The Tagliamento River in Northern Italy is considered one of the last morphologically intact rivers in the Alps. It stretches 178 km in length and creates a corridor between the Dolomite Mountain region in Northern Italy down to the Adriatic Mediterranean Sea. A recent visit of the Wilderness Experts from the European Wilderness Society confirmed several well documented characteristics of this river such as:

  • a remarkable gravel-bed meandering river that preserves the dynamic natural and morphological complexity
  • a window to the past when most of the Alpine rivers looked like Tagliamento
  • a spectacular river imbedded in the wild mountains often surrounded by semi forests

Anni Henning from European Wilderness Society explained purpose of this visit:

We are searching for WILDRivers all over Europe and we decided to visit this river and area  based on many signals and recommendations we received. However we did not expect the high additional value in a remarkable forest and mountains around.

The river is currently subject of several activities which are seriously threatening its future. For example, searching on Social Network sites revealed several insider tipps on how to access the Natural Riverbed by Jeep and for Camping, regardless that this is forbidden in Italy.  In the upper part, the Tagliamento is a alpine river among through the maze of mountains. This is followed by a section by wide meandering riverbed threatened by 4×4 off-road driving and a water dam which significantly impacts water regime above and below stream. In the lower part, when the river is leaving the mountains and the hydropower plant is returning the water to the river, the gravel riverbed widens into a wide and very wild river with an abundance of fish, deadwood, different ecosystems and a fantastic naturalness. But this section has become a public leisure destination for many local and international tourists and many 4×4 off-road drivers, especially where the river is crossed by road bridges allowing access to the riverbed.

Tagliamento WILDRiver. Source:google.org

A quick research on the internet and social media sites confirmed that the river is an internationally well known destination for 4×4 offload driver and these even are sharing “tricks” how to access the river in the more remote areas and how to minimise the risk to be caught by police or park rangers. Some of these “heroes” are actually showing on internet pictures, proudly standing with 4×4 jeep in the river bed, without showing any concern that they are damaging a natural wonder.

Vlado Vancura from European Wilderness Society described an added value of this area:

Value of this river is that there are still areas with difficult access, which minimise activities and frequency of use. These spots have a really high value.  The river with the forest and mountains around creates a very unique combination. Such spots need to be protected. With some effort and implementation of clear stewardship plan the large part of this river and surrounding can become a model for WILDRiver in this part of Europe. All NGOs and the local communities as well as the government should seriously undertake efforts to minimise the impact from tourism use. The hydropower dam also needs to be reconsidered in light of its blocking of the migratory fish routes as well as the amount of water it diverts from this wild river. We are never in favour of banning tourist from such natural wonders but this does not mean that tourist can destroy what the seek by finding it –  one of the last natural and wonderful wild rivers of the alps. Lets work on  jointly finding ways to allow tourist to enjoy the Tagliamento for many future generations.

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About Author

Vlado Vancura is the Deputy Chairman and Director of wilderness of the European Wilderness Society and is based in Liptovsky Hradok, Slovakia.

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