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Pilica Pilica

The course of Pilica has for centuries marked the southern limits of Mazovia. The river flows out of karst sources of the Cracow-Częstochowa Plateau. With a length of 319 km it is the longest left bank tributary of the Vistula and the eighth longest river in Poland. The lower Mazovian section encompasses a third of the entire span of the river. In this part it is a typical lowland river. It meanders, forms islands and spectacular oxbow lakes. The average width of the riverbed reaches 100 metres, and in some places it gets three times as wide. Pilica is relatively clean, physical and chemical research indicates the first and second class of purity.

The Pilica valley in its lower course is characteristic in form. The left bank is steep and built of moraine clay. The scarp is covered with bushes and orchards extend across the plateau. The right bank is flat and is accompanied by a flatland of meadows and pastures several kilometres wide.

Must see

The natural riparian vegetation in the valley of the river gives shelter to many bird species. Numerous are the species of gulls, terns and sandpipers. The turquoise feathers of the Kingfisher often flash over the water.

Many architectural monuments line the river. Take a pause to rest in the aristocratic ambience of Świdno, have a look at the exhibition in the family home of Kazimierz Pułaski in Winiary, and contemplate the lovely small 18th century church in Łęgonice. If you happen to visit the area in autumn, get ready for a feast. The apples from the local orchards are a delight. You can buy them almost straight off the tree.

Before you set off…

A canoe trip down the Pilica does not pose many problems, even a beginner can manage it. Of course this doesn’t mean that shouldn’t keep an eye on the water level. The lower it gets, the more troublesome shoals you encounter.

Route: Nowe Miasto near the Pilicą – Mniszew

We propose a trip along the almost entire Mazovian part of Pilica. The proposed route is 79 km long and takes about 3 days. If you only have a weekend, start from Białobrzegi.

0.0 km Nowe Miasto near the Pilicą

The town, with a lovely location on the high left bank of the Pilica, was granted municipal privileges in 1400. The most valuable monument of Nowe Miasto is the Capuchin baroque church and monastery. The triple-nave basilica was finished in 1786 and expanded in the next century. According to the rules of the order, the baroque interior is modest and keeps to the dark brown shades. The altar paintings are the work of famous artists of the time: Franciszek Smuglewicz, Szymon Czechowicz and Józef Buchbinder. The local monastery for eighteen years served as the home of the charismatic confessor and founder of many congregations, Honorat Koźmiński, until his death in 1910. In 1988 the priest was beatified by John Paul II. Nowe Miasto is a pilgrimage destination. Inside the monastery is a museum dedicated to the figure of the saint and the confessional he used.

PilicaThe late baroque palace built in 1753 for General Franciszek Gronowski is also a landmark of the town. Among other Mazovian residences the one in Nowe Miasto is unusual because of a semicircular projection, located on the side of the garden which extends down to the Pilica. The projection has a baroque attic, accompanied by a semicircular terrace supported by pillars. Though it has great potential, the palace is not used for any special purposes and is gradually falling into ruin. The park however is open to the public and hosts concerts and other events. On sunny days it offers a far-reaching view over the river valley.

The best place to launch the canoe is below the bridge, as its pillars hide the wooden rods which are not visible at high water level.

5.0 km Gostomia

In the village there is a 19th century manor surrounded by a park, which is now a hotel. Behind it the small river Lubanka flows into the Pilica. Below it the river forms spectacular meanders. After the fifth turn it reaches the ‘Tomczyce’ reserve, which was established to preserve a lovely mixed forest and a steep scarp cut by ravines. Old pines grow next to huge Oaks and Larch trees, while Ash trees and Alders grow closer to the river.

11.0 km Tomczyce

Pass the bridge under the middle span. To the left is a village situated on a steep scarp. The late classicist palace was raised in the middle of the 19th century. Sandy beaches on the opposite bank encourage swimmers.

17.0 km Górki, Świdno, Michałowice

On the right bank lies the small village of Górki. You can stop on the opposite side of the river and go on a short trip to Świdno, nicely located on a scarp behind a two-kilometre stretch of meadows. There you will see a palace, which was constructed in the first half of the 18th century for Stanisław Antoni Świdziński, voivode of Rawa. The baroque-classicist palace and the surrounding park are now private property. There were intents of creating a holiday and conference resort here, with no tangible results so far.

The first owner of the palace founded a church in the nearby Michałowice. Inside the baroque temple are well-preserved illusionist paintings.

23.0 km Dębnowola

The river flows widely and islands appear in its bed. You can easily spot the small birds of riverside thickets: the Knngfisher and the Penduline Tit

24.0 km road bridge on Osuchów – Wyśmierzyce route

27.0 km Przybyszew

The area is famous for growing cucumbers and onions. On the left bank a church tower rises above the village and the surrounding plantations. The neo-Gothic temple was designed by Konstanty Wojciechowski at the end of the 19th century. A hero of the Kościuszko insurrection, Antoni Madaliński, is buried in the crypt.

Past Przybyszew the scarp extends to the river, separating it from the valley by the high bank. The right bank is completely flat. The meadows and pastures stretch widely. In the far off distance you can distinguish village roofs.

29.0 km Pacewo

Pass under the bridge by the left span.

31.0 km Adamów

Under the bridge keep to the left.

34.0 km Białobrzegi

PilicaThe charming town lies on the right bank, at a certain distance from the river. Pilica flows widely at this point. The landscape of the valley is chequered with groves of willows and poplars. In Białobrzegi you pass two bridges. The old one, with its characteristic arches, is before the town. The new one, which is part of the recently constructed ring road, is below the town. The busy Warsaw-Radom route runs across it. The parish church is worth a visit. The building is quite recent, as it was constructed in the middle of the 20th century, and its designer was the famous architect Stefan Szyller. Inside you can see precious elements of the previous temple: a baroque baptismal font and side altars. Next to the church is a wooden bell tower from the 18th century.

In summer Białobrzegi is full of holidaymakers, who come to allotment gardens and resorts in the Pilica valley.

37.0 km

Holiday resorts stretch along the right bank.

40.0 km Brzeźce

Pilica gets near the steep scarp, from which it flowed away before Białobrzegi. The ridge rises over 20 m above the water level.

41.5 km Biejków bridge

To call it a ‘bridge’ is slightly exaggerated. The crossing over the Pilica is a challenge for the daring, even pedestrians tend to avoid it. Watch out over your head for falling beams. A project of renovating the road and bridge is under way.

44.0 km bridge on Branków route

46.5 km bridge in Budy Michałowskie

Stick to the right bank. On the same side you can see the forests of Majdan in the distance, where a reserve was established to protect the beautiful Alders and Oak-Hornbeam woods. Black storks are often seen in the area.

50.0 km Biała Góra

The village owes its name to a dune, which is an attractive view point. The forests close to the village shelter holiday resorts. A few islands are scattered on the river on which high alders grow. Fallen trees may block your way.

61.5 km Warka

The largest town along the route, situated on the left bank of the river. Passing under the railway bridge keep to the left. Below are the grounds a former waterside campsite of the Polish tourist society PTTK. A kilometre and a half away a road bridge crosses the Pilica. The current is artificially contracted at this point.

The city of 10 000 inhabitants is known chiefly for its brewery and as the birthplace of Kazimierz Pułaski, hero of two nations. Located along the busy trade route from Mazowsze to Małopolska, the Warka was granted municipal privileges in 1321. The city probably owes its name to the brewing tradition (‘warzyć’ is Polish for ‘to brew’), which was renown outside Mazovia. Legend has it that in the 16th century pope Clement VIII, who had once been the apostolic nuncio in Poland, took a fancy to the local beer. On his deathbed he was probably thirsty, as he supposedly whispered ‘Biera di Warka’. The priests gathered around the deathbed thought he had a saint in mind, so they intoned a prayer ‘Santa Biera di Warka ora pro nobis’. Hearing it, the ailing bishop of Rome burst out laughing, causing the perforation of his ulcer and, as a result, he started to recover.

Warka has preserved its historic urban layout. A small city hall stands by the square marketplace. On the scarp, next to the Kozienice road, is the parish church of St. Nicholas. It was constructed at the beginning of the 17th, but subsequent reconstructions deprived it of its initial style. Interesting late renaissance altars have been preserved inside. The most imposing building of Warka is the post-Franciscan monastery complex. The cellars of the baroque church hold a crypt of the dukes of Mazovia: Trojden I and Ziemowit II and Danuta Anna, spouse of Janusz I.

65.0 km Winiary

water tourismThe eastern part of the city, known as Winiary, a large park descends to the river. On the scarp is the so-called White Palace (Biały Pałac, now the Museum of Kazimierz Pułaski), designed by Augustyn Locci at the end of the 17th century. On March 4 1747 Kazimierz Pułaski, participant of the Bar confederation and the hero of the American revolutionary war, was born in Winiary. The museum gathers memorabilia related to Pułaski and other Poles who fought in the United States. Stylish furniture and carpets are also part of the exhibition. Interesting temporary exhibitions are organised on the first floor. Classical music concerts are also held here, though irregularly.

68.0 km Stara Warka

On the left bank of the Pilica archeologists came across the site of a fortified settlement, which probably evolved into the city of today, which lies several kilometres away. The steep scarp again gets near the water. It is cut by a large ravine, called the ravine of Czarniecki, to commemorate the battle fought by Polish troops against the Swedes in 1656.

69.5 km Boguszków, Pilica

On the right side is the village of Boguszków, while opposite it lies the Pilica, surrounded by orchards. The steep scarp curves to the north, forming the ridge of the Vistula valley.

71.0 km Rozniszew

On the edge of the meadows stands a neo-Gothic church. Past the village Trzebieński canal flows into the river from the right. The unfortunate investment built after the second world war made use of the old, medieval riverbed of the Vistula. In the distance on the right bank we can make out high dunes on which the village of Mniszew lies.

75.5 km Ostrołęka

The Home village of the medieval strongman Stanisław Ciołek. According to Jan Długosz, Ciołek pulled a bell up the Cracow Mariacki church, which forty men put together were unable to lift. Lovely meadows traversed by oxbow lakes extend across the right bank

79.0 km Mniszew

The trip comes to an end next to the bridge on the Warsaw-Kozienice route, on the right. If you’re not tired, take a look at the open air war museum, which occupies a small dune at the other end of the village. Between August 9 and August 16 1944 the area of Warka, Studzianki, Magnuszew and Mniszew was a theatre of fierce fights for the so-called Warka-Magnuszew bridgehead. Holding the westernmost position was to enable the joint forces of the Polish Army and the Red Army a further offensive to the west. The museum has slightly fallen into decline since its creation in the 1970s, yet it is still a favourite of young and old boys. A small pine forest shelters exhibits such as weapons and means of transport used during the fights. A network of trenches, dug-outs and wire entanglements was also recreated.

Useful tips

Check out their services:

Warka: Klub kajakowy Korek, ul. M. Konopnickiej 7, tel. 504 878 209,; equipment rental, canoe trips

Warka: Ster, ul. Mostowa 30, tel. (48) 667 22 81, 601 418 860,; canoe trips

Władysławów 11a k. Sochaczewa: Ekoturyzm, tel. 602 265 239,, equipment rental, canoe trips

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