Stories: THE SAD LAKE
Lake Cerknica is one of the largest intermittent lakes in Europe, a mysterious piece of land commonly associated with folk tales. It lies on fragile karstic ground heavily affected by human intervention and recent climate change. The lake is in danger of drying out permanently. Local fishermen try hard to save it. The Romans called this lake The Sad Lake, because of its destiny to disappear so often. Folk tales of this lake have been around for centuries. The most common are those of another lake lying underneath the one we see on the Cerknica field. Yes, Lake Cerknica is actually a flooded field full of pastures. However, this natural marvel was heavily influenced by human interests. Decades ago, the lake dried out once in seven years, now it dries three times or more per year. In the past, people wanted to dry it out for good to preserve pasture land. So they straightened the riverbed of Stržen stream that runs over the entire field and fills the lake. They also blew up some large sinkholes to make water run into the underground faster. Today, with added climate change, the lake dries out up several times a year, which means life in it cannot recover in time. Therefore, local fishermen must save the fish before they die of oxygen deprivation when water subsides. Years of practice have taught them the exact timeline of drying out, which sinkholes go first, second etc. and how much time apart from each other. When the water subsides, they are on guard. The water can subside to a critical level and rise into a lake again in a matter of an hour if a storm with a lot of rain sits on the nearby Bloke plateau or Slivnica mountain. Therefore the rescue is launched after long periods of drought in any time of the year. When the water drops enough, phones start ringing and rescue teams assigned to specific sinkholes arrive with nets and buckets and an oxygenized water tank for transport of fish to a part of the lake that is artificially sustained to hold water the entire year. The rescue lasts for approximately two weeks all over this huge intermittent lake. It's maximum surface area is 38 square kilometres. In 2007, the Notranjska Regional Park obtained its first EU financing of renaturalization projects that would bring the lake into a state before all the human interventions. Most importantly, in 2016, they began two major projects to move the Stržen stream back into its old meanders, and thus slow it down. After partially restoring two minor streams in 2009, they moved on to the most important piece of restoration, Stržen. On September 6, 2019, after a month of digging out the old meanders of the stream, Stržen was diverted from its straightened riverbed back into its old meanders in one part of the lake. The second part of the old meanders was reconstructed in 2021, concluding the two most important projects of renaturalization of the lake. Additional projects of renaturalization are underway.