in Bulgarian: Ропотамо
ROPOTAMO is a national park known for its colourful water lilies and consists of four separate reserve areas. The river originates from springs some 50 kilometres to the west in the Strandzha Mountains, then passes through a deep forest before emptying into the sea. The mouth of the river, some 30 meters wide, is a favoured haunt of local fishermen. Ropotamo is named for the Greek goddess Ro (meaning "run;" potato means "river") who, with her songs and charm, won the mercy of pirates terrorizing ancient Apollonia.
The river courses through a forest thick with large deciduous trees, many of them with their roots and lower trunks submerged in water. Tall grasses, reeds, and Liana-like climbing ivy give the area a wild, jungle-like appearance. The last seven kilometres of the river contain over 100 varieties listed in the Bulgarian Red Book of endangered species.
Dragonflies, butterflies, turtles, and harmless water snakes make their homes along the river banks; Penduline tits weave their odd, bottle-shaped nests which dangle from the branches. Colourful red-breasted flycatchers and golden orioles abound in the thick foliage. Predatory birds soar and swoop from on high; on occasion, enormous white-tailed eagles with wingspans of over 200 centimetres may be spotted. Shy eagle owls make their nests on nearby lion's head rock (luvskata glove).
Tour boats regularly ply the lower section of the river and are boarded at a well-marked area just past the bridge. The one-hour trip ($4) is enjoyable but not all that remarkable, so if the boats are full or not running don't feel as if you've missed much. Some of the sights, such as the lion's head rock and the sunbathing water snakes, are just as easily viewed (they're even signposted) on the main road which parallels much of this stretch of river.
The upper reaches of the Ropotamo are more interesting but, unfortunately for tourists, off-limits to boats. Back on the main road, several kilometres south on the right-hand side is another preserve. This one features the famed floating water lilies with the marshy area accessed via wooden walkways.