Home Republic of Srpska Rafting in Foča: Exploring Europe’s deepest canyon

Rafting in Foča: Exploring Europe’s deepest canyon


Rafting on the Tara River, flowing through the deepest canyon in Europe, and further down the Drina River, initially on wooden rafts and later on rubber boats, has become one of the most important economic activities in the Foča municipality. Its unique aspect lies in its origin from another economic activity – forestry, boasting a century-old tradition.

The Old Herzegovina Museum in Foča preserves records indicating that the first group of tourists, hailing from Germany and England, embarked on a journey down the Drina River on wooden rafts in 1923. Even before that year, there were individual descents by Austro-Hungarian officials eager to explore the unique landscape and enjoy the thrilling ride through foamy rapids.

As early as the 19th century, during the Austro-Hungarian occupation, timber extraction began in the mountains surrounding Foča. With no developed road network or railways, logs were transported by river.

From where they were felled in the mountains, logs were lowered to the shore using pulleys or ramps, then connected into rafts with ropes and large hooks. An average raft was six meters wide and twenty meters long, capable of holding 25 to 100 logs.

They were maneuvered using “dumenovi” – fixed large wooden oars on both sides of the vessel. Logs were sent down the river without being bound together, accompanied by rafts manned by “triftari” who used “capins” to skillfully regulate river traffic in case of jams.

The timber was transported downstream to sawmills along the Drina, with the first one being the Varda sawmill in Višegrad.

Over time, people began to travel on these rafts out of curiosity, with officials and high-ranking officers of the Austro-Hungarian occupation being among the first. However, the first recorded tourists arrived in 1923 when groups of English and German tourists specifically visited the Foča region, as recounted by local historian Danko Mihajlović.

The skilled “triftari” transported the timber to Foča and Višegrad. With the unification into the Kingdom of Yugoslavia and the removal of the border on the Drina, rafts would travel further down the Sava River to Belgrade.

The journey to Višegrad took five hours during high water levels, seven hours during average levels, and up to ten hours during low water levels, with around 1,200 rafts descending annually.

These rafters, engaging in physically demanding work for generations, acquired great skill. Many of them couldn’t swim, leading to place names along the Tara like “Milića pošta,” “Lazni kamen,” and “Sobov kamen,” bearing witness to the dangers of this occupation, in which many lost their lives.

Photo: Drina-tara rafting
Source: Radio Foča


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