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Ponoarele

Click on the photos to see an enlarged version



Ponoarele is not very far north of the small town of Baia de Arama, and also is close to the Motru Valley, in the north part of Oltenia county, towards the Parang Mountains.

Coming from north to south, a small river enters a huge valley to meeta a huge stone hill, like a dam, which bars its way.

When there is a lot of water in the river, in spring or in very wet weather, this huge valley is full of water, and is called the Zătonul Mare lake. The rest of the time, when it is hot and there is little water in the river, the lake disappears, because at the base of the huge stone dam is a small hole through which the river passes under the stone hill, and makes a double cave, then goes out to the south of the stone hill to form a small lake called Zătonul Mic. This second lake also has two levels of water, just as Zătonul Mare has, because it too goes under another stone hill, via an undiscovered cave.

The entire area of Ponoarele is full of rivers and caves.

The huge stone hill between Zătonul Mare and Zătonul Mic has a double cave with an entrance from the north, from Zătonul Mare lake, with an exit to Zătonul Mic lake. However at the exit from the south of the cave, part of the roof of the cave has fallen in, leaving an arch called God's Bridge, or Podul Lui Dumnezeu in Romanian.

Ponoarele Cave

Alexandru and Alina are shown here at the explanatory sign on God's Bridge, or Podul Lui Dumnezeu, the starting point for exploring the whole complex.



Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 23rd June 2007




Ponoarele Cave

Map of the area, showing the flow of the river through an underground cave system.



Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 6th September 2008









God's Bridge continues to disintegrate


Ponoarele Cave Ponoarele Cave

These photos show clearly that the bridge is falling, huge pieces barely hang on over the valley, and soon, very soon, they will fall, destroying this monument. Words are not necessary, the photos say it all.

Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 15th September 2010




Ponoarele Cave Ponoarele Cave

The bridge at Podul Lui Dumnezeu continues to disintegrate. This may be inevitable, since the bridge itself was formed by a similar process of collapse of an elevated piece of limestone, part of the roof of a cave, which collapsed on either side of the present day bridge perhaps thousands of years ago.

However the process may also be accelerated by the vibration of the cars and heavy vehicles which use it as a bridge.

Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 16th April 2010




Ponoarele Cave

Authorities are aware that there is a problem, and have put up warning signs, but it may be that the only solution is to re-route the road to avoid God's Bridge altogether.

Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 16th April 2010




Ponoarele Cave

Alex at the cave. This is not in danger, and the limestone here is smooth and unbroken.

Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 16th April 2010




Ponoarele Cave Ponoarele Cave

Zatonula mare and Zatonul mic lakes are full of water this spring, as they were in winter.

Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 16th April 2010




Ponoarele Cave Ponoarele Cave

That spring is coming may be seen in these beautiful flowers.

Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 16th April 2010









Ponoarele in Winter

Ponoarele Cave

It was a cold day, but Adrian was well rugged up for the weather.

Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 21st February 2010




Ponoarele Cave Ponoarele Cave Ponoarele Cave

For the first time, Zătonul Mare was full. It was a wonderful sight.

Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 21st February 2010




Ponoarele Cave

Alina also came prepared for the cold conditions.

Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 21st February 2010




Ponoarele Cave

The exit from the lake through the lower cave was blocked by ice, allowing the lake to fill.

Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 21st February 2010




Ponoarele Cave

Even the smaller lake, Zătonul Mic, had a lot of water in it, more than we have ever seen.

Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 21st February 2010




Ponoarele Cave

This is the sign at the entrance to the cave complex, covered in snow.

Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 21st February 2010




Ponoarele Cave Ponoarele Cave Ponoarele Cave

God's Bridge, a natural stone bridge across which a highway has been built. Part of the bridge has fallen away.

Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 21st February 2010




Ponoarele Cave Ponoarele Cave Ponoarele Cave

The bridge has been under threat of serious disintegration for some time.

Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 21st February 2010









Ponoarele Cave



Podului or Ponoarele Cave is located at an elevation of 337 m above sea level. Its length is 734 m. It is a through-cave carved by the waters of Lake Zăton. It has two large entrances. The main passage is temporarily active during spring when melt waters flow through the cave. At a higher level is located a passage that is always dry.

Numerous bats live in the cave. They belong to the Myotis, Miniopteris and Rhinolophus species. From April to August one may find in the cave a colony of more than 3000 inidividuals. Between October and April a hibernation colony of some 1000 bats populate the cave. Taking into account their importance in maintaining the ecological balance, the bats are protected.

The karst area of Ponoarele also includes many other tourist attractions. Zăton Lake and the limestone pavement from Dealul Peşterii, Băluţei Gorge, and the Lilac Forest.

The cave is protected as part of the natural reserve of "God's Bridge at Ponoarele".

Text above adapted from a sign at the cave nature reserve.

Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 2006




Ponoarele Cave

Map of the area, showing the two caves beneath the hill, one of which cannot now be entered after a rockfall, and the other is in a dangerous condition except for specialists.

Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 2006


Ponoarele Cave

Map of the area

Photo and drawing: Adrian Gheorghe 10th June 2008




Ponoarele Cave

GPS points for Ponoarele, corresponding to the numbering system on the map above.

Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 18th May 2008




Ponoarele Cave

From the explanatory sign and map, you can cross Podul Lui Dumnezeu and by going to the east, climb the huge stone hill in which is the Ponoarel Cave. Here one can see Alexandru just on top of the huge stone hill. This is the one between Zătonul Mare and Zătonul Mic.

Just beneath Alexandru is the cave which passes through the hill, coming from the north from Zătonul Mare and exiting south to Zătonul Mic Lake.



Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 23rd June 2007




Ponoarele Cave

Here Alexandru and Alina are going north, down from the top of the hill, on the eastern part of Zătonul Mare, on the left bank of the river, which can be seen at the foot of the hill.



Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 23rd June 2007




Ponoarele CavePonoarele Cave

Alexandru and Alina are going down into the valley of Zătonul Mare Lake, which is empty in summer, on the left side of the lake, to the valley from the north of the cave.

As can be seen in these photographs, there are many small valleys coming down from the hills around Zătonul Mare Lake. During spring and in wet weather, all these streams feed into the lake, adding to the water from the main river of the valley.

Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 23rd June 2007




Ponoarele Cave

Following one of the small rivers coming from the hills around the valley of Zătonul Mare Lake, one can walk to the lake, which is empty in the summer time, to the west.

Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 23rd June 2007




Ponoarele Cave

On the left side of the valley of Zătonul Mare, where a small river meets the main river of Zăton, this tree was found, clinging to life and pushing its way between two large rocks.

Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 18th May 2008




Ponoarele Cave

This is the left side of the Zătonul Mare Lake, on the east, so you can go onto the floor of the lake right up to the bed of the small river which runs all year here, from north to south, until it meets the huge stone hill in which the cave lies.

Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 23rd June 2007




Ponoarele Cave
At this point the river from Zătonul Mare valley meets the huge stone hill with the cave. Here, the river disappears through a hole, under the stone hill. During summer, the hole is big enough for the water of the river, coming from the north part of the valley, to pass through.

However, when the snow melts in spring, or there is a lot of rain, this small river becomes huge, and is also fed by the small rivers around the Zătonul Mare valley, so the hole is not large enough for it.

The water backs up, and forms Zătonul Mare Lake. After some time, the lake empties again.

In the stone hill there are two caves, one upper, which can be visited, and another which is full of water coming from the river, fed by the water entering the hole at this point.

Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 23rd June 2007


Ponoarele Cave Ponoarele Cave




Ponoarele Cave

These photographs from previous visits by Dr Gheorghe illustrate clearly the way in which the river disappears underground into the limestone passages under the earth.

Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 2006




Ponoarele Cave
After visiting the hole where the river disappears, we climb the right side of the lake, to the west, to the western side of the stone hill in which the cave is.

Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 23rd June 2007




Ponoarele Cave Ponoarele Cave
On the western wall of the huge stone hill between the two lakes, Zătonul Mare to the north, and Zătonul Mic to the south, there are many small caves as can be seen here, but not nearly so large and deep as the main cave is.

Photo: (left) Adrian Gheorghe 23rd June 2007, (right) Adrian Gheorghe 2006




Ponoarele Cave
We must continue to climb the western stone wall of the stone hill, on the right bank of the river feeding Zătonul Mare in order to reach the entrance to the main cave.

Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 23rd June 2007




Ponoarele Cave
After climbing the mountain, as can be seen, just in front of us, is the main entrance to the cave. In former times, here, in the upper level, the river passed through the hill and formed a cave. Today, the level of the river is down under the stone hill, in the process of forming yet another cave, at this time full of water, which is now the main link during most of the year between Zătonul Mare and Zătonul Mic.

Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 23rd June 2007




Ponoarele Cave
This is the main entrance to Ponoarele Cave, a hole about 20 to 30 metres wide, and about 4 to 5 metres high.

Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 23rd June 2007




Ponoarele Cave
Just after the entrance to the cave, visitors must go down to the old floor of the cave, then through a smaller hole to communicate with the rest of the cave. This first room is very large, and on the floor can be found a lot of stones which have rolled down the slope.

Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 23rd June 2007




Ponoarele Cave Ponoarele Cave
Because it is cool in the cave, about 14 degrees Celsius, and the outside is very warm, typically about 35 degrees Celsius in summer, and because of the humidity in the cave, the first chamber of the cave is full of steam, as can be seen in these photographs.

Photo: (left) Adrian Gheorghe 2006, (right) Adrian Gheorghe 23rd June 2007




Ponoarele Cave
Here Alexandru leaves the main room of the entrance to the cave, and enters the small hole through which you must go to reach the main part of the cave, under the huge hill. This was as far as the expedition went, because the cave becomes dangerous to travel through at this point.

Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 23rd June 2007




Ponoarele Cave
The way back out from the main room of the cave to the entrance.

Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 23rd June 2007




Ponoarele Cave
Coming out of the entrance to the cave again.

Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 23rd June 2007




Ponoarele Cave
Going to the top of the huge stone hill again, climbing the southern part of it, to the east.

Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 23rd June 2007




Ponoarele CavePonoarele Cave
The climb is very hard, the stones are huge, and there is a real danger of falling into the valley 50 metres below.

Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 23rd June 2007




Ponoarele Cave
Climbing the last few metres to the top of the mountain.

Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 23rd June 2007




Ponoarele Cave
Happy to be at last back on top of the large stone hill, coming from the valley of Zătonul Mare to the south, to Zătonul Mic.

Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 23rd June 2007




Ponoarele Cave
Father and son going to the top of the hill for the next part of this trip.

Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 23rd June 2007




Ponoarele Cave
Alexandru says goodbye to the valley of Zătonul Mare until next year.

This photograph shows both the dry bed of Zătonul Mare and the area where the river sinks into the limestone below the big hill.

Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 23rd June 2007




Ponoarele Cave Ponoarele Cave

On top of the hill. The limestone predominates, with some clay and grass in this area.

Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 23rd June 2007




Ponoarele Cave Ponoarele Cave

The stones on top of the hill are called Lapiezuri, which are moulded by rain and snow over many centuries.

Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 23rd June 2007




Ponoarele Cave

There are often hawks to be seen over the valley of Zatonul Mare. Hawks often use the wind passing over large hills like this to get lift to raise them in altitude before soaring elsewhere looking for prey.

Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 18th May 2008




Ponoarele Cave

On the way down the hill, passing from west to east to the starting point of the visit, from where we start the second part of the trip, the valley of Zătonul Mic, the exit of the cave, and God's Bridge.

Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 23rd June 2007




Ponoarele Cave

Back at the starting point, to the south of the large stone hill, which has behind it to the north the valley of Zătonul Mare. To pass through the cave from Zătonul Mare to Zătonul Mic valley is a very difficult and dangerous walk. Since the last trip there, only two months before, the team found many broken rocks on the floor. It seems that the cave is in a dangerous condition, and in future it may not be able to be visited, even by specialists.

Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 23rd June 2007




Ponoarele Cave

Going down from the starting point to the valley of Zătonul Mic, at the south of the hill, at the exit of the cave.

Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 23rd June 2007




Ponoarele Cave

Looking from south to north, to the stone hill and the exit from the cave. Part of the roof of the cave has collapsed, leaving a large hole, with an arch like a bridge at the remaining end of the cave.

From this point one can see the exit from the cave, but originally the cave was bigger, and covered this area, and behind this point the former exit of the cave is now an arch, called Ponoare or "God's Bridge". As can be seen, there are many large rocks fallen from the former roof on both sides of the valley.

Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 23rd June 2007




Ponoarele Cave

Looking into the exit from the cave, which is now too dangerous to contemplate using to pass through the cave.

Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 23rd June 2007




Ponoarele Cave

Entering the outside part of the exit from the cave, towards the north. The team did not proceed through the cave for a great distance, since the cave is now too dangerous to pass through for those without specialist knowledge and equipment.

Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 23rd June 2007




Ponoarele Cave

The cave is dangerous, very large, about thirty metres wide and ten metres high. When the cave was revisited in September 2007 this area had many broken rocks on the floor, and a lot of clay. In the future the cave may be closed to visitors because of the danger.

Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 23rd June 2007




Ponoarele Cave

Much of the cave is full of steam, because it is very cold inside, and the increased relative humidity causes the precipitation of water vapour. It is very dark inside, and visitors need many large strong lamps to visit it with safety.

Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 23rd June 2007




Ponoarele Cave

The eastern wall of the cave had at the time of this visit a gallery, a side cave, now broken, and on the western wall is another gallery which passes through the cave to its north, coming out at the Zătonul Mare valley.

Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 23rd June 2007




Ponoarele Cave

A view of the inside walls of the cave.

Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 23rd June 2007




Ponoarele Cave

Coming back out of the cave, back towards the south.

Stones have been laid to make a more secure footing in the damp and slippery conditions of the cave.

Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 23rd June 2007




Ponoarele Cave

At the exit of the cave.

Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 23rd June 2007




Ponoarele Cave

Walking south from the exit of the cave, towards God's Bridge. There was a cave roof above this section was, which has since fallen in.

Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 23rd June 2007




Ponoarele Cave Ponoarele Cave

God's Bridge, the ancient exit of the cave, is huge. Over the bridge a highway for cars passes.

In the later image, you can see that a small part of the rock of the bridge has fallen, towards the top of the image, where there is now iron staining the rock.

Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 23rd June 2007, 18th May 2008




Ponoarele Cave Ponoarele Cave

Photographs showing the highway over the natural stone bridge.

Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 2006




Ponoarele Cave

Passing under God's Bridge, to the south and the Zătonul Mic valley.

Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 23rd June 2007




Ponoarele Cave

General view of the valley of Zătonul Mic, looking from the north to south, with a new church under construction in the background.

Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 23rd June 2007




Ponoarele Cave

The new church in the photograph above is almost complete, in a wonderful landscape.

Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 18th May 2008




Ponoarele Cave

Walking down the valley of Zătonul Mic towards the south.

Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 23rd June 2007




Ponoarele Cave

At this point the Zătonul Mic river appears, then disappears again, under the limestone hills to the south of the complex of lakes, caves, sinkholes and bridge.

Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 23rd June 2007




Ponoarele Cave

Going back to the north, to God's Bridge, after visiting the valley of Zătonul Mic. The railings of the highway can be seen above the bridge.

Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 23rd June 2007




Ponoarele Cave

Climbing back up to the starting point after passing under God's Bridge.

Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 23rd June 2007




Ponoarele Cave

Climbing the last slope before reaching the starting point, the exit of the cave, the entrance to God's Bridge.

Photo: Adrian Gheorghe 23rd June 2007








Recent additions, changes and updates to the Alexis site

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This site is to publicise the history and culture of Romania, and displays information from the Alexis Project Association

Alexis Project Filiasi/Romania
RC J/263/230/2007 CIF 21464151
Email: alexis_project@yahoo.com

in a partnership and contract with the Oltenia Museum:
Oltenia Museum Craiova/Romania
CF 4417192
Email: muzeulolteniei@yahoo.com

Because Oltenia Museum has the ability to verify the scientific importance of this information and because the specialists of Oltenia Museum have made contributions to this site, the copyrights to it are part of Oltenia Museum property.



If you have any photographs or information which would be useful for this site please contact Don Hitchcock


This page last modified Monday, 24th January, 2011 02:17am


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Email: don@donsmaps.com


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