The Bad Valley and the Red Precipice of Oltenia

Several tens of kilometres south-west of Craiova, on the road to the Danube, close to Segarcea, the landscape is not as dull and monotonous as it might seem.

The geology of this area presents villafrancian and grunzian formations, suspended above the floodplains of Desnățui’s tributaries, which, in turns, flows directly into the Danube. In addition to these deposits, one can find here a number of sandy red clays, of a loessoid type (Picture 1), with insertions of yellow clays, originating from the middle Pliocene (Riss) and upper Pliocene. The loess and the loessoid deposits mark the end of the quaternary deposits found in interfluves, terraces, major alluvial fans, except for the easily flooded areas, where geology is more recent. The ,,endless” expanses of Jiu’s  floodplain are replaced by variations in altitude created by piedmont interfluves reaching about 200 metres and, above this point, the narrower surfaces appear like old, eroded walls.


The landscape in the Segarcea-Radovan area is particularised by wide interfluves, with a tabular appearance and deep, narrow valleys carved into layers of gravel and alluviums, giving the slopes a rugged look. Intermittent and semi-permanent streams flow in a manner consistent with the geological structure up to a point close to Fantanele, where they turn south , heading for the Danube. The Red Precipice was formed in this geomorphologic context, as a maze of old torrential valleys and ravines dug in the red clays of the Balacita Piedmont. But the strongest contrast can be found a couple of kilometres away east of this site, in a place full of lakes and forests, where up until recently there was a picturesque tourist resort and an ostrich farm, where people could enjoy a horse ride or take a boat on the lake (Pictures 2 and 3).

algae-300x262The village of Radovan is the main population centre of this region, and despite the fact that even the road signs indicating the route to the geomorphologic complex and the lake are now gone, let alone the resort, the people of Craiova still remember this place and visit it from time to time, during weekends for a barbeque or an off-road trip with their cars (there are no county roads to this reservation). The village is surrounded by a beautiful yet patchy forest (Picture 4) which was once connected through a corridor along the floodplain of Desnatui up to the northern part of Dolj County. The preservation efforts undertaken before 1989 were much greater that what is done today, and the locals remember a time when rabbits and pheasants were colonized and the rangers did their job of protecting the woods.

algues2-300x225Through this wood, nowadays quite narrow, flows the Desnatui River, whose flow is controlled south of Fantanele by a reservoir. Close to Radovan there is an interesting valley, more like an entanglement of ravines that overflow into Desnatui during times of abundant rains. Because of hydro-morphological processes occurring in the area, the valley was named ,,Bad Valley”. The reason for its inclusion on Romania’s nature reserves list did not come from this reason, but from the rarity of the plants found here due to the tormented soil created by the degradation processes. The area is characterised by spontaneous steppe vegetation, generally dry (Picture 5). The grassland are covered by gramineae species typical of the steppe (where average annual rainfall is below 500 mm), such as Festuca spp, Chrysopogon gryllus, Stippa spp., Cynodon dactylon. Close to the thalweg of these torrential valleys we find plants that need more humidity, such as Alopecurus pratensis, Poa spp. and Festuca pratensis. 

canada-columbia-1-300x180Many grass-like plants, of Mediterranean origin, otherwise rare in Oltenia, form a carpet of flowers in this valley, among which we can count Ziziphora capitata, sprawling speedwell (Veronica prostrata), Centaurea orientalis and Medicago hispida. The structure of the herbal flora demonstrates that this area was once covered by forests because it includes species such as two-leaf squill (Scilla bifolia), violets (Viola spp.), the lady orchid (Orchis purpurea) and Festuca spp. Woody species (Picture 6) that have survived from the ancient forests are the Turkey oak (Quercus cerris), the Hungarian oak (Q. frainetto) and the common hawthorn (Cratageus monogyna).

screen33-austria-sablatnigmoorThe scientific value of the Bad Valley – Radovan nature reserve is given by its floristic rarities, such as the herbaceous periwinkle (Vinca herbacea), goatsbeard (Tragopogon flocossus), Hesperis tristis, Dianthus leptopetalus or Ziziphora capitata.     

pacifictradeWe can only hope that the scientific and tourist complex found at the Red Precipice will recover its strength and soon find an investor wiling to rehabilitate its infrastructure and leisure facilities.

Article written by Gabriela Moroșanu and translated by Mihail Mitoșeriu


  1. Popescu M. et al., 1995, Monumente si rezervatii ale naturii, obiective istorice si turistice din Oltenia, Editura Didactica si Pedagogica, Bucuresti.
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