Hoge Kempen National Park
Belgium has only one official national park, the Hoge Kempen National Park. Beautiful woodlands alternating with fields of purple flowering heather and gorgeous lakes provide visitors to the Hoge Kempen National Park with breath-taking views and a real feel of nature. In addition to the heathlands and forests this national park also has peat moorlands. The Hoge Kempen National Park is located in the province of Limburg and covers over 22 square miles of moorlands, heathland and forests.
The Hoge Kempen National Park opened on March 23rd, 2006. The park offers over 120 miles of well-marked trails for hikers, as well as, routes for cyclists and horse riders. Hoge Kempen National Park also contains a wonderful mile-long course built for visitors to walk barefoot. The visitor center has an interactive museum that introduces park visitors to the fascinating world of insects.
Hoge Kempen National Park is located on the eastern side of Belgium and has a continental climate, which benefits several species of trees, including the Sessile oak (Quercus petraea). The Hoge Kempen National Park is home to more than 6,000 species of flora and fauna. In addition to pine and oak trees, ash and silver birch are also found in Hoge Kempen National Park. The national park’s forests and fields of heather provide natural habitats for many species of mammals and birds, such as European roe deer (Capreolus capreolus), wild boar (Sus scrofa), red fox (Vulpes vulpes), Eurasian curlew (Numenius arquata), woodlark (Lullula arborea), nightjar (Caprimulgus europaeus), red-backed shrike (Lanius collurio), Eurasian woodcock (Scolopax rusticola), great spotted woodpecker (Dendrocopos major), skylark (Alauda arvensis), linnet (Carduelis cannabina), whitethroat (Sylvia communis), pied flycatcher (Ficedula hypoleuca), sand martin (Riparia riparia), redstart (Phoenicurus phoenicurus), stonechat (Saxicola rubicola), blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla), grasshopper warbler (Locustella naevia), chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita), great tit (Parus major), and several species of hawks and falcons.
The Hoge Kempen National Park also offers important habitats for amphibians and reptiles, including species such as the moor frog (Rana arvalis), the natterjack toad (Epidalea calamita), great crested newtthe viviparous lizard (Zootoca vivipara), and the smooth snake (Coronella austriaca). The large diversification in biotopes within the national park attracts many species of insects including the saddle-backed bush cricket (Ephippiger ephippiger), blue-winged grasshopper (Oedipoda caerulescens), stag beetle (Lucanus cervus), European beewolf (Philanthus triangulum), common blue damselfly (Enallagma cyathigerum) and several species of dragonflies, such as the broad-bodied chaser (Libellula depressa), white-faced darter (Leucorrhinia pectoralis), and four-spotted chaser (Libellula quadrimaculata). There are also a number of butterfly species found in the Hoge Kempen National Park, including the common yellow swallowtail (Papilio machaon), pearly heath (Coenonympha arcania), purple hairstreak (Neozephyrus quercus), chalk hill blues (Polyommatus coridon), silver-studded blue (Plebejus argus), Weaver’s Fritillary (Boloria dia), and poplar admiral (Limenitis populi).