The national park is located in the central Negev, south of Midreshet Ben Gurion, and north of Avdat National Park, to the east of Road 40. There are two entrances to the park: the lower entrance, on the road that branches off the road to Midreshet Ben Gurion (at the beginning of which is the entrance to the Tsinim Cliffs), and the upper entrance on the road branching off Road 40 between Midreshet Ben Gurion and Avdat. The hiking path at the site is not circular. It is possible to walk from the lower entrance to the En Avdat waterfall and back, but to hike the complete trail it is necessary to be prepared in advance with a vehicle in the upper parking lot, and to follow the trail ascending from the lower entrance to the upper entrance.
En Ma'arif lookout point: overlooking the head of the Tsin Stream canyon. The view is particularly impressive when the stream is in full flow, and it is possible to see the cascading waterfall from a safe distance, and the water being swallowed up in the depths of the canyon. When the stream is in flow, the hiking trail along the canyon is closed to visitors.
En Avdat National Park encompasses the Tsin Stream, at the north-western end of the Tsinim Cliffs – a long escarpment that rises to a height of 100 m or more, between Avdat Heights and the Tsin Valley. The park covers an area of 4,800 dunams. It was declared in 1972 (including the family grave of David and Paula Ben Gurion).
Reasons for declaration:
The En Avdat oasis is one of the loveliest in Israel. Thanks to its size and location in the heart of the desert, it is an important site for desert wildlife, first and foremost the ibexes, while the steep and inaccessible cliffs are the most important nesting site for vultures in the Negev mountains. In addition to the wildlife and the water, there are vast cliffs here, and also the archaeological remains of the monks' settlements.
This is one of the last sites in Israel where there is a nesting colony of vultures. The nesting colony is very sensitive to nearby human activity, and in order to limit the disturbance, about a decade ago the route of the Ma'ale Divshon trail in the national park was diverted. Today, the trail is further from the canyon, and there is less disturbance to the wildlife in the area.
The Nature and Parks Authority regularly monitors the vultures' nesting site in the nature reserve.
Cave mouths can be seen in the canyon cliffs. In the Byzantine period, these caves were inhabited by monks. At the time, the nearby town of Avdat was an important Christian center, and it can be assumed that proximity to the town and the abundance of water in the area offered fertile ground for wide-scale religious activity. Some of the monks lived a life of asceticism. Others prayed and lived in seclusion in the course of the week, only meeting at weekends for a communal meal and religious ceremonies.
The Tsin Stream canyon carves through hard, white limestone strata from the Eocene period, layered with flint benches in shades of brown and black. Between these strata are water-storing clay and marlstone layers. Rocks with travertine deposits and prehistoric sites are evidence that the canyon and this formation date back some 45,000 years.
Until recent years the usual explanation was that the canyon was formed in a process of stream capture, that is, the Tsin Stream tipping back because of the Dead Sea Valley, whose development caused the upper courses of the Besor Stream to be diverted to the Tsin Valley. Today, the explanation is that the Tsin Stream was diverted to the Tsin Valley when the Halukim Ridge rose up. A hint of this can be seen in the remains of the ancient stream crossing the Sde Tsin plain near the national park.
The national park is cradled in the course of the Tsin Stream, and within the park are three springs – En Ma'arif (at the foot of the upper waterfall at the head of the canyon), En Avdat (in the center of the canyon), and En Mor (where the canyon opens out into Tsin Valley).
A profusion of water plants grow along the banks of the brook, prominent among them the Euphrates poplar tree (Populus euphratica). Also worthy of mention are the tamarisks (Tamarix), the shrubby saltbushes (Atriplex halimus), salt trees (Nitraria retusa), and also sustainable herbaceous plants - the common reed (Phragmites australis), lesser bulrush (Typha domingensis), and sea rush (Juncus maritimus). Moist walls sustain maidenhair ferns (Adiantum capillus-veneris) and varieties of lichen, while algae grow in the pond water. On the dry slopes away from the flowing water are shrubs of the Chenopodiaceae and Zygophyllaceae families, such as the bushy bean caper (Zygophyllum dumosum) and varieties of saltwort (Salsola). In the northern part of the canyon stands a single Mt Atlas mastic tree (Pistacia atlantica), which is around 250 years old, the survivor of a time when the climate was rainier than it is today.
The most noticeable animals in the national park are the ibexes and vultures, but also nesting in the cliffs are rock doves (Columba livia) (today genetically mixed with the domestic pigeon (Columba livia domestica)), and other birds – the sand partridge (Ammoperdix heyi), partridge (Alectoris), Arabian babbler (Turdoides squamiceps), rock martin (Ptyonoprogne fuligula), and others. Prominent among the mammals is the sand rat (Psammomys obesus), a rodent that feeds on the saltbushes in the area.
How to get here: On Road 40 (Beersheba – Mitspe Ramon). The lower entrance to En Avdat is close to the Ben Gurion family grave and Midreshet Sde Boker. The upper entrance is some 5 km south.
Length of visit: 1 – 2 hours
Best season: All year round
Don't miss: The view from the terrace by the upper entrance gate to the national park.
Other attractions: Dog-sitting facility, souvenir shop, hiking equipment, information point, and kiosk.
Last entry to the park is one hour before closing timeSummer:Sunday - Thursday and Saturday – 8 am – 5 pm Fridays and the eve of holidays – 8 am – 4 pm
Winter:Sunday - Thursday and Saturday – 8 am – 4 pm Fridays and the eve of holidays – 8 am – 3 pm On the eve of New Year, the eve of the Day of Atonement, and Passover eve: 8 am – 1 pm
Telephone: 08-6555684, 08-6554418 Fax: 08-6570536
Individuals: Adult - NIS 28, child - NIS 14Student: NIS 24Group (over 30): Adult - NIS 23, child - NIS 13
Dogs may not be brought in to the park; there is a dog-sitting facility.
In the En Avdat National Park adaptations to make the site accessible to people with disabilities are being made. Adaptations currently in place include: