Dutch National Park Dwingelderveld lies amidst a characteristic regional landscape of esdorpen (see Nationaal Park Drents-Friese Wold). The park area consists of the heath of Dwingeloo, the heath of Kralo, the Anser pines and the well-known forestry of Dwingeloo, totalling some 3,500 hectare. Most significant land owners are Staatsbosbeheer (State Wood Maintenance) and Natuurmonumenten (Nature Monuments, officially: The Association for Preservation of Nature Monuments in the Netherlands).
The distinctive quality of this National Park is the variety in geology. The many different soil types have caused a mosaic of plants, flowers and trees, which not only attracts visitors but also offers a welcoming habitat to a lot of rare vegetations and animals. Nowhere in the country the heath is as unspoiled as here, while the Dwingelderveld is the largest wet heath terrain in Europe.
The State Secretary of Agriculture, Nature Management and Fisheries chose the Dwingelderveld to be National Park in 1991. Its exact location is in the south west of the Dutch province Drenthe, in the triangle formed by the towns of Beilen, Hoogeveen and Dwingeloo. Next to the park also lie the villages Ruinen, Lhee, Spier and Pesse.
As noted above, most important part of the National Park is the heath. Originally it came into existence when the woods were harvested over the centuries, starting already around 2000 BC. On the open space with hardly nutritious soil, heath established itself. In the last century the heath reached its largest territory. The landscape was desolated, with a tree here and there, or a treacherous pool. Within the traditional farms, the heath obtained an important role. Heath was the grazing land for the sheep and oxen, but it also functioned as construction material and as base material for brooms, brushes and honey. The sheep manure was used to fertilize the farmlands.
The invention of artificial fertilizer and the growing cultivation of nature land caused the heath to nearly extinguish as the 20th century passed by. Some people noticed this and grouped in Nature Monuments, buying heath lands from 1929 onwards. The heath section of Dwingelderveld is also in their ownership.
Another significant part of Nationaal Park Dwingelderveld is the forest in the north east of the area. Because of the innutritious character of the soil, only pine trees grow here, such as the Scots Pine, the Larch, the Douglas and the Norway Spruce. An exceptionally beautiful nature area is the Jeneverbesstruweel (‘Juniper berry brushwood’) in the Lheebroekerzand shifting sands section.
A large part of maintenance is done by sheep. Three herds of sheep take care of the heath in the National Park, although grazing alone is not enough. Two of the flocks have their own shepherd, an otherwise almost extinct profession in the Netherlands. The National Park has the lawful status of Silence Area. This means the sound level in the entire park is not allowed above 40 DBA.
Exclusive and often vulnerable vegetation and fauna (for instance 127 breeding bird species in total) in the Dwingelderveld (meaning Field of Dwingeloo) include:
An information centre is planned near the small village of Benderse.