Szikra and the Alpár Meadow
Area: 1038 ha
Biogeographic region: Lower Tisza region
This is the smallest but one of the most charming territories of the National Park owing to the picturesque Szikra and Alpár backwaters and the adjacent gallery and swamp forests, floodplain swamps and wet meadows. The area greatly resembles the natural landscape that used to be typical along the Tisza before the regulations. While meandering, Tisza eroded the edge of the ridge of the Danube-Tisza Interfluve, including the sand dunes at Tőserdő and the loess walls of the Templom Hill and Vár Hill. The Szikra and Alpár Backwaters of Tisza were created during river regulations in the 1850s. The Kis-Sulymos, Nagy-Sulymos and Dög-Tisza backwaters had been detached from the Tisza during natural shifts of the river course; the bed of these backwaters is in an advanced stage of filling up. The effects of the movement of flood water are clearly visible in the Alpár Meadow in the form of meandering creeks of various size. The backwaters have no natural connection to the Tisza; they are supplied with floodwater from the Tisza but are gradually filling up, anyway.
Due to safety reasons during flooded periods, the Alpár Meadow functions as an emergency reservoir and is detached from the active floodplain of the Tisza by a so called “summer dyke”. Flood water levels were very high in the past two decades, therefore, this dyke has not been restored to its former height and thus intermediately high floods can also enter the entire Alpár Meadow (40 km2).
The bank of the backwaters is mostly covered by bulrush and club-rush, whereas the open water is home to aquatic plants, such as White Water-Lily and Water Chestnut. The gallery forests of higher elevations host centuries-old, ancient Silver Poplar trees.
The diverse habitats of the area are inhabited by a similarly diverse fauna. Moor Frog is one of the most interesting amphibian species. Males have an ornate greyish-blue colour during mating season. Southern Festoon is one of the most colourful butterflies occurring here. It mostly inhabits the edges of lowland oak forest fragments and hardwood groves. The natural forests are rich in trees with holes, providing hiding places for several bat species. In summer nights, it is not rare to see flocks of Daubenton’s Bats passing below the bridge of the Szikra backwater of Tisza on their way to farther feeding grounds. Backwaters are ideal breeding and feeding grounds for herons, including Black-capped Night Heron, Squacco Heron and some Egret species. The forests are teeming with songbirds but Black Woodpeckers are also getting more and more common.
Besides their nature conservation importance, the Szikra and Alpár Backwaters are also famous for leisure time activities. Tens of thousands of people visit the recreational areas of Tőserdő and Tiszaalpár on an annual basis. According to the anglers’ catch logs, large common carps, pikes, catfish, chubs and prussian carps are widespread in the waters of the area.
The history of the area can be traced back to thousands of years. First settlers arrived three thousand years ago, during the Bronze Age, and built a fortification surrounded by a rampart on the present-day Church Hill of Tiszaalpár, which used to be protected by the Tisza River on both sides. Gesta Hungarorum, the chronicle of Anonymus, states that Prince Árpád defeated Zalán, the Lord of the Bulgarians on the battlefield of Alpár in 895 AD. Kontyvirág Forest School is also located in the woods of Tőserdő.