Hula Lake Park - Birding in Israel

The place to watch thousands of migratory birds and birds of Israel! In the Hula Valley in the Upper Galilee, KKL-JNF has developed an internationally acclaimed bird watching park. Twice a year, no less than 390 species of birds pass through the area; water fowl, birds of prey and songbirds, water buffaloes and wildcats, unique flora and fauna. Over 500 million birds pass through Hula Valley each year.


Geographic location: Galilee
Access: Special (adapted for the disabled)

Identity Card



Photo: KKL-JNF Photo Archive

 

Click here to book a tour

 

Special Sites in the Park: Bird watching observation points.

 

Facilities: Restroom, Lookout, Marked path, Information booth, Accessible site.

 

Additional Sites in the Vicinity: Hula Nature Reserve, Dobrovin Estate, Nebi Yosha, Ussishkin House in Kibbutz Dan.

 

Accessibility for People with Special Needs: The Hula Lake Park bird watching lookouts, access roads, footbridges, restrooms and picnic areas are suitable for wheelchairs.

 

How do you get there? Driving north on Highway 90, turn right at Yesud Hamaala Junction and proceed to the Hula Nature Reserve.

 

Hours: Sunday – Thursday: 9:00-16:00. Fridays, Saturdays and holidays: 6:30-16:00.

Projects and Partners Worldwide
The Hula Lake Park was developed with contributions from friends of KKL-JNF worldwide including Australia, Canada, USA,
Germany, Israel, South America, South Africa and Switzerland.
 

About the Park


Photo: Dror Arzi.

In the Hula Valley, which is located on the Syrian-African rift, KKL-JNF has developed an internationally acclaimed bird watching park. Twice a year, no less than five hundred million birds pass through the area, water fowl, birds of prey and songbirds, over 390 species. You can see the birds there, as they migrate from Europe to Africa and back, as well as water buffaloes and wildcats, if you stay overnight, that wake up early for preying. You can also enjoy the lush flora, the unique indigenous fauna and participate in ringing birds.
 
So as not to upset the ecological balance, private motor vehicles are not allowed in the Hula Lake Park. Entrance is free of charge, and you may walk around for free. You may alternatively enjoy your visit on a bicycle, in a golf cart or on the Mystery Wagon, for a fee. The Mystery Wagon is a camouflaged wagon drawn by a tractor, which allows for maximum proximity to the birds.
 
At the Visitors Center, one may rent bicycles and golf carts. Entrance with your own bicycle is permitted on weekends and holidays, with advance notice at least one day prior to the weekend or holiday (telephone:+972-4-6817137).
 
All excursions in the Hula Lake Park begin at the Visitors Center, where there is an information booth, a souvenir shop, a cafeteria, an audio-visual presentation and a bicycle and golf cart rental station.

Following the Birds

“A paradise for migrating birds” and “an experience of a lifetime” are some of the ways people have described the natural wonders of the Hula Valley, where 500 million birds of different sorts and species stopover on their flights between Europe and Africa. The main migrating season is in the fall, when pelicans, herons, storks and cranes arrive in huge flocks, along with birds of prey and other winged species.
 


Photo: KKL-JNF Photo Archive

About 35,000 cranes arrive in the autumn months, and about 15,000 of them stay for the winter. The multitude of cranes attracts many visitors, and to assist these visitors, KKL-JNF constructed lookouts on a manmade hill at the edge of the lake, which view the field where the cranes feed. The observatory, which is made of wooden planks, was designed in conjunction with bird watching professionals and has windows that offer panoramas of the lake and of the feeding field.
 
Local farmers, whose fields used to be severely damaged by the birds, worked together with environmental agencies in order to find a way to truly co-exist. The farmers subsequently allocated a portion of their fields to this end, and they now scatter two tons of maize daily in designated locations, during the winter, and the cranes refrain from visiting other fields and cause no more harm.

The Restoration

For many years, the Hula Valley was neglected because of its swamps and the danger of malaria. The lake and the swamps covered a third of the area, and another third had groundwater very close to the surface, so farming was not possible. At the end of the nineteenth century, with the Jewish repatriation of the Hula Valley, it became necessary to drain the swamps, which was postponed until after the establishment of the State of Israel. Then, in 1951, KKL-JNF started draining the Hula swamps. It was the first national engineering project undertaken by the State of Israel, and when it was completed, the local communities had 60,000 dunams of additional land, which they used for agriculture, mainly crops, orchards and fishponds. The valley turned from a region plagued by malaria into a flourishing place that attracts visitors.
 
The importance of the Hula Valley restoration project and the recent rehabilitation of part of the lake is no less of a feat than the draining of the swamps sixty years ago. The KKL-JNF restoration project has turned the area, which covers 75 sq km, from an ecological disaster into an area flourishing with a great diversity of vegetation and wildlife. It has turned the Hula Valley into a great attraction for tourists, with bird watching sites, waterways full of fish, recreational areas in natural surroundings, animals, birds and a great selection of possibilities for outings on bicycles, in vehicles and on foot.

Places and People


Photo: KKL-JNF Photo Archive

The Hula Valley, situated between the Golan Heights, the Naftali Mountains and the Lebanon Valley, is about 30 km long and about 7 km wide. Its abundance of water and wildlife have drawn people since the Stone Age. Its location near the Sea Road, which passed its western edges, and the Jordan River crossing, where the Benot Yaakov Bridge is now located, made it important economically and politically.

 

There were two cities there in biblical times, Dan in the north and Hatzor in the south. Over the years, the valley became neglected because of the swamps and the malaria. The lake and the swamps covered a third of the valley, and another third had groundwater so close to the surface that the land was impossible to cultivate.

 

The swamps were created as a result of the Jordan River’s tributaries, which descend from the heights of Mount Hermon and form a single channel north of the Hula Valley. After flowing only 2 km in the valley, the Jordan used to branch into two streams—the western branch (the Jordan River) traversing the valley and draining into the southern section of the Hula Lake, and the eastern branch (Nahal Tura) flowing into the valley and ending there. Over the years, however, as a result of volcanic eruptions in the Golan, the southern section of the valley became blocked in its center, and, as a result, the lake formed as well as the swamps and marshes, and the land in the valley, which for many generations had been used for agriculture and settlements, became unsuitable for farming.

International Acclaim

A twin site treaty for the promotion of the Hula Lake, in Israel, and the Oak Hammock Marsh, in Manitoba, Canada, both major bird-conservation sites, was signed in 2010. The agreement was designed to formalize cooperation on site development, scientific research, educational activities and management challenges.

 

Hula Lake Park also won international recognition in 2009, when BBC Wildlife declared it one of the most important observation and photography sites in the world. It was ranked ninth out of a selection of twenty outstanding sites all over the world chosen by 300 experts including scientists and photographers.