Nahal Harod Park - Archaeology & Birds of Israel

Bird watching, river walks, splendid archeological sites and a water park: You can find all these along the Harod River right here in Israel!


Geographic location: Sea of Galilee, the valleys and lower Galilee
Picnic
Archeologic or Historic site

Identity Card



Nahal Harod. Photo: KKL-JNF photo archive.

 
Nahal Harod (Harod River), which rises among the peaks of Givat HaMoreh and crosses the Harod Valley to the east, flows for 32 kilometers before it spills into the River Jordan. This river, which runs among fish ponds, reservoirs and agricultural expanses, is the main drainage artery of the Harod Valley. In 1992 the Harod River Administration, in which KKL-JNF is a partner, was established in order to rehabilitate the river as a properly maintained drainage channel and a source of freshwater linking recreational areas and patches of woodland. A path for walkers and cyclists was provided between the beauty spots and natural amenities along the river banks, offering access to the entire population, including those with limited mobility.
 
Region: Northern, Lower Galilee, Gilboa.

Special attractions in the park: the River Trail, Tel Jezreel, Ein Jezreel, the Gdud HaAvoda Cemetery, Old Tel Yosef, Nahal Emek Kadum, the Western Roman Bridge, Kantara Bridge, Ganei Huga, the Basalt Canyon.
 
Facilities: Picinic area, Lookout, Marked pathes, Archeological or Historic site.

Other sites in the area: Sites with an entrance fee: The Ein Harod Museum of Art, Haim Sturman House, the ancient synagogue at Beit Alpha, the Kibbutz Heftziba Japanese Garden, the Beit Shean National Park, the Old Gesher site and the Naharayim Experience, the Kfar Yehezkel robotic dairy farm. Sites with no entrance fee: Old Tel Yosef, the Seraglio House in Beit Shean, the Naharayim memorial.
 
How to get there? The starting point for the Nahal Harod excursion is the KKL-JNF Tel Jezreel picnic site. Visitors coming from the center of the country should take the Nahal Iron (Wadi Ara) road to Megiddo Junction and continue along the Sargel road (Route 65) towards Afula. At Sargel Junction, turn right (Route 675) and continue until you reach the traffic lights at Jezreel Junction (Routes 675 & 60). Continue eastwards on Route 675 for about another kilometer until you reach the junction at the entrance to Kibbutz Jezreel, where a paved road (parallel to 675) forks off to Tel Jezreel. Visitors coming from the direction of Afula will take Route 60 to the Jezreel Junction, and then continue as described above.

Projects and Partners Worldwide
Nahal Harod Park was established and restored thanks to donations from KKL-JNF’s Friends in Germany.
 

About the Site

The river, which runs among fish ponds, reservoirs and agricultural expanses, is the main drainage artery of the Harod Valley. Its flow changes between its starting point and its end, where it spills into the Jordan: in the west it runs gently along a deep riverbed, while further east it gushes along swiftly and tumbles over waterfalls. The nearby flourmills are evidence of the use once made of this water as a source of energy. Don’t miss Beit Shean National Park, where you can walk amidst the splendor of Byzantine Scythopolis; afterwards, you can cool off with a dip in one of Ganei Huga Water Park’s three pools.

The Harod River Administration was established in 1992, in conjunction with KKL-JNF, the South Jordan Drainage Authority, Israel’s Ministry for the Environment, the Government Company for Tourism, the Nature and Parks Authority, and the local authorities in the river’s catchment basin.

Emek Harod (Harod Valley)

This narrow valley (only four kilometers wide), which divides Mount Gilboa in the south from Ramat Yissachar and Givat HaMoreh in the north, extends from Afula in the west to the Beit Shean Valley in the east. Most of its soil was washed down from Ramot Yissachar, and it provides a growing medium for field crops. The local fish ponds give the valley its own special character.

The fields and the fish ponds together provide ample food for an enormous variety of water fowl, especially in winter, and ducks, seagulls, plovers, great cormorants and pelicans mingle with dozens of varieties of songbird. This aquatic landscape also provides a spacious habitat for caracals, mongooses and swamp lynxes (a variety of wildcat also known as the jungle cat). The local jackal population is on the increase, and gazelles can be seen in the area, when they come down from the heights of Ramot Yissachar. The graves of Yehoshua Hankin, who negotiated the purchase of the Jezreel Valley lands for Jewish settlement, and his wife Olga are on the slope above the spring.

Sites Along the River

The River Trail

The footpath provided by the Nahal Harod Administration runs from Afula to the River Jordan, and it is better developed in some locations that in others. Trees and shrubs have been planted along it, and it gives walkers the opportunity to observe the two local bird populations: those that live permanently on the river and those that flock there during their migration season.

Tel Jezreel
This is the site of the Biblical city of Jezreel where the kings of the House of Omri built their winter palace and beside which Naboth planted his vineyard. The top of the tel offers a splendid view of the Jezreel Valley and its surroundings. KKL-JNF has established a small picnic ground, footpaths and observation points at the site, and has planted fruit trees. A short footpath allows easy access to the Ein Jezreel spring below. The remains of the Arab village of Zir‘in, which served as a base for attacks on local Jewish communities, can still be seen.

Ein Jezreel
The waters of this spring flow through a tunnel to a pool shaded by eucalyptus trees, and then onwards to Nahal Harod. This spring would appear to be “the spring that is in Jezreel” mentioned in the Bible as the spot where King Saul mustered his troops in preparation for his final battle against the Philistines (I Samuel, 29:1). In the course of the fighting, the Israelites retreated to Mount Gilboa, where the king and his sons met their death. The site includes a recreation area.

The Gdud HaAvoda Cemetery
 This burial site of the Jezreel Valley pioneers is situated in Gidona, near Maayan Harod (the Harod spring).

Old Tel Yosef
This small tel was settled by members of Gdud HaAvoda (The Joseph Trumpeldor Work and Defense Battalion) in 1922. A memorial to them can be found at the top of the tel.

To Kantara Bridge via Tel Zahara
This paved dirt road leads from Route 669 to a spot near the entrance to Gan HaShlosha going north and east to Tel Zahara, where an observation point provides a view of the surrounding countryside. The road continues north, crossing Nahal Harod and continuing eastwards along the river to Kantara Bridge and from there to Beit Shean Park and the trail between the bridges.

Nahal HaKibbutzim
The clear water in this stream comes from Ein Migdal, a spring that rises near Kibbutz Nir David. The entrance to Nahal HaKibbutzim branches off the Nir David – Reshafim Road (Route 669) about a kilometer to the east of Nir David. The site includes a picnic area with a number of small bridges across the river, which has been dammed nearby to create an attractive pool shaded by eucalyptus trees.

Tel Socha
This archeological site lies to the south of Nahal HaKibbutzim. The concrete watchtower at the top of the tell is a memorial to the original settlers of Nir David, then called Tel Amal, and this vantage point provides an excellent view of the valley.

Kantara Bridge
 
The bridge over Nahal Harod carries an aqueduct that formerly brought water from Nahal Amal to areas north of Nahal Harod. The bridge, which was built in the Mamluk period, originally had three arches.

The water in the aqueduct may have been intended for Al-Khan al-Ahmar (“the red caravanserai”) at the entrance to Beit Shean. One of arches of the bridge collapsed and was repaired with concrete during the period of the British Mandate. The River Administration has restored the bridge since, and this site, beside which KKL-JNF has created an active recreation area that includes children’s play equipment and picnic tables, lies at a crossroads where four paths intersect:
 
1. A cycle path through an orchard leads from the direction of Tel Zahara
2. Route 7078 to Beit Shean, from the direction of Beit Shean Park.
3. The path along Nahal Harod, from Route 6667.
4. To the east of the junction of Routes 669 and 6667.
 
 
Ancient Nahal Amal
 
A road from Kantara Bridge makes its way among the fish ponds along the river until it reaches Route 6667. A footpath with special fishing sites along its length links two small bridges constructed on the western side of the road. A bird-watchers’ lookout point near the roadway allows enthusiasts to observe bird activity around the fish ponds.
 
The Western Roman Bridge
 
This bridge crosses Nahal Harod at the western edge of the Beit Shean National Park. Though the bridge was renovated by the Ottomans, the nine lowest courses of bricks have not changed since the Roman period.

On the south-eastern side, the remains of a paved Roman street are visible, leading to the center of the town then called Scythopolis, and beside the bridge the well-preserved remains of the It-Tōm (“the twins”) flourmill – so called because it had two chimneys – and the remnants of an irrigation canal that carried water to Hamadiya can be seen.
 
Beit Shean Park
 
Situated adjacent to the western entrance to the town from Route 7078, the park extends along both banks of the Harod River, which are linked by a small wooden bridge. On the north bank there is a children’s playground, on the south a recreation area with picnic tables and shaded areas. The River Trail crosses Route 7078 through a tunnel from Beit Shean Park eastwards and continues via the south-western bridge.
 
The Trail Between the Bridges
 
This path links three ancient bridges on the north bank of the river:
1. The Western Bridge, adjacent to Beit Shean Park
2. The Truncated Bridge, also known as the Damascus Gate
3. The Eastern Bridge, adjacent to the Basalt Recreation Area.
  
On the northern side of the trail lies Beit Shean’s Roman-Byzantine cemetery with the Kyrie Maria mosaic site above it. The trail follows the river amongst a number of sites where the ruins of water-driven flourmills can be seen, including the Twins Flourmill and the Aqueduct Mill. The trail rounds the travertine cliff that take the walker over to the south bank at the foot of Tel Beit Shean.

Beit Shean National Park
 
This site, which extends along both banks of the Harod River and contains some of Israel’s most important antiquities, is managed by the Nature and National Parks Authority. Inside you can see the Biblical Tel Beit Shean site, from whose walls the Philistines exposed the dead bodies of King Saul and his sons. Archeological excavations at the site have revealed the splendors of Byzantine Scythopolis: a theater, a street of shops, a bath house, temples and public buildings. Note: there is an entrance fee!
 
 
The Eastern Roman Bridge
 
This arched bridge is situated above Nahal Harod, at the eastern end of Beit Shean. Despite its name, the bridge would appear to have been constructed in the Ottoman period, and it remained in use until the new bridge was built in 1994.
 
 
The Basalt Canyon
 
This site, which would appear to take its name from the black patina the river waters have imparted to the adjacent cliffs, lies on the descent of Route 90, close to the Eastern Roman Bridge. This is the point at which the riverbed drops 13 meters and its waters plunge down over the longest of the Harod waterfalls. The recreation area that spans both banks includes a parking lot, tables and shaded areas for visitors. A steel bridge across the river links the two sections of the recreation area, and in the future it will also shorten the River Trail in the direction of the bird-watching area of the Beit Shean Valley and the marl hills that overlook Ganei Huga and Geon HaYarden.
 
 
Ganei Huga
 
This water and leisure park in the heart of the countryside was developed in the Ein Huga area to the north of Nahal Harod by KKL-JNF and the Beit Shean Valley Regional Council. The park has extensive lawns, children’s playground equipment, picnic tables, a kiosk, toilets, showers and three large pools that make use of the clear waters of Ein Huga. Remains of Nahal Harod’s most easterly flourmill, which was driven by the waters of Ein Huga, can be seen inside the park. There is an entrance fee.