Vrelo Duman - Spring of the Bistrica River

Useful Information

Location: Livno. When you arrive from Zagreb drive into town center, before the river turn left and follow Prikorika road along the river to the spring.
Open: no restrictions.
Fee: free.
Classification: KarstKarst Spring
Light: n/a.
Dimension: A=716 m asl.
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: yes
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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The spring of the Bistrica River is called Duman and is located at the northern edge of the town Livno. Actually, the town was founded here because of the spring, and the fact that the spring is at the northern end of the town is simply a result of the geography: to the north is a steep cliff followed by the karst plateau Bašajkovac which is the catchment area of the source. To the south is flat and fertile farmland, named Livanjsko Polje. It's hard to build houses on steep limestone, building on the plain is much easier, and it's much easier to reach the farmland.

The name derives from the Turkish word duman meaning smoke or fog, and refers to the fog which is sometimes visible during high water levels in the winter months. This area was under the rule of the Ottoman Empire during the Middle Ages, or more exactly between 1463 and 1878. There is still a lot of cultural heritage from this era, although much of it was destroyed later.

In July 1660, the famous Ottoman traveler Evliya Çelebi (25-MAR-1611 – 1682) visited the place and left an enthusiastic description of boys bathing in the spring:

"There is a large pool (havz) on the squared area before the cave from which this clear water flows. It is also a place where the learned men and dervishes meet all the young men of this sheriff, who come into this clear pool like fairies and swim skillfully as a fish. There is a sign on this clear swimming pool. Above the pool on a rock, as if it were connected with the sky, they succeeded in using the ladder of perfect craftsmen, and on a rectangular plate of white marble they molded, engraved, and wrote the inscription with a jesus-sulus letter, and then this marble was beautifully painted, but since the inscription was very high, it was difficult to read it. Traveler, I managed to read it with durbin. Near this inscription there are more inscriptions in Latin and Greek."

The inscription he mentions does not longer exist, here is what it said:

This building erected Mustafa Aga for the love of God, Lord of all worlds.
May Allah give him the highest place (in Paradise).
And God doubled the reward of the best of the good!
Allah Encourages His Chronos : A Good People's Perspective and the Revelation of the Geomanet.
Year 944 (1537 AD)

This text is in parts quite cryptic, mostly because we do not have a good translation. The original was in Arabic, and someone must have written it down before it was destroyed. We found the Bosnian translation, and as we have nobody who speaks Bosnian we used Google to translate it into English. We think the fourth line was alread corrupt in the Bosnian version, and the translation into English made it worse. However, we decided to add it anyway, because it explains the historic situation at the spring.

Duman spring was the source of life for the town and the surrounding farms. It was a place of happiness and a meeting place. And the water was used for many purposes, for drinking, for bathing, for washing, for irrigating fields, and for powering watermills. There are remains of human buildings all around the cave entrance. What still exists is a sort of dam with a mill canal and the already mentioned pool, which is ideal for bathing but its original use seems to be forgotten.

Behind the actual spring, which is the resurgence of a cave river, is the entrance to a cave system named Duman Cave. This cave is not developed, and while it is not gated, it is nevertheless not open to the public. It can only be entered by cavers.

The Bistrica River is a typical karst river, from its source it flows through Livanjsko Polje. It meets with Žabljak river, Sturba river, and Plovuča river. It forms the Lipsko Lake, which is part of the hydroelectric power plant system Buško Blato - HE Orlovac. Today the river ends when it reaches Lipsko Lake, but naturally it left the polje by flowing into swallow holes and flowing underground into the Mediterranean Sea.