorge lasts about 20 minutes and through Wild Gorge 15 minutes.
Tourist Trails Hrensko - Pravcicka brana - MeznĂ Louka - soutÄ›sky - Hrensko.
The gorges can be reached from four places: HĹ™ensko, MeznĂˇ, MeznĂ Louka and RĹŻĹľovĂˇ. Guarded car parks are available in HĹ™ensko and in MeznĂ Louka.
From HĹ™ensko there is a path along the Kamenice River, under rock ledges with three tunnels. The path is flat and 1.5 km long.
From MeznĂˇ follow the green-marked tourist trail, a very steep climb through open terrain leads to a forest, then through the trees along a path bordered tightly by rocks to the romantic, shaded Kamenice river valley. When you get to the MeznĂ Bridge, cross over to the left bank. If you walk upstream from here you will reach the boat launch at Wild Gorge (DivokĂˇ soutÄ›ska). Or you can walk downstream which leads to the upper boat launch at Edmund Gorge (Edmundova soutÄ›ska).
From MeznĂ Louka take the blue-marked trail, which starts through a pleasant, high forest and nearly flat. After 2 km leave the blue trail and turn right heading downhill till you reach the Kamenice River. Along its right bank, near the â€śWellspring of Happinessâ€ť (Pramen ĹˇtÄ›stĂ) you reach the upper boat launch of Wild Gorge (DivokĂˇ soutÄ›ska).
From the northern part of the small town RĹŻĹľovĂˇ follow the green trail along a forest path, which starts out flat and then descends steeply down a stepped path, which brings us again to the MeznĂ Bridge. From here we can go right to Wild Gorge (DivokĂˇ soutÄ›ska) or left to Edmund Gorge (Edmundova soutÄ›ska).
If you would like to visit two of the most beautiful places in Czech Switzerland in one day â€“ the gorges and PravÄŤickĂˇ brĂˇna â€“ we can recommend the following route:
Starting point: HĹ™ensko
Duration: 5 to 6 hours (minimum 15 km walk + 1.5 km by boat)
Difficulty: a light hike that leads to good, well-marked hiking trails; except for the initial climb to PravÄŤickĂˇ brĂˇna it is mostly slightly rolling terrain, flat or downhill.
Refreshments: there is a restaurant named â€śFalcon's Nestâ€ť (SokolĂ hnĂzdo) and a snack bar under PravÄŤickĂˇ brĂˇna, a hotel and refreshment stands at MeznĂ Louka, a pub and snack bar inÂ Edmund Gorge (Edmundova soutÄ›ska), a restaurant and a bed & breakfast in HĹ™ensko.
- PravÄŤickĂˇ brĂˇna
- rock formations above â€śGabriel's Trailâ€ť (Gabrielina stezka),
- Wild Gorge (DivokĂˇ soutÄ›ska) andÂ Edmund Gorge (Edmundova soutÄ›ska).
FromÂ HĹ™ensko follow the red trail right after the road until you get to the tourist crossroads of TĹ™i prameny. From here it starts to climb to PravÄŤickĂˇ brĂˇna. Turn left along the forest path and it's a steep climb up the rock walls. Above the serpentines we reach the foot of the separate rock formation of MalĂ˝ PravÄŤickĂ˝ kuĹľel, which is a favourite destination of rock climbers. The final segment of the climb leads along a hanging bridge and then a man-made tunnel.
After a tour of the area we return to the main marked trail and continue via the articulated traverse along the rocks. This section, prepared in 1892, is called Gabrielina stezka. The trail winds layer by layer around the flanking vale and constantly presses against rock formations, occasionally opening to nice views. Above us progressively passes by the well-known rock formations: VelkĂ˝ PravÄŤickĂ˝ kuĹľel, Homole cukru, KĹ™ĂdelnĂ stÄ›na, etc. Finally we link up with the wider path and descend through the forest to MeznĂ Louka.
From here we continue along the blue trail through a pleasant forest 1.5 km to the tourist crossroads â€śNad soutÄ›skamiâ€ť. Here we turn right (unmarked), descend along a beautiful rocky cliff to the northern valley of the Kamenice River. A man-made trail along the river, with mighty sandstone walls towering overhead leads us after a while to the upper boat launch in DivokĂˇ soutÄ›ska, which was built at the mouth of the picturesque KachnĂ potok. The following segment of the gorge is not passable by dry land. The only way to continue is by boat.
After about 600 m along the river by boat we continue along DivokĂˇ soutÄ›ska around MeznĂ bridge through several man-made tunnels and rock galleries to a pub and the upper boat launch in TichĂˇ soutÄ›ska. Here we continue another 1 km by boat and go beneath an artificial waterfall. From the end of the boat ride there is nothing left but a pleasant walk back to HĹ™ensko another 1.5 km.
History of the gorges.
For a long time the gorges along the Kamenice River formed a difficult barrier for the inhabitants of VysokĂˇ LĂpa and MeznĂˇ on the river's right bank who had to negotiate the journey to the church in RĹŻĹľovĂˇ. But the Kamenice was not just a barrier; it was a good source of income. Lumber used to float down the river and the movement of trout and salmon in winter brought a golden age for fishermen.
And then some courageous individuals come up with the idea to go rafting down through the gorges. It seems that five daredevils in 1877 made an insane bet in a pub in HĹ™ensko called â€śAt the Green Treeâ€ť and floated down in three rafts from the DolskĂ˝ Mill to a place known at that time as the â€śend of the worldâ€ť. Four-meter long vessels carried their crew unscathed all the way to HĹ™ensko. This laid the foundation for making use of the gorges as a tourist attraction.
Prince Clary-Aldringen brought in Italian specialists under whose leadership 200 workers modified the gorges, with the assistance also of the Mountain Club of Bohemian Switzerland, building floating walkways, bridges, tunnels, foot bridges and a weir. On May 4, 1890, the TichĂˇ Gorge, also called Edmund's Gorge, was opened as well as a restaurant. Service was provided by five small boats on which ferrymen dressed in sailor uniforms used poles to steer, which is still done to this day. The Wild Gorge had to wait eight more years before opening in 1898.
We can get an idea of how popular this attraction was by the written records from the 1920s â€“ 14 boats operated in Edmund's Gorge and 7 in Wild Gorge. Altogether the gorges saw an average of 160,000 visitors per year. Boats were on the river from seven in the morning till dark and strict rules were set: door-to-door peddling was prohibited in the gorges as was begging, commercial photography and posting political flyers.