The Crystal Clear Water of the Vipava Valley
Water is one of the biggest assets of the Vipava Valley. The Vipava River which gave the valley its name, is fed by a number of creeks that spring forth at the foot of high karst plateaus and hills. Virtually every village in the Vipava Valley has its own water spring. The pure and crystal clear water comes from the depths of plateaus which remain unpopulated and almost primordial in their character. The valley folk cherish its water and carefully protect it from pollution. The main springs which are natural sights in their own right on account of their specific features are particularly well protected. Meanwhile, smaller streams create a friendly, almost postcard-like image of the countryside.
The Vipava River
The Vipava riverhead is a rare natural phenomenon and a sight to behold. Right at the foot of the slopes of the Nanos Plateau, in the town of Vipava, the river surfaces in several springs which discharge into its riverbed in the form of an inverted delta. This type of spring is unrivalled in Europe. Sprawled with bridges, the small town of Vipava is criss-crossed with karst springs and riverbeds. This is the reason why Vipava got the byname the Venice of Slovenia. A little ways down from where the collective water from all springs discharges into one riverbed, the Močilnik Creek and the torrent Bela are discharged into the Vipava River as well. Further downstream, in the vicinity of Ajdovščina, another tributary, the Hubelj River, is discharged into the riverbed of the Vipava, feeding it large quantities of water during heavy rainfall. The largest tributary in the downstream basin of the Vipava River is the Branica Creek flowing from the edge of the karst plateaus. In Miren, the Vipava River leaves Slovenia and enters Italy where it discharges into the Soča River. Despite a number of torrential tributaries, the Vipava River is generally a slow river with amazing meanders created in its lazy downstream area. Historically, the river was lined with mills. The best preserved example is the Pekel Mill close to the village of Dornberk.
The Vipava River is especially popular with fishermen as its pure water houses an abundance of fish species, including the famous marble trout. The easily accessible river banks covered with willows feature trails that attract walkers, hikers and cyclists.
The Hubelj River
A lively body of water, the Hubelj River springs forth from under an overhang uphill of the town of Ajdovščina. Consecutive heavy rainfall makes the two subterranean caves overfill and spill huge amounts of water. In those periods, the whole area around the Hubelj River spring becomes an echo chamber and water and froth spray all around. This spectacle is quite a tourist magnet. The riverbed in the upstream area of the Hubelj River is another sight to behold – occasionally crammed into a narrow canyon, it is littered with rocks and pools. An educational nature trail leading from the town to the spring was set up on the river bank. A few kilometres downstream, the Hubelj River discharges into the Vipava River on a plain next to Ajdovščina.
The water of the Hubelj is of superb quality, which is why it has been supplying potable water to the Vipava Valley for well over a century. However, it was used as a power source for much longer than that. The high discharge of the Hubelj River gave rise to the development of industry back in the 16th century. The most telling witnesses of the industrial heritage are the restored ruins of the ironworks close the Hubelj riverhead.
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In places where rocks from different geological worlds meet and high plateaus come into contact with the plains of the Vipava Valley, very peculiar springs have emerged. Another fascinating water feature, besides the Vipava and Hubelj springs, is the occasional spring of the Lijak Creek which is dry most of the year, but surprises with a massive discharge after downpours. Uphill from the Lijak spring is the famous take-off site for paragliders and hang gliders.
Separating the Nanos Plateau and Trnovo Forest Plateau, the Bela Gorge is the real belle of this area, and the torrential Bela Creek has created amazing pools further upstream. The high walls over the picturesque creek are a popular climbing site today.
Occasionally, you will stumble on a water spring in places where you’d least expect it. Take the Erzelj spring for instance which blends together with the numerous small, enduring and therefore precious springs up in the hills over the valley. An interesting hiking trail was set up past the springs.