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, when the lake dried out once in seven years, 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. But years later, pastures were abandoned, and people rather decided for a lake. They once again intervened into a fragile ecosystem and even cemented some sinkholes to prevent water from flowing away. But the ground kept opening up. As local fishermen say: "You fill one hole up, and another opens up somewhere near." In the seventies, they even planned a holiday resort, a marina, hotels. Even a powerplant... Today, with added climate change, the lake dries out up to three 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, EU decided to help the lake and finance a project of restoration that would bring the lake into a state before all the human interventions. Most importantly, to move the Stržen stream back into its old meanders, and thus slow it down. The Notranjska Regional Park worked tirelessly for years, planning and partially restoring two minor streams in 2009, before moving 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 straight riverbed back into its old meanders. With this, and two partially restored streams in 2009, the lake is now 80% restored to its natural state.