The Hula Valley was once an important resting and “refueling” place for migrating birds on their annual trip from Europe to Africa and back. The lake and the swamps were home to tens of thousands of aquatic birds, along with many species of rare plants and fish, creating a wondrous world of flora and fauna.
Shortly after the establishment of the state of Israel, it was decided to drain the Hula swamp and lake which covered over 60,000 dunams (15,000 acres), to turn it into arable land, and in 1951, the project began. Scientists and nature-lovers in Israel worked hard to preserve at least part of the Hula waterscape, and indeed, a 3,200-dunam lake was kept as a nature reserve-- Israel’s first--officially inaugurated in 1964. Still, many species that lived here before the area was drained have become extinct.
Tens of thousands of birds of over 200 species, including cranes, storks, pelicans, cormorants and egrets, stay in the reserve, knowing they can find an abundance of food here and in the Hula Valley in general. The reserve also shelters rare aquatic plants, such as yellow flag, paper reed and white water-lily. Water buffalos graze in certain areas to preserve the open meadow environment. Species that have become extinct in the wild, such as the white-tailed eagle, are also reintroduced in the reserve.
The reserve has paths, a ‘floating bridge’ over the swamp, and blinds from which to observe the birds. The paths are wheelchair accessible.
In 1994, another phase of the rehabilitation of the Hula Valley was completed: 1,000 dunams of peat soil were re-flooded about two km north of the reserve, in an area that naturally filled with water after every winter because the sinking of the peat of the former lake bed. The re-flooding improves the quality of water in the Sea of Galilee by allowing it to “rest” - organic materials sink here that would otherwise flow southward and pollute the Sea of Galilee. The newly re-flooded area, Lake Agmon, is also rich in aquatic birds and plants, fostering several that had become extinct due to the draining of the swamp.
The Oforia Visitors Center
A great new attraction in the reserve, Oforia shows visitors a model of the Hula Valley, dioramas, and a multimedia foray into a flying flock of migrating birds, compete with exciting special effects. Visitors also enjoy a computerized quiz at the end of the show.
How to get there:
On the Rosh Pina-Kiryat Shmona road (no. 90), turn east 3 km after the Yesud Hama‘ala junction
Length of tour: 1-1.5 hours
Best season: year-round, each season with its special attractions
Don't miss: Oforia
Other facilities and attractions:Souvenir and book store, picnic area, wheelchair access.
Hours:Year-round: 8 A.M.-4 P.M; exit by 5 P.M.
Fridays and holiday eves: 8 A.M.
04-686-0114 (reservations for Oforia)
Fax / Email:04-695-9602
Entrance fee:Adult: NIS 35; child: NIS 18; Senior citizens: 18
Group rate (over 30 people): Adult: NIS 32; child: NIS 17
Entrance to dogs: No entrance to dogs
AccessibilityAll trails and lookouts, including the prime attraction
--the swamp trail--are wheelchair-accessible.