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Israel’s Nature Trails: Crocodile creeks and Roman dams

CM 19/05/2021

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The security situation that gripped us suddenly brought us back to looking for short trips that would allow us, in spite of everything, to get some air and take a breath – especially after the last year we’ve had. In the summer days ahead, a short and satisfying trip full of natural wonders and rich history can be found in the Nahal Taninim Reserve and at Caesarea National Park.

One of the places where it is always fun to get some air and enjoy nature with a variety of paths is the Nahal Taninim Reserve, which features a charming 25-kilometer stream that flows into the Mediterranean Sea. Despite its misleading name, there are no crocodiles in the creek. Crocodiles were its inhabitants in the days of the swamps until the last century but today can only be imagined. At the entrance to the reserve there is a film describing the history of the place. Take a map of the site and get going. 
Start walking among the tall eucalyptus trees, look for the species of birds hiding among the branches with the stream flowing next to you and follow the signs pointing to the dam. Despite the many eucalyptus trees in the reserve, most of the walking will take place in unshaded areas, so it is very important to have sunscreen, a hat and water. After five minutes of walking on a comfortable path you will reach a shed with a breathtaking view of the lake and the dam that awaits you further down the road.
Head toward the large stone wall that forms the dam. The impressive dam was built by the Romans more than 1,500 years ago in order to raise the water level in the river. The dam, which was undoubtedly an innovative thing in ancient Israel, stretched to a length of some 194 meters and ended in a lake that covered 600 dunams, about 1,500 acres. Continue until you reach the stairs with which you can reach the top of the dam. The walk on the dam allows you a panoramic view of the Carmel which is slowly returning to itself, and to the peaceful shores of the Mediterranean. If you look at the other end, you can also see a channel of the nearby Nahal Ada.
You will return to the path and watch along the dam until you see the impressive lake and the large eucalyptus grove. On your other side the quiet waters of Nahal Ada flow slowly, and later you’ll come upon the crocodile creek. It is important to note that bathing in the creek is prohibited.
After this slow walk you will reach a flour mill that operated during the Ottoman period and was restored. The mill, and many others that operated in earlier (Byzantine) periods, were built to take advantage of the water flow created by the height differences between the lake and the dam. In the restored flour mill complex, you can see the remains of the ancient millstones and the paddle wheel that moved the water. This wheel, which is in the field, is a most surprising relic because, as far as is known, such vertical paddle wheels were not used in the country before the Crusader period.
Near the flour mill there is another attraction not to be missed: a small pool beloved by families of hikers. It is always fun to stop next to the pool and enjoy the peace and quiet. By this point the children can usually no longer resist the temptation and wade their feet in the cool water. After the stop by the pool, you will continue along the path until you reach a fork in the paths with the help of which you can return to the reserve parking lot from which you left, or continue toward the beach of Caesarea. It’s an additional effort, but the view along the way is definitely worth it. In any case, if you decide to go down to the beach to enjoy the water, you will eventually be able to retrace your steps in the same way.
Location: Ramot Menashe
Entry fee: Adult NIS 22, Child NIS 10, Seniors NIS 11
Directions: Drive on the old Tel Aviv-Haifa road toward Beit Hananya, then continue following signs to the reserve.

You can end your tour with a visit to another water aqueduct that is nearby, right at the entrance to Moshav Hananya. It is a short stop on the way, allowing you to see another aqueduct that supplied water to the neighboring Caesarea, and is even older than the one you saw in Nahal Taninim. The historians discovered the information about its age and time of construction with the help of ancient inscriptions found at the site. 
Among the inscriptions, 10 in all, there is a mention of the Roman emperor Hadrian, a painting of an eagle and the Roman legion. Apart from the inscriptions, you will also be impressed by the clay pipes and the water channels. If that’s not enough for you, you can always take a short visit to Caesarea National Park, or choose to spend the entire day because there is a lot to see and experience. CAESAREA: SIMPLY beautiful (Hadar Yahav) CAESAREA: SIMPLY beautiful (Hadar Yahav)
The Caesarea Amphitheater is not just for performances. There is a lot to see in the park after you pay for admission. In the Roman theater complex next to the exhibits (check to see if they’re operating before arrival), you will see the reef palace and an archaeological garden. In the Hippodrome complex (restored frescoes and an ancient toilet building) you will walk between a bathhouse, the sea promenade and the Old Town complex and the port. There is no doubt that this is one of the most beautiful and well-maintained national parks in our country. The promenade of the walls, the harbor, the old town and the sculpture garden are simply breathtaking. Entrance is in accordance with Health Ministry guidelines. It is worth checking in advance on the website, as there are also guided tours by community-park volunteers and lantern tours at night.
You can choose to enjoy ice cream with the perfect view, a meal in one of the restaurants or just a picnic on the big lawns. If you already have a picnic, the big lawns are recommended at sunset because the view is just amazing. If you have chosen to dedicate your day trip to the park, you can end it at the beach, with the spectacular aqueduct and immersion in one of the most beautiful beaches in the country. So don’t forget to take a swimsuit with you.
Location: Caesarea Port
Entry fee: Adult NIS 39, Child NIS 24, Seniors NIS 20. Entry to only the port costs NIS 14. 
Type of hike: An easy path on a circular route, appropriate for the whole family. There are accessible paths at the site.
Visitors must register beforehand on the Nature and Parks Authority website. 
Translated by Hannah Hochner.

Source: Jerusalem Post

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