Ropotamo Reserve is located about 50 km south of Bourgas, on the border between the two municipalities – Sozopol and Primorsko. The main road E87 divides the reserve into two parts.
Coordinates of the most important places in the reserve:
Arkutino marsh, part of the reserve (42°19’56.48” MN, 27°43’39.33” E, 8 m above sea level)
Pier for boats for trips down the Ropotamo to the mouth of the river – under the bridge on the road Burgas - Primorsko (E87) (42°18’09.63” N, 27°43’40.55” E, 10 m above sea level)
The mouth of the river – the path leading to it (42°19’40.58” N, 27°45’21.10” E, 12 m above sea level)
Rock formation “The Lion’s Head” (42°18’55.69” N, 27°44’04.61” E, 92 m above sea level)
Information Center of Regional Inspectorate of Environment and Water (RIEW) in Аркутино (42°19’42.65” N, 27°43’49.58” E, 10 m above sea level)
Area: 1000.7 hectares
1. District: Burgas, Municipality: Primorsko, Town: Primorsko
2. District: Burgas, Municipality: Sozopol, Town: Sozopol
Documents declaring it a nature reserve:
Order №318 of 07.05.1992
Documents of changes:
Re-categorization by Order № 2080 of 04.09.196
Change in the area – increasing by Order № 318 of 05.07.1992
Change in mode of activities by Order № RD504 of 17.07.2001
Change in mode of activities by Order № RD-686 of 21/09/2006
International status: Ramsar Convention
Purposes for declaring it a reserve: Unique flora and fauna along the coast.
Mode of activities:
All activities are prohibited in the reserve except: 1. Organized tourist boat trips along the Ropotamo river; 2. Fishing boats entering the mouth of Ropotamo river in stormy weather and maintaining a shelter for fishermen at an appropriate place; 3. Study trips on routes designated by the management plan for the reserve; 4. Using the road between sections 485 and 486 to the mouth of the Ropotamo river by local fishermen during the fishing season from 1 September to 30 December.
Overlap: ЗЗ from the Birds Directive: Ropotamo Complex
Located on an area of just over1000.7 ha the reserve is a rare combination of beautiful scenery, spectacular landforms, a wide variety of coastal, forest and aquatic habitats of many rare and endangered plant and animal species and communities. On this small area there is a combination of the sea, a river, a marsh, deciduous and dense forest vegetation, various types of rock formations, beautiful beaches, as well as sand dunes, and all these natural resources are combined with many historical and archaeological findings.
A part of today's Ropotamo reserve was declared way back 1940 a place "to preserve the forest communities of dense forest type located along the eponymous river, which crosses the big sand dunes and flows into the Black Sea." Over the years the area changed its status repeatedly, but always remained a protected area. In the 1960s it was even a national park. The most recent categorization is from 1992 when it was declared a strict nature reserve "for the conservation of the unique flora and fauna along the coast near the mouth of the eponymous river." The reserve has an international status as part of the Ropotamo complex recognized as wetland of international importance under the Ramsar Convention, declared an Important Bird Area and a part of Ropotamo Complex Protected Area from Natura 2000 network.
This small area is home to a great biodiversity. For professionals in figures this means about 60% of the freshwater ichthyofauna of Bulgaria, 60% of the herpetofauna, 50% of the nesting avifauna, and 57% of the mammal species.
The reserve is a habitat for many rare animals. The European bird migration route Via Pontica passes through here. The large number of wetland zones in the area is a great base for many nesting birds as well as feeding grounds for wintering and migrating birds. The reserve hosts 226 species of birds (woodcocks, finches, thrushes, sandwich terns, plovers, wild geese whooper swans and mute swans, songbirds, herons, pelicans, ducks, sea eagles, hawks, vultures, etc.), 8 of which are globally endangered and 70 are included in the Red Book of Bulgaria.
The rocky areas and sand dunes are home to a lot of reptiles: Greek tortoise and Hermann's tortoise, leopard snake и Montpellier snake, Aesculapian snake and different lizards, and in the wet and marshy areas – turtles, long-eared and gray snakes, newts, green toads, brown toads, tree frogs and Balkan spadefoot toads.
The reserve is inhabited by 50 species of mammals. Among them are: red deer, fallow deer, roe deer, mouflons, foxes, jackals, otters and colonies of bats in the rock caves. Extinct mammal species are bears, wild cats and seal monks.
The ichthyofauna is represented by 14 species of fish which permanently inhabit the firth area ofthe river: pearl mullet, vimba bream, rudd, carp, silver carp, and chub. Many more species are registered as temporary inhabitants. These are the Black Sea and Begendik shad, the rainbow fish, etc.
600 species of vascular plants have been identified in the reserve, which is about 15% of all the flora of this country. There are preserved about 11% of the plant species included in the Red Book of Bulgaria, which is 83 species (71 rare, 11 endangered and one extinct). 16 species of vascular plants are endemic and 23 tree and shrub species are Tertiary relicts. On the territory of the reserve you can see elm, ash, maple, black alder, hornbeam, common clematis, hazel, sumac, ivy, flowering ash, oak, beech, willow, Thracian tulip, and spring snowflake. The marshes and spills are overgrown with reeds, bulrush, cattail, iris, tamariks, yellow pond-lily and white water lily. On the sand dunes there still grow the sand lily, the sea wormwood, the wild fennel, etc., which are typical of the South Black Sea coast.
An interesting part of the reserve is the island of St. Thomas, better known as the Snake Island. It is located in Arkutino Bay. It is a nesting place for water birds, a habitat of Günther's vole and wild paddle cacti planted here in the 1930s.
Ropotamo has been a popular tourist destination in Bulgaria for many years.
One of the most visited tourist sites on the South Black Sea coast is Arkutino marsh with its beautiful white water lilies. For some of the foreign tourists they are nothing special because they are grown in almost every pond – in the back yard at home or in the city park. The value of the white water lilies here is that they are natural and grow in the wild.
A favourite attraction for holiday makers on the Black Sea is the boat trip from the dock of the Ropotamo River (under the bridge of E87) to the mouth of the river. It lasts 60 minutes. Herons and kingfishers fly past the tourists during the boat trip. Particularly attractive are the turtles which bask in the sun on the rocks or fallen trees on the river banks. Very interesting is the Lion's Head – a bizarre rock formation high above the right bank of the river.
Although it is a strict reserve (all human activities are prohibited here) – the boat trips along the Ropotamo River are one of the exceptions for the benefit of tourists. This activity is conceded by the Ministry of Environment and Water. Unfortunately, although this tourist attraction has been offered for many years and is still very popular among holiday makers on the Bulgarian Black Sea coast, nothing has yet been done to provide modern, non-motorized boats, which will help to guarantee that there will be no pollution and no noise.
Some other activities approved by Order of the Ministry of Environment and Water are the hiking trails for visitors to the reserve. These are:
A trail bridge in Arkutino marsh;
A trail to Ropotamo River (a continuation of the asphalt road coming from Primorsko and passing by the former residence Perla);
A trail to St. Paraskeva bay;
A trail to the highest dune in the Balkan Peninsula (starting from the center of the Regional Inspectorate of Environment and Water);
A trail through Kaya cape to the mouth of Ropotamo River;
A trail to Veselata skala (unfortunately, no longer accessible after the latest road works – no exit where to stop)
A trail to the supported reserve Velyov Vir;
A river boat trip from the boat dock to the mouth of Ropotamo River and back.
In 2003 a Visitors Center of Burgas Regional Inspectorate of Environment and Water was opened in Ropotamo reserve. It is located in Arkutino, opposite the marsh, near the motel.