The Božídarské rašeliniště National Nature Reserve (Boží Dar Peat Bog) covers an area of almost 1,000 hectares and it is the largest nature reserve in the Karlovy Vary Region. The nature reserve has been under protection since 1965 and it has been accessible by a nature trail since 1977. The nature reserve embraces several peat bogs, mountain meadows, heaths, and forest stands at an elevation of about 1,000 metres above sea level.
The unique environment creates a beautiful and quite impressive landscape, which is the result of long-term and variegated historical exploitation – i.e. forest and agricultural management, non-ferrous metal and peat mining. The peat bog is a biotope which is home to a large number of endangered wild flora and fauna species.
The peat bog itself was formed on the site of water effluents where water was retained in ponds and swamps. After the end of the last ice age, the site was gradually overgrown with bog flora, such as sedge (Carex), bent-grass (Juncus), and reed (Phragmites). Presently, peat moss (Sphagnum) appeared, the upper part of which can grow several centimetres a year, while its lower part is dying-off in the water due to lack of air. In the subsequent phase, peat moss was slowly replaced by bushes, such as heath (Calluna), black crowberry (Empetrum nigrum), blueberry (Vaccinium myrtillus), cowberry (Vaccinium vitis-idaea), bog bilberry (Vaccinium), etc. At present, the ponds are overgrown with vegetation only at a few locations in the nature reserve and the larger part of the peat bog is covered with dwarf mountain pine (Pinus x pseudopumilio) stands, which is the first signal that the peat formation process has been completed. The site was home to a great variety of peat moss species and we may still find 24 different peat moss species.
Peat mining activities began in the 18th century. Initially, the peat bog was clear-cut and dewatered by means of a rectangular network of drainage canals. The water was then drained off through the main ditch. Blocks of turf (peat) were extracted manually. Peat mining ultimately ended during World War II. Some of the former mining sites are currently under water.
Most valuable species in scientific terms include dwarf mountain pine stands on peat bogs, bog spruce forests, as well as significant bryophyte and lichen species. A botanical rarity of the peat bog is the bog birch (Betula nana) also known as dwarf birch. It is an ancient species considered as a remnant of the last ice age on Czech territory by dendrologists. The dwarf birch can grow only up to 1 metre in height and today, it is a species typical for northern tundras. On our territory, where the temperature increased significantly, the dwarf birch has survived only in areas where it was not forced out by other plant species. An interesting fact is that the dwarf birch mainly grows around the edges of former turf mining sites. Apart from the dwarf birch, another relic of the last ice age is a frequent small rodent, i.e. the European field vole (Microtus agrestis).
Most interesting in zoological terms, is the critically endangered Menetries ground beetle (Carabus menetriesi), which, apart from the Boží Dar Peat Bog, may be found only at two other locations in the Czech Republic.
A plank path covers the more muddy parts of the nature trail, which leads through the peat bog. The thickness of the peat layer along the nature trail ranges from 50 cm up to 4 m. Unfortunately, the nature trail is currently closed, due to the poor condition of the plank paths.