Availability and access to freshwater is a major issue in Italy. What is supposed to a basic right of mankind is becoming nowadays something to put a price and a barcode on. Few people have an idea of where the water we drink everyday is coming from and, more, even less realize the importance of mountain wilderness areas for the preservation of water resources.
Again, Majella is a good example for this. Despite the limestone nature, which usually “steals” away the superficial waters to store them in some sorts of underground reservoirs, there are relatively many springs, streams and rivers criss-crossing this mountain massif. This is a rare scenario in the central Apennines, where water scarcity is usually the norm. Whilst it is easy to figure how such an abundance of water might affect the richness and distribution of plant and animal species, it is sometimes hard to guess that the water, which people living at the foothills of Majella use everyday, actually can come from sources as far as the snow amassed on the highest peaks.
Besides the obvious role it has in favouring the biodiversity, water is constantly working on the landscape, carving its way in the bedrock and, thus, moulding the look of the mountains and valleys. There are many example of this restless work in Majella, but maybe nowhere else this can be more impressive than along the course of the Orta river in the north-western part of the National Park.
This perennial river, originating in the clays at the foothills of Mt Morrone in the center of the Majella National Park, flows for about 40 km through woods, cliffs and lowlands to finally mouth into the larger Pescara river around the town of Piano d’Orta. Nevertheless, the most beautiful part is undoubtely near the villages of Musellaro and San Tommaso, where the Orta goes through steep cliffs and crags, thus generating a deep, mysterious and barely-accessible canyon. Here the river banks can be reached only after a long and difficult walk and they are so slippery one needs to pay attention not to fall into the rumbling water: a true, freshwater wilderness.
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