Embracing more than 74,100 acres immediately north of the Drava, where the fast river flows eastward into the Danube, the park is covered with immense reed beds as well as willow, poplar, and oak forests and crisscrossed by ridges, ponds, shallow lakes, and marshes. Its exact aquatic contours vary a tad each year, depending on the degree to which the Danube backs up under pressure from the Drava and floods over the area. More than 293 bird species, hundreds of varieties of plants, and dozens of species of butterflies, mammals, and fish live in Kopački Rit. A vital spawning ground for Danube river fish, the park is also a breeding area for numerous endangered species—including the white-tailed sea eagle, the black stork, and the European otter. Egrets, herons, and cormorants are abundant, as are red deer, roe deer, and wild boar. In winter, Kopački Rit plays host to thousands of migrating geese and ducks. Although efforts have been underway since 1999 to make Kopački Rit a full-fledged
national park, the going has been slow on this front—in no small part because the necessary restrictions on hunting in such a game-rich area make the issue politically sensitive. The best times of year to visit are during spring and autumn bird migrations, when there are often several hundred thousand birds in the park. Should you come in warm weather, be prepared to be feasted on by mosquitoes. Although the park administration building is in Bilje, the information office at the park entrance in Kopač serves visitors. A short nature trail leads to the landing where boat excursions set out daily into the marshy heart of the park along a channel to Kopačevo Jezero, the largest lake. It is also possible to bring a bicycle into the park and ride on the bike lanes. In 2014, plans were underway to install a tourist train for winter excursions. In 1991, Kopački Rit became a no-man's-land along the front line of the Yugoslav war. For the next six years the natural area and the human communities around it were ravaged, not least by thousands of land mines, which have not only brought great danger to humans but have drastically reduced populations of large mammals such as deer and wild boar. Getting to Kopački Rit from Osijek is simple if you have a car—just follow the signs once you're in Bilje. If you go by bus, get off in Bilje and follow the signs on foot for some 4 km (2½ miles) along rural roads to the entrance of the park. Better yet, ride a bike to Kopački Rit from Osijek (Guesthouse Maksimilian rents bikes) or from Bilje (rent a bike at Agrotourism Crvendač).
Dvorac Tikveš. A prized hunting and fishing area for centuries—and in particular during the Austro-Hungarian Empire—Kopački Rit also has a rich cultural-historical heritage. Dvorac Tikveš, a historic villa with a rich history dating back to the Austro-Hungarian monarchy, also served as a hunting lodge for Yugoslav leader Josep Broz Tito. The complex includes a restaurant and research laboratories for visiting scientists. 15 km [9 mi] north of Bilje. 031/285-394. www.kopacki-rit.hr.