Amud Stream Nature Reserve

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​In Nahal Amud Nature Reserve there is a combination of a unique form of nature and human heritage, including a perennial stream, rock pools, the lush vegetation characteristic of riverbanks, flour mills, and prehistoric caves.

Main points of interest

Upper Nahal Amud:

  • En Tina police station – an old building intended to guard the pumping station
  •  En Yakim – a plentiful spring that flows all year round
  • The orchard - reconstruction of the typical orchard of traditional agriculture
  • The Sekhvi Pools – clear water pools  

 

Lower Nahal Amud:

  • Prehistoric caves with finds from the earliest period of human  history
  • The "Amud"
  • A lofty cliff on which raptors nest
  • The En Shavshevet and En Amud springs
  • Chera lookout point

Main points of interest in detail:

Upper Nahal Amud:

  •  En Tina police station - an abandoned, concrete building, pocked by bullets, built by the British during the "Arab Revolt" (1936-1939). The building was intended to guard the pumping station at En Yakim - the spring that rises at the foot of the hillside. Entering the building is prohibited because of the risk of collapse.
  • En Yakim – a plentiful spring that flows all year round. There is a Mandate-era fortified pumping station.  These pumps brought water up from the spring to Safed. As a result of pressure by the Nature and Parks Authority, pumping from the spring stopped in 1995 and all the spring water now flows into the stream. Near the spring is a large walnut tree. The name of the spring commemorates the Yakim watch – Yakim was one of the priestly families that moved to Galilee after the destruction of the Second Temple. Leading from the spring is an aqueduct that in the past served all the flour mills along the spring, and the orchards.
  • The orchard – a reconstruction of the traditional agriculture that was common along the stream.
  • The Sekhvi Pools – the place where the Sekhvi and Amud streams come together, forming small, shallow pools of clear water, shaded by tall plane trees. A small spring also rises here. In the open area by the pools are the remains of a flour mill. 

 

Lower Nahal Amud:

Prehistoric caves with finds from the earliest period of human  history

  • Nahal Amud cave - a gaping cave mouth some 30 m above the Amud cliff. Tens of thousands of years ago, the riverbed was higher and the cave was closer to the flowing water. Today, there is no path leading to the cave and therefore visitors may not climb up to it. In 1961, a Japanese archaeological expedition excavated in the Amud cave and found human remains from the Mousterian culture (50,000 to 70,000 years ago). The expedition returned to the cave in 1964, and found an almost complete skeleton of a man, buried lying on his side and bent up. This man was 1.70 m tall, and his skull was exceptionally large in volume: 1,750 cm³ - the largest ever found anywhere among human fossils. Parts of the skull were missing, and scientists were divided over whether this was the skeleton of modern man or Neanderthal man. The riddle was solved 30 years later. In further excavations carried out in the cave, the skeleton of a 10-month-old baby was found. The skeleton was covered by the jawbone of a deer, and so the bones were kept together until our times. This skeleton was of enormous importance, because it was possible to identify the characteristics of Neanderthal man: the massive lower jawbone, the absence of a chin, and an elliptical depression at the base of the skull, where it joined the spine. These are not characteristic of modern man, and the fact that they were found in the baby's skeleton tells us that they are genetic qualities typical of the type of human found in Nahal Amud.
  • The Skull Cave (Zuttiyeh Cave) - a sign put up by the Nature and Parks Authority prohibits entry to the cave for fear of harming rare populations of microbats living in it, but an impression can be gained from the outside. The Skull Cave is the place where, in 1925, prehistoric research began in the land of Israel. In the cave Francis Turville-Petre, the pioneer of this research, discovered a human skull that was determined to belong to what became known as "Galilee Man". Galilee Man lived in the area more than 350,000 years ago. 
  • The Amud – the Amud is an impressive limestone pillar rising to a height of 20 m, after which the stream is named. Processes of erosion separated the upright pillar from the adjacent cliff, and it stands alone in the channel of the stream. Many visitors climb it and marvel at the beauty of the site.
  • A lofty cliff on which raptors nest – in 1864 the priest and naturalist Henry Baker Tristram described the nests of hundreds of vultures, several bearded vultures, lanner falcons and rock doves on the cliffs of the Amud Stream. In the past, Bonelli's eagles also nested in the cliffs. Even today, although many of the raptors around the country have been harmed, the cliffs offer an important nesting site. In December 2010, up to 50 vultures were observed spending the nights on the Amud Stream cliffs, as well as other passing birds of prey such as the cinereous vulture and the golden eagle. That year, nine vultures' nests were built there. Other species of birds of prey nesting or staying around the Amud Stream cliffs are the long-legged buzzard, the lesser kestrel, the common kestrel, Bonelli's eagle, the Egyptian vulture, the cinereous vulture, and the snake eagle.  
  • En Shavshevet and En Amud Springs – En Amud is a seasonal spring, emerging from limestone rocks formed in the Eocene. Its waters attract invertebrates, such as the red dragonfly and the blue dragonfly. Toad tadpoles also develop at the spring. En Shavshevet acquired its name from the weathervane erected there by members of Kibbutz Hukok in the 1950s. The weathervane was constructed as part of the attempt to draw water from the spring into a trough to water the animals, using wind power. Above the spring is the Nahal Amud site, where there are finds from the Neolithic through to the Byzantine periods.
  • Tsera Lookout Point – named after Zvi Tzur, who was CEO of the Mekorot Water Co. between 1964 – 1967. During his tenure, Mekorot began operating the National Water Carrier. The lookout point has a view of the siphon through which the National Carrier crosses the Amud Stream, passing over a 150 m deep channel. In this section, the water is carried through steel pipes. After going down the northern bank of the stream, it then goes up again onto the other bank without the need for any input of energy (the law of communicating vessels). The pipe is some 700 m long, and has a diameter of 3.10 m, and is laid in a channel carved in the cliff, 5 m deep and 10 m wide. The pipe is covered with concrete in the form of stairs. 

Identity card

Status: The nature reserve was declared in 1972.


Reasons for declaration: 

  • The channel of a perennial stream passes through the reserve, with developed riverbank vegetation. The springs arising in the area of the reserve and the stream that flows through it are important habitats for wetland wildlife, and especially amphibians, whose breeding grounds in Israel have been severely damaged.
  • The cliffs of the stream are nesting sites for birds of prey.  
  • In the Amud Stream and its tributaries there is a transition from developed Mediterranean woodland vegetation at an elevation of 1,000 m on Mt Meron, to the open savannah of eastern Lower Galilee at 200 m, with the characteristic flora and fauna.
  • The different reserves declared along the length of the Amud Stream are part of an important north-south ecological corridor, and a continuum of natural areas preserved along and around the stream, allowing the passage of animals and contact between their populations in Upper and Lower Galilee.

 

Geographic location:

Upper Galilee and Lower Galilee. The Amud Stream crosses the eastern part of Upper Galilee and Lower Galilee and flows into the Sea of Galilee at Ginosar Valley, to the south of Tel Kinnerot.

 

Lookout points: At the start of the trail it is possible to see Safed and the Meron Hills.

​​Activities of the Nature and Parks Authority

The Nahal Amud Nature Reserve is one of the most visited in Israel. The most popular part is Upper Nahal Amud, where the water flows year-round. A network of hiking trails crosses the reserve, with a total length of 40 km. Two of the most important trails in Israel pass through the reserve: the Israel Trail and the Sea to Sea Trail.  

  • Overnight campground – at the entrance to the nature reserve, the Nature and Parks Authority operates an organized campground, with water, washroom facilities, lighting, and garbage disposal, for the benefit of visitors. The campground has room for 1,000 people.
  • Wildlife surveys – the Nature and Parks Authority maintains a system for monitoring the bat populations, and also counts the Palestine mountain gazelle population and the vultures, holds surveys of birds, a multi-year survey of mammals using special cameras, and a survey of raptor nests, and monitors grazing.
  • Plant surveys – the Nature and Parks Authority regularly monitors the vegetation in the nature reserve, in order to track the state of the plants and the effect of grazing, as well as carrying out periodic surveys of rare plants.
  • Conservation of the remains of human heritage – the Nature and Parks Authority has restored orchards in the nature reserve, near En Yakim. The Authority is also taking steps to conserve the flour mill and the ancient fulling mills along the stream. 

Wildlife

Wildlife at the nature reserve is very plentiful, thanks to the abundance of water, the vegetation, and the lofty cliffs.
At Nahal Amud Nature Reserve and in the surrounding area a continuum of open spaces has been left, allowing the stable existence of diverse populations of animals. Within the reserve there is a large population of wild boar (Sus scrofa), and a stable population of Palestine mountain gazelles (Gazella gazella) numbering around 100 individual, as well as hyenas (Hyaena), wolves (Canis lupus), jackals (Canis aureus), weasels (Mustela), mongooses (Herpestes), porcupines (Hystrix), martens (Martes), European badgers (Meles meles), red foxes (Vulpes vulpes), rock hyraxes (Procavia capensis), various species of rodents, and a few species of bats.

Many reptiles live in the river, and it is an important breeding ground for the Near Eastern fire salamander (Salamandra infraimmaculata), the Middle Eastern tree frog (Hyla savignyi), and the marsh frog (Pelophylax ridibundus) of the amphibian group, a group that is in danger of extinction due to a serious loss of wetland habitats in Israel.

The ornithological world by the stream is also very rich: in the thickets and open scrub a large selection of songbirds can be found; birds of prey such as the long-legged buzzard ( Buteo rufinus), lesser kestrel (Falco naumanni), Bonelli's eagle (Aquila fasciata), Egyptian vulture (Neophron percnopterus), and common kestrel (Falco tinnunculus) nest or stay in the cliffs of the stream; and the snake eagle (Circaetus) nests in the well-developed trees. In the past, the nesting grounds here housed some 40 vultures (Gyps), and cinereous vultures (Aegypius monachus) and horned owls (Bubo) were also seen here. In the niches, the red-rumped swallow (Cecropis daurica), Alpine swift (Tachymarptis melba), and little swift (Apus affinis) hatch their eggs.

Recently, the wall creeper (Tichodroma muraria) has been observed in the cliffs of Lower Nahal Amud, and in the limestone cliffs lives a species of endemic snail called the Arbel cristataria (Cristataria genezerethana).

Swimming in the creek is the Levantine scraper (Capoeta damascina) - a fish that in the Amud Stream reaches a length of 20 cm. Its upper lip overhangs its lower lip, hence its Hebrew name. This fish is capable of swimming against the current, and even up small waterfalls. The springs offer a base for a wide range of invertebrates, including river crabs (Potamon potamios), damselflies (Zygoptera) and dragonflies (Anisoptera), and primitive crustaceans (Branchiopoda ).

Flora

A profusion of dense and developed Mediterranean woodland in the upper part of the stream, and open woodland in the lower part, near the Sea of Galilee.
Along the entire length of the Amud Stream and its tributaries there are around a dozen plant communities, and the transitions between them are very sharp, and can easily be distinguished according to the changes in rock surface, geomorphology, and elevation. The plant communities are Mediterranean, but are under the arid influence of the east of the country. There are a number of communities of Palestine oak (Quercus calliprinos) here, accompanied by terebinths (Pistacia Palaestina), Eastern strawberry trees (Arbutus andrachne), carobs (Ceratonia silique), and officinal styrax (Styrax officinalis); a park forest of Mt Tabor's oak (Quercus ithaburensis) accompanied by Mt Atlas mastic trees (Pistacia atlantica) or  small-leafed almonds (Amygdalus korschinskii), with abundant leafy shrub alongside; a savanna-type community of Christ's thorn jujube (Ziziphus spina-christi) and jujubes (Ziziphus lotus); and communities of bushes – buckthorn (Rhamnus lycioides), shrubby rest-harrow (Ononis natrix),  and sideritis (Sideritis). The cliff vegetation is characterized by species that are unique to cliffs, some of them rare, such as the centaury (Centaurea speciose) and pendulous carnation (Dianthus pendulus), with their glowing pink flowers, rosularia (Rosularia lineata), and varieties of bellflower (campanula). Among the abundant plant life in the nature reserve are over 50 species of rare plants, some of them endemic, unique to Israel.

In the channel of the stream is vegetation typically found in flowing water. In the upper part of the stream, where the climate is relatively moist and water flows all year round, there is a developed riverbank forest of Oriental plane trees (Platanus orientalis) and brook willow (Salix acmophylla). These are accompanied by hedges of holy bramble (Rubus sanguineus), with its tasty summer fruit, and other plants such as horse mint (Mentha longifolia), lilac chaste tree (Vitex agnus-castus), and oleander (Nerium oleander). In the shallow and slow-flowing water, fool's watercress (Apium nodiflorum) and true watercress (Nasturtium officinale) grow. By En Yakim, the nature reserve staff are cultivating an orchard of fruit trees in a traditional terraced agriculture structure.

In the winter and spring, the hillsides ranging down to the stream are covered with a breathtaking carpet of bulbs and tubers, such as the Persian cyclamen (Cyclamen persicum), crown anemone (Anemone coronaria), wild hyacinth (Hyacinthus orientalis), common asphodel (Asphodelus ramosus), hyacinth squill (Scilla hyacinthoides), rough-leaved Michauxia (Michauxia campanuloides), yellow asphodel (Asphodeline lutea), and Persian fritillary (Fritillaria persica). All these are joined in spring by many annuals in a rainbow of colors. In late fall, a dense show of narcissi appears among the rocks of Upper Nahal Amud.  On the rugged slopes that go down to the stream there are isolated green pillow-like patches of common myrtle (Myrtus communis).

History and archeology

In the nature reserve are ruins of flour mills and fulling mills - evidence of the wool industry that flourished in Safed in the past, and also caves that belonged to the unique prehistoric "Galilee Man".

There is a great variety of sites in the area of the Amud Stream and its tributaries, only some of which have been explored in an orderly archaeological excavation. In this region there are prehistoric caves, a fortified settlement from the beginning of the Bronze Age, sites at which Iron Age finds have been made, a considerable number of sites containing finds from the Hellenistic period, foremost among them the temple on Mt Mitzpe Hayamim, representing the pagan population that lived in Galilee until the Hasmonean conquest, sites where Jewish settlements were built after the Hasmonean conquest, such as Kfar Hananiya, and later sites from the Byzantine period, the Early Arab period and the Late Arab period.

Upper Nahal Amud - in the upper part of the nature reserve, in a 2.5 km long section of the stream, 18 of the total of 26 flour mills along the entire length of the stream are to be found. The cluster of flour mills in this section of the stream is the biggest in the country, apparently because of the proximity to the city of Safed. Alongside the ruins of the mills are also the remains of bridges and aqueducts leading to the mills, which are in various stages of collapse. Therefore, the Nature and Parks Authority has recently completed conservation work on the flour mills in the nature reserve. The mills appear to have started operating in the 16th century and were in operation until the 20th century, when modern technology replaced water power.

Some of the buildings were used as fulling mills in the 16th century. After the expulsion from Spain (1492) the Jews brought a new technology to Safed, which helped them to produce good quality woolen cloth. This production process involved beating the wool forcefully (fulling). The Jews of Safed built fulling mills operated by the water power of the Amud Stream, which they called 'batan' (from the Arabic word for 'to beat'). The golden age of the Safed fulling mills lasted only three or four generations, after which the mills were converted to regular flour mills.

 

Lower Nahal Amud – the Dovecote, Amud, Skull (Zuttiyeh) and Amira caves, in the lower part of the stream, are the most important caves for the study of prehistory in the land of Israel and the Middle East.

In 1925-1926, Turville-Petre excavated in the Amira and Zuttiyeh caves, and at the beginning of the 1960s the Amud cave was excavated by a Japanese expedition, and the Dovecote cave was excavated by the American Binford.

In 1973 Bar-Yosef and Gisis renewed the excavation in the Zuttiyeh cave.

In the caves, strata of the dwellings of prehistoric man were found, dated to 150,000 years ago. The skull fragment found in the Zuttiyeh cave is the earliest of its kind known today in Israel, and it is attributed to the transition stage between Neanderthal man and homo sapiens, a stage that is now called archaic homo sapiens.

Geology and geomorphology

The Amud Stream overcomes a height difference of 1000 m, crosses many different strata of rock, and on its way to the Sea of Galilee, creates an impressive ravine of vertical cliffs.

 At its starting point, the Amud Stream burrows through the seam between the soft chalk rocks of the Safed Hills (Senonian period) and the  hard dolomitic limestone of Mt Meron (Cenomanian period). The stream follows the seam line, and so it flows from north to south, unlike most of the streams in Israel which flow from west to east. In this area the stream forms a shallow channel, creating an important corridor for the passage of wildlife species from north to south.

The stream then pushes through the hard limestone from the Upper Cenomanian period. The channels of the Sekhvi, Meron, Seter and Shamay streams drain into this area, creating a ravine whose walls rise to a height of 150 m above the stream bed.

The lower part of the Amud Stream passes between the hard limestone rocks from the middle Eocene period. This rock forms vertical cliffs on either side of the stream bed. Karstic activity taking place along the fault lines caused dissolution of the rocks and the formation of large caves, in which prehistoric finds of great importance were found. Here too stands the isolated rock pillar ('amud') that gives the stream its name. En Amud rises near the pillar, a seasonal spring whose waters flow in winter into a creek that is a few hundred meters in length.

In Ginosar Valley, which is entirely cultivated, the Amud Stream appears as a channel until it pours into the Sea of Galilee. 

Hydrology

In the upper part of the stream there are springs that form a perennial stream, as well as seasonal springs.

The Amud Spring has flowing water all year round. The drainage basin of the stream covers an area of 125 km², and includes the eastern slopes of Mt Meron, Ramat Dalton, the Safed hills, and the Levanim ridge. Average rainfall in the plateau areas of the nature reserve is around 750 mm a year, and in winter some 2 million m³ of water flow in the stream. En Yakim rises in the Meron Stream, close to the point at which it meets the Amud Stream. In the past, the spring water was pumped and sent to Safed, but today it flows into the stream. After a protracted fight, in 2008 En Meron was also "released" into the stream. Within the nature reserve smaller springs also rise, some of them seasonal, like En Seter and En Amud. Before the establishment of the state En Po'em spring was called En A'Jinn (the Devil's Spring). In the summer, the spring dries up completely, and after an internal pool in the rock in the belly of the earth fills up, the spring erupts with a burst of water, hence its Hebrew name of En Po'em (the beating flow). Although En Koves, on the outskirts of Safed, is outside the official area of the nature reserve, its waters flow into it.

The National Water Carrier crosses Lower Nahal Amud in a siphon pipe. The siphon is camouflaged in order to minimize its impact on the landscape.

how to get there:

 Entry to Upper Nahal Amud:

From Road 866, between Hananya Junction and Meron Junction, between km 41 - 42, 2 km north of Kfar Shamay.
The upper part of the stream is a reserve open to visitors, and charges an entrance fee.

Visitors entering the Amud Stream from other entrances are requested to pay on exit.   

 

Entry to Lower Nahal Amud:

Entrance is permitted from Road 85 (Ako—Ami'ad), through a passage under the road near the Nahal Amud campground. There is an organized parking lot.

 

It is also possible to enter the nature reserve from Road 8007 (the access roads to Hukok and Levanim) at the point where the road crosses the stream, and here too there is an organized parking lot. Another entrance to the nature reserve is from the Roman bridge at the south-eastern point of the stream, where the stream joins the Israel Trail. 

 

There is no entry to the nature reserve from Hukok and Kahal, or from Chera Lookout Point.

 

For reasons of nature conservation, visitors may stay in the nature reserve from one hour after sunrise until one hour before sunset, and hiking is permitted only in daylight hours. 

 

Length of visit: 3 hours

 

Best season: All year round, especially in spring 
  

Don't miss:

Nahal Amud campground, suitable for families - chemical toilets, water faucets and organized parking

 

Other attractions:

In the nature reserve there is a kiosk and an information center offering advice about the trails around the stream

 

Important notice

Because of development work being carried out on Road 85, a safe passage has been marked and fenced for hikers crossing under the road along the Amud Stream trail / Israel Trail.

Please take care to follow the route that has been marked and signed for hikers!

 

Opening hours

Winter:

Sunday to Thursday and Saturday, entry to the long trail – 8 am – 1 pm

Entry to the short trail – 8 am – 2 pm

The nature reserve closes at 4 pm

 

On Fridays and the eve of holidays, the nature reserve closes at 3 pm

Summer:

Sunday to Thursday and Saturday, entry to the long trail – 8 am – 2 pm

Entry to the short trail – 8 am – 3 pm

Last entry to the trails is at 3 pm, and on Fridays on the eve of holidays – 2 pm 

 

On Fridays and the eve of holidays, the nature reserve closes at 4 pm

 

 On the eve of New Year, the eve of the Day of Atonement, and Passover eve: 8 am – 1 pm

 

Contact us


Telephone:
04-6999984

Entrance fee

Adult – NIS 28, child – NIS 14

Group (over 30): Adult – NIS 23, child – NIS 13

Student - NIS 24

 Overnight camping

Prices for overnight camping:

Regular:  Adult – NIS 42, child – NIS 32 

Subscribers:  Adult – NIS 27, child – NIS 22 

Students - NIS 25 

Field studies - NIS 20 (minimum 2 nights, by prior arrangement)


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    Amud River