The most precious sites of the Šumava were granted strict protection by the creation of the Šumava National Park in 1991. This was outlined to include the central part of the mountain range along the border with Germany, and partly also with Austria, extending its protective shelter over most of the precious natural sites of the Šumava: the vast plateaus with moors, the wild river valleys of the Vydra and the Křemelná, the highest parts of the border mountain range, glacial lakes Plešné, Prášilské, and Laka, peatlands in the Vltava river valley, as well as the isolated patches of the original mixed forests at Stožec, Smrčina and Plechý, etc. With an area of 69,030 hectares, it is the largest national park in the Czech Republic, varying in altitude from 600 to almost 1400 metres above sea level. It reaches its highest point at Plechý (1378 metres), in the south. The area includes seven villages (Srní, Kvilda, Horská Kvilda, Modrava, Stožec, České Žleby and Prášily), as well as several smaller settlements (Filipova Huť, Dobrá, Jelení). Larger places and tourists centres are situated along the limits of the Park (Železná Ruda, Kašperské Hory, Vimperk, Volary, Prachatice, Horní Planá, etc.). More than 80 per cent of the Park is covered in woods, now most of them state-owned and managed by the Šumava National Park and the Šumava Protected Landscape Area Headquarters in Vimperk.
The purpose of the Park is to protect and preserve the unique natural sites, so far undisturbed by human activity, and to guarantee their further development, and, last but not least, to contribute by scientific exploration to the general understanding of natural processes. Experts from the Park Headquarters also consider the possibilities of using parts of the precious area for recreation and low-impact tourism; these, of course, have to be environment-friendly so as not to affect natural development. The neighbouring Bayerischer Wald National Park in Germany may serve as an example, contributing significantly to the development of the whole region.
The territory of the Park is divided into three zones, depending on the level of protection: the most precious 1st zone (strictly natural) is left to itself without human interference, the 2nd zone (controlled natural) includes forest and agricultural ecosystems partly affected by human activity and may be used economically on a limited scale, and the 3rd (marginal) zone around settlements and at the limits of the Park, considerably transformed by human activities, allows for more intensive exploitation by people.
Visitors to the Vimperk region may see, to name but a few of the many sites of natural interest, the spring of the river Vltava, the Chalupská moor near Borová Lada, the Jezerní moor between Kvilda and Horská Kvilda, or the nearby Vydra river valley, the Stožec Rock, or the meadowland in the Vltava river valley between Soumarský Most and Nová Pec.
The role of the Šumava National Park and the Protected Landscape Area is not only to protect nature, but also to enable sensitive visitors to experience it. It is therefore only natural that the network of information centres is the first stop for visitors coming to admire the wilderness of the Park or to enjoy the man-shaped cultural landscapes of the Šumava foothills. The friendly staff are certain to help even the most discriminating of the visitors in their choice of destinations. The same is true about Park guards operating on the territory, who are happy to advise tourists on the routes to choose, or if they get lost.
Comprehensive and up-to-date information for tourists is available at the Šumava National Park and the Protected Landscape Area Headquarters website: CHKO Šumava:www.npsumava.cz