Hermon Stream (Banias) Nature Reserve

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The largest waterfall in Israel is in the Nahal Hermon Nature Reserve (Banyas).  Above the year-round flow of water there is a "hanging trail", where unique remains of human legacy can be found.

points of interest


  • The Banyas waterfall
  • The hanging trail
  • The shrine and cave of Pan
  • The Matruf flour mill
 

points of interest in details:

  • The Banyas Waterfall - the Banyas is the most powerful waterfall in Israel - it falls 10 meters with enormous force and noise into a beautiful pool surrounded by vegetation.  You can view the waterfall (and get wet from the splashing water) from the well-built wooden boardwalk.  The noise of the flowing water and the spectacular sight make this a most enjoyable experience.
  • The Hanging Trail - the Nature and Parks Authority has made part of the stream accessible by means of the "hanging trail", 100 meters long, along which you can walk close to the rushing waters.
  • The Shrine and Cave of Pan - close to the Banyas spring a broad pathway of steps ascends to the Cave of Pan.  The five niches cut into the cliff next to the cave are the remains of the shrine of the Greek god Pan, for which the place is named - Panyas (in Arabic - Banyas).  At the front of the cave there are the remains of a temple built by King Herod to the god Pan.
  • The Matruf Flour Mill - this is an active flour mill which still serves the villagers of Mas'ada and En Kiniya, and there are other ruined flour mills along the stream (the Um Ra'i mill near Nahal Sa'ar, and the Al-Mahadeh and Sab'ah mills near the waterfall), with Roman and Crusader architectural remains.

     

    Observation Points

  • From the observation point you can see the strong flow of water in the steep basalt gorge of the Banyas stream.  The gorge contains rapids and waterfalls, including the Banyas waterfall - the strongest and most impressive of Israel's waterfalls - which drops with great force from a height of 10 meters.
  • The Hanging Trail built of steel frames and a solid boardwalk, about 100 meters long, makes it possible to experience the rushing waters at close hand, to see them from above and to be impressed by the vegetation growing on the banks and the unique rocks of the gorge.

     

    Identity card

    Status: 

    The Nahal Hermon (Banyas) was declared a nature reserve in 1977.


    Reasons for the declaration:
  • Its high scenery value and importance for the continuous and undisturbed supply of water to the Jordan hydrological system.
  • The interface of different types of rocks:  dolomite, basalt and travertine, creating a rich diversity of habitats.  The great importance of preserving the sequence of these habitats.
  • Preservation of the archeological site containing the remains of the ancient city of Panyas.


    Location in Israel: 

    Eastern Upper Galilee, at the foot of Mount Hermon, at the meeting point of the Golan and the Hula Valley.

     

    Activities the Nature and Parks Authority​

The Nature and Parks Authority has taken action to preserve the biological diversity in the reserve, while eradicating some invasive plants growing there, among them the margoza tree, the silver poplar and the castor bush.

The Authority monitors the quality of the water in the reserve, especially the unique exotic habitats created there due to the range of water qualities and its constant low temperature.

In 2010 the Authority developed the "hanging trail" walking route, above the rushing flow of water, which enhances the visitor's experience at the place.

Recently, the Authority, jointly with the Antiquities Authority, executed preservation works in the Crusader city of Banyas, among them preserving the southern Crusader gate and opening the gate house to visitors. 

 

Fauna


Nahal Hermon is rich in animal species, and is unique for its animal populations some of which come from Africa and some from Europe.  Among them are some rare species, such as the Hermon snail (Helix pachya), the red salamander (Pseudotriton ruber), the common pipistrelle (small European bat), otters and rock hyrax.

The Banyas nature reserve is rich in animal species and constitutes a meeting place between northern species, such as the otter, and southern species such as the rock hyrax.  The latter is one of the most widely distributed animals in the reserve, and in winter whole families can be seen sunning themselves on the large rock falls.

Some of the animals in the reserve are defined as endangered species, among them the red salamander and the common pipistrelle.

Of the mammals, there are deer, foxes, badgers and others, and among the nocturnal animals are the wild boar, jackals, martens, Mt. Hermon field mouse (Apodemus hermonensis), as well as many kinds of rodents and bats.

The bat population that hunts for food in the Banyas springs area is particularly rich in insect-eating species;  bat studies conducted by the Authority in the last decade found 11 varieties of bats.

Among the birds flocks of rock pigeons can be seen nesting in the nooks and crannies of the cave of the spring.  The common kestrel (Falco tinnunculus) and the rock thrush are also well represented.  Many warblers live among the vegetation on the banks of the gorge, among them the bush warbler, the black-headed Sardinian warbler (Sylvia melanocephala), the wren (Troglodytes troglodytes) and the graceful prinia (Prinia gracilis).

In the water of the stream live many animals, some of them in greater numbers than in other places due to the quality and temperature of the water.  Among the species of fish found here are the Levantine scraper (Capoeta damascina), which propagates in the "officers' pool" where the water temperature is higher than in other parts of the stream; the Jordan loach (Nemacheilus insignis), Garra rufa (also known as the "doctor fish" and "nibble fish"), as well as snails, such as the Melanopsis snail and Theodoxis Jordani. The Hermon Snail, the largest of Israel's snails, also lives in the nature reserve.  This snail disappeared from the Banyas at one time, probably due to amateur collecting, but its population was restored to the area in 1999.

 

Flora

 

Along the stream grow Oriental plane trees and the common willow, and on the slope there are oak trees, Officinal Storax ("Snowdrop bush"), and a variety of Mediterranean woodlands and scrub plants that change with the seasons.
The glory of Nahal Hermon is its river-bank woodland, the principal trees of which are the Oriental plane tree, the common willow, the Syrian ash tree (Fraxinus syriaca) and the European nettle tree also known as the Mediterranean hackberry (Celtis australis).
Plane trees and willows are typical of streams that flow all year round.  The plane tree is easily identified by its large hand-shaped leaves that drop off in winter, and its spherical, long-haired fruit.   The most prominent trees in the reserve are the Oriental plane tree, reaching up to 15 meters high, and the willow whose red-hued roots are often exposed.   The Syrian ash tree also grows alongside streams, and can be recognized by the serrated edges of its leaves.
At the end of winter and in spring, the cliff above the Pan shrine is covered with an abundance of Maltese Cross Ricotia (Ricotia lunaria), Hyacinth Squil (Scilla hyancinthoides) and a multitude of other spring flowers - rich cliff vegetation that exploits every nook and cranny.  Here are the spreading pellitory (Parietaria judaica), the intermediate navelwort (Umbilicus intermedius) and ferns, such as the scaly spleenwort (Ceterach officinarum), the Welsh polypody (Polypodium cambricum), the rigid buckler fern (Dryopteris villarii) (a rare species) and the lip fern (Cheilanthes Vellea).  In the waterfall area carpets of blue lupines and common cyclamen can be seen.  In autumn the amaryllis (Vagaria parviflora) and various species of crocus are in bloom.
Some trees planted by humans grow in the nature reserve, among them the silver poplar and certain orchard trees.  
The spring area is rich in water plants:  hairy willowherb (Epilobium hirsutum), purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria), hemp-agrimony (Eupatorium cannabinum), brook pimpernel (Veronica anagallis-aquatica), branched bur-reed (Sparganium erectum) (a very rare species) and the common reed. Other vegetation grows on the slopes above the channel, far from the effect of the flowing water.  Here we can find typical representatives of the Mediterranean woodlands:  the common oak, the terebinth (Pistacia terebinthus), the Mount Tavor oak (Quercus ithaburensis), the snowdrop bush (Officinal Storax) and the laurel tree.


 

History


The Greek god Pan, after whom the place was named - Panyas (in Arabic: Banyas) - was ritually worshipped in the region of the nature reserve.  At the front of the Banyas cave there are remains of a temple built by King Herod in honor of the god Pan.
Close to the Banyas spring, a broad staircase rises to the Banyas cave.  Five niches carved out of the cliff next to the cave are the remains of a shrine built by the Greeks in the 2nd century BC in honor of the god.  The Greek god Pan - half man and half goat - was the god of rural areas, shepherds and their flocks.  He lived in caves, where his rituals took place, and he was known to play a reed flute.
At the front of the cave are the remains of the impressive white marble temple built here by King Herod.  Herod's son and heir, Philip II, established a city which he named Caesarea Philippi, in order to distinguish it from Caesarea Maritima, on the shore of the Mediterranean Sea.  In his time the city flourished and gained an important status - coins were minted there, temples, bath-houses, theaters and other public buildings were built.  In the Byzantine and Muslim periods the city declined in status.  No findings have been found of these periods.   In the period of the Crusades a fortress was built at Banyas, the remains of which were found at archaeological digs.  In this period Banyas passed a number of times between the Crusaders and the Muslims until Nur-a-Din conquered it in 1164.
A Mamluk village was built on the ruins of the Crusader castle. The rural settlement of Banyas continued to exist until the 20th century and was abandoned in the 6-Day War.
One of the most significant events of Christianity took place at Banyas:  this is where Petros Simon received from Jesus the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven, which are the symbol of the Vatican (Matthew XVII, 13-20), and that is why the Banyas is a place of pilgrimage for Christians from all over the world.
 

Archaeology


The majority of the Crusader Castle at Banyas has been exposed, including gate towers, a shopping area, vaults, a cemetery, a moat and corners of the walls.  Downstream there are ancient flour mills and Roman and Crusader architectural remains.
Archaeological digs have been conducted at the foot of the cliff next to the Banyas cave. The digs exposed the important ritual site at Banyas, including impressive remains of the temple.  In the vicinity of the Banyas cave, buildings from the first century BC were found, among them diamond-shaped stones, called Opus Reticulatus.  Above these are the remains of a white building, Nebi Hader, which is one of the names of the Prophet Elijah.
Archaeology buffs will also find interest in the Crusader remains at Banyas, containing the castle, the city gate, the moat and a corner of the wall, as well as in the site of the vaults, which is in fact a street from the Roman period, and shops from the Crusader period.  Recently, as part of its effort to conserve archaeological sites within the Nature and Parks Authority sites, preservation works have been performed by the Antiquities Authority, which included stabilization of the internal walls of the southern Crusader gatehouse and the internal entrance gate, as well as blocking the external gate passage towards the south and preservation of the western room façade.
A public building that was built at the beginning of the first century BC was also uncovered at the archaeological site.  The building covered more than 2,000 sq.m., and was one of the largest and most magnificent in Israel.  Researchers believe that it was the palace of Agrippas II.
 

Geology


The unique geology of the reserve consists of basalt, limestone and travertine, thus creating the basis for the development of unique habitats for a variety of plant formations.
The bottom of the cliff from which the Banyas spring flows is formed of very hard grey limestone containing an abundance of shiny calcite crystals.  Up the cliff the rock turns red, due to its iron oxide content, and it is porous and rich in fossils.  At the meeting point between the two types of rocks, part of the opening of the cave collapsed in an earthquake that apparently occurred in 1033, and the water that used to flow from the cave broke through at the bottom of the cliff.  That was the beginning of Nahal Hermon.  Today the spring water flows into three artificial pools, until it meets the Guvta stream after a few hundred meters.  From there the stream flows into Nahal Sa'ar, and continues along a "lithological boundary".
 
 

Hydrology


Nahal Hermon drains the southern slopes of Mt. Hermon and the northern Golan, among them the streams known as Nahal Sa'ar, Si'on and Guvta, Pera and En Hilweh.  Most of the water rise as springs at the foot of the Banyas cave, and they flow at low temperatures, around 15 degrees C, throughout the year.
Nahal Hermon starts out at the foot of the Hermon mountain.  This large mountain absorbs the rain and snow, which percolate through the limestone until they break out at the bottom as springs that form the Jordan river:  the Dan, Hermon (Banyas) and Snir (Hatsbani).  The annual flow volume of the Hermon stream is 125 million cu.m. (most of the water in the Jordan).  The streams Sa'ar, Sion and Guvta, Pera and En Hilweh, all drain into Nahal Hermon, but most of the water comes from the springs at the bottom of the Banyas cave.
The stream descends 190 meters along a 3.5 km. channel in a strong flow that enables the water to eat into the rock and create a gorge, rapids and waterfalls.  The range of water qualities, height differences and the twists and turns in the water channel, as well as the constant low temperature of the water - about 15 degrees C - contribute to the creation of a unique habitat of rich vegetation and varied animal life. 
 

How to get there: From Road 99, from Kiryat Shmona or Mas'adeh, about 15 minutes.

Length of route: About two hours

Recommended season: All year round

Insist on: Walking along the Hanging Trail
 

Opening hours

The reserve is closed about one hour before the times given below:

Summer Time:
Sundays thru Thursdays and Shabbat:  08:00 - 17:00
Fridays and eves of religious festivals:  08:00 - 16:00

Standard Time (winter):
Sundays thru Thursdays and Shabbat:  08:00 - 16:00
Fridays and eves of religious festivals:  08:00 - 15:00

On the eves of Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur and Pesach: 08:00 - 13:00
 

Communication:

Telephones:
04-6902577 - Springs
04-6950272 - Waterfall and Hanging Trail
Fax:
04-6904066 - Springs
04-6590272 - Waterfall and Hanging Trail
 

Entrance Fees

Single: Adults NIS 28;  Children: NIS 14
Students:  NIS 24
Group (over 30 persons):  Adults:  NIS 23;  Children:  NIS 13
 

Dogs

The entry of dogs into the nature reserve is forbidden!
Dogs may be left in cages at the entrance to the site in the region of the Banyas springs or at the waterfall - the Hanging Trail.
 

Prohibitions:

It is forbidden to light fires throughout the nature reserve!
It is forbidden to enter the water throughout the nature reserve!


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    Content under construction, the information apears soon.
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    Nahal Hermon (Banyas) Nature Reserve