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Mrtvica River is the chief tributary of Morača, flowing in from the west near the village of Međuriječje. The small but potent Mrtvica forces its way between the step sides of mountains Maglanik ( 2,139 m) and Stožac ( 2,226m) forming a 9 kilometers long canyon. The average depth of the canyon is around 600m; however , if measured from the peak of Mt. Maglenik which lies 4 km from the river, the canyon depth excels even the one of the River Tara. This hostile ravine has remained virtually inaccessible up until the mid 1980s when the army drilled through the rock in its side making it possible to track its flow for the first time in history. Since then, the spectacular canyon of Mrtvica has become one of the most visited mountaineering tracks in Montenegro but has remained unknown to the wider audiences due to its isolation.

With its richness in trout and sprout the river also attracts the attention of anglers. The experienced once claim that angling here demands a lot of knowledge and patience since the fish is very wary.

The wilderness surrounding the canyon of Mrtvica is captured in the very sound of its eerie name (mrtvo-dead). There are several explanations for it, all coming from the associations flared by its hostile looks, but the most convincing one is connected with the change of water quantities in it: though during springtime and early summer the river is very abundant in water fed by the snow melting in the mountains, as soon as this season is over (at the beginning of July) the river suddenly “dies” turning itself into stream not larger than a brook or even dries completely in its upper course. More vivid answers to the question are given by local legends. One tells that the river got its name after many dead bodies ended in its waters following a battle with the Turks, another that a great flood carried away everything from the village of Velje Duboko, even the dead in their graves. To reach the starting point for hiking from the direction of Podgorica one should pass the sign announcing the Medjurječje village on the Podgorica- Belgrade road and then look carefully for a red sign that directs you to the left. Be very cautious since the turn is of a sharp angle and has to be made at a busy road. The same turn is much easier from the direction from Kolašin.

The walk through the canyon takes some 5 hours in one direction. The marked path starts from the confluence of two rivers, both remarkable for their clean, cold water. After some 15 minutes through the rich vegetation one reaches the Danilo’s Bridge (Danilov most) built by Prince Daniloin 1858 “for the soul of his mother Krstina” , as it is commemorated in large Cyrillic letters on a stone tablet. With its two arches high above the enchantingly green waters of the Zeleni vir (“Green Whirlpool”) it is certainly one of the nicest pack-horse bridges in the country ( not being wide enough for a cart), not least for its unique setting. The bridge is a part of an old track that avoided the canyon and used to be only connection for several villages deeper in the mountains. From here the hiking trail climbs up through the greenery past the old mill and shortly afterwards reaches a gravel road. This road begins from the closed hotel “Medjurječje” and leads some two kilometers along the river to the homestead of Milivoj Bulatović where it ends. Passing these lonely houses, after a few minutes walk one reaches the new, wooden bridge from which remarkable views along the river can be enjoyed. Further on and deeper into the canyon, where there is very little sunshine and where it’s always chilly, is the Bijeli Narini cascade famous for its beauty as the water bubbles and breaks on the rocks (note that this phenomenon is far from impressive in high summer). Continuing the hike on reaches the most attractive part of the canyon with the narrow path cut into the primeval rock rising vertically above the green river. The tour ends in the village of Velje Duboko ( “Great Deep”) that has nested itself in a picturesque valley in front of canyon. The village, with small houses surrounded with walnut, plum and apple trees, is much needed break from the inhospitable conditions of the canyon. It is one of the chief villages of the Rovici clan that got its name from the looks of their settlements ( rovati-to dig into).

Velje Duboko is a good starting point to reach Kapetanovo Lake high in Mt Žurim (6 km, 3 hours walk). The picturesque glacial lake lies 1,678m above the sea level a desolate place stripped of most vegetation and surrounded by a katun settlement. It is quite large ( 480 by 360 km) and has a distinctive, dark green, almost black water as a result of its depth (max.37m) that also keeps it cold throughout the year. From here it’s a half hour climb to the smaller Manito Lake underneath the top of Mt Stožac and 2 hour climb to the peak of Kapa Moračka ( 2, 226m overlooking the source of river Morača. The other way to reach Kapetanovo Lake is 5 hour walk from the Krnovo pass on the Nikšić-Žabljak road.


Montenegro Hostel Team

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