Exploring the lower reaches of Nahal Og

A signpost. Photo: Yaakov Shkolnik
A signpost. Photo: Yaakov Shkolnik

This memorable route for families that love to explore leads us through the impressive Nahal Og gorge.

  • How to get there

    Follow Route no. 1 from Jerusalem towards the Dead Sea, then turn southwards (to the right) at Almog Junction. Drive for two kilometers until you arrive at a large parking lot about 100 meters after the gate at the entrance to Kibbutz Almog.

    This unforgettable route for adventurous people of all ages leads us through the impressive Nahal Og gorge.

    The lower reaches of Nahal Og (Og Stream) have dug an imposing canyon through the fault-ridden cliffs of the Judean Desert, just before the point where the stream ends at the Dead Sea Valley. Our excursion requires us to negotiate three waterfalls with the help of “ladders” – i.e. handholds and footholds cut into the rock face. This desert experience can found at a distance of just half an hour’s drive from Jerusalem. The pools below the waterfalls are generally dry, but they may fill up with water after heavy rain.
  • Recommanded season

    Spring, autumn, winter
  • Geographic location-

    Arava and Eilat highlands,The Dead Sea Valley
  • Area-

  • Target audience-

    Fit walkers
  • Track length-

    5 Km
  • Track type-

    Walking path
  • Difficulty-

    Fit walkers - Hard
  • Level of difficulty-

  • Season-

  • Duration-

    1-2 hours
  • Features-

    Views and landscapes
  • Interest-

    Hiking and Walking Tracks
Before setting out we recommend that you call KKL-JNF’s Forest Hotline (Kav LaYaar) at 1-800-350-550 for any updates, such as closures due to extreme weather and any information that may be relevant to your route.

Nahal Og

Nahal Og drains the hills to the east of Jerusalem. From the point where it rises, on the slopes of the Mount of Olives and Mount Scopus, until it spills into the Dead Sea near Kalia, this stream covers a distance of some thirty kilometers, with a cumulative descent of 1,200 meters. This steep gradient helps to explain the deep gorges the water has created.

One of the most canyonesque sections of the stream, which doesn’t happen to form part of our route, is Wadi Muklak, which contains the remains of the lavra (a semi-eremitic monastic settlement) founded in the early fifth century BCE by Saint Theoctistus. A monastery was later built at the site.

The ancient Sugar Road that made its way from Jerusalem and the Maaleh Adumim area via Nebi Musa down to the Dead Sea ran along the northern bank of Nahal Og. Sugar cane was grown in the Jericho Valley during the Crusader period, and this route was used to transport it up to Jerusalem.

Our route

We recommend walking our route in a clockwise direction: from the parking lot we follow the dirt track that descends northwards and takes us directly down to the broad bed of Nahal Og. The route is indicated by red trail markings. At this point the riverbed is wide and very large – evidence of the powerful floods that sometimes sweep down it – and the streambed is full of desert plants. Most prominent among them are the tamarisks, which crop up in every desert area in Israel that can boast the merest drop of water. The taily weed (Ochradenus baccatus), a bush up to a meter in height that displays yellow flowers throughout most of the year, is also common here. Caper bushes of the Capparis sinaica variety, easily recognizable by their bluish leaves, hang from the cliff walls at the sides.

Down in the riverbed we turn west (to the right) and head for the entrance to the gorge, following the green trail markings. From this point on our route will lead us up dry rocky waterfalls. This section of the river, which is about 1.5 kilometers long, was referred to by local people in the past as Wadi al-Asla. As we progress, the ravine grows steadily narrower, until it is no more than two meters in width in some places. The walls soar dozens of meters above us on either side. For the most part walking is easy, but we still have three waterfalls to cope with: the first is eight meters in height, the others slightly lower. But even after we successfully negotiate the waterfalls, we cannot rest on our laurels yet. Further along, our way is barred by a waterfall 1.5 meters in height. Most hikers will manage to make their way over it with the help of a step on the left, but the less tenacious may perhaps require a little assistance.

As we emerge from the ravine, the riverbed broadens out. Here we leave it and turn right on to a black-marked dirt road, which, though short (it is only about 400 meters long), is rather steep. After just a few steps more we turn right once again on to a blue-marked trail that leads us towards Kibbutz Almog, which is clearly visible from here.

We’re not finished yet. Six hundred meters after the turnoff a sign suggests that we make a slight detour to the right to enjoy the view from the Og lookout point. The suggestion is well worth following, as this vantage point allows us to look northwards towards the Jericho Valley and the Hasmonean fortifications of Sartaba (Alexandrion) and Dok. Those familiar with the area will also identify the fortress of Kypros on the hill overlooking Jericho.

Looking eastward we can see the soft white hills through which the Og Stream flows. These are deposits of lissan marl left behind by the huge lake that once covered the arid, barren area between Hatzeva and the Kinneret. Nestling among the hills are the sparkling waters of the Og 2 reservoir, one of two built by KKL-JNF to provide a source of irrigation for the surrounding fields. The Mountains of Moab wall off our view to the east.

The Og reservoirs

In 1994, not far from Route no. 90, KKL-JNF built the Og 1 reservoir, which has a capacity of around 600,000 cubic meters. This reservoir collects and stores primarily treated wastewater from East Jerusalem, Maaleh Adumim and local communities, and this water then undergoes secondary treatment in precipitation pools in a facility near the reservoir. At this secondary stage it is transferred to the reservoir, and from there to local farmers.

In 2009 KKL-JNF built the Og 2 reservoir, which has a capacity of one million cubic meters, close to the banks of Nahal Og. This reservoir takes in water from Og 1, which has been purified to the point of being suitable for agricultural irrigation, and from there it is distributed for use in the local date plantations.