Following the Yarkon

The Tel Aviv-area river is one of the most beautiful spots in central Israel.

The Tel Aviv-area Yarkon river is one of the most beautiful spots in central Israel (photo credit: MEITAL SHARABI)
The Tel Aviv-area Yarkon river is one of the most beautiful spots in central Israel
(photo credit: MEITAL SHARABI)
October was jam-packed with activities, tours and attractions designed to satisfy our children’s endless requests to do fun things.
Many families found themselves running from one nature reserve in the North to another in the South.
For this reason, I decided this week would be a great time to slow things down and do something close to home (that is, for those of us who live near Tel Aviv).
The Yarkon is the largest river in the country’s coastal plain region. In the past, 220 million cubic meters of water flowed in the Yarkon every year, but nowadays water is pumped from the river so the flow is not as strong. The only river in Israel that has a greater water flow is the Jordan.
Feeding the Yarkon are springs in the hills of western Judea and Samaria that collect large amounts of rainwater. The river curves around the Rosh Ha’ayin Springs, then spills into the Mediterranean Sea near Tel Aviv.
As some may recall, the river, which is considered one of the most beautiful spots in the country’s central region, suffered from neglect and inattention for many years, severely harming its ecosystem. Luckily, someone in the municipality finally decided to do something about it. Over the last few years, the Nahal Yarkon Authority has rehabilitated the river and the surrounding area, adding signs and creating beautiful gardens along its banks.
The Yarkon can once again be considered the green lung of metropolitan Tel Aviv, and is home to fish, birds, mammals and a variety of plants.
November is a great time to enjoy family or romantic walks along the river, giving one the feeling of a day out in nature. The attractions along the water are exciting, and the shady areas are perfect for picnic enthusiasts.
Since the area is humongous, let’s focus on the section that starts at the Maccabiah Bridge, located between Meymadion and the Ramat Gan Soccer Stadium, continuing until the Ayalon River meets the Yarkon. This unique path succeeds in naturally combining the more developed parts of the park with its large grassy areas and children’s playgrounds, with the wooded and more natural parts where there have been archeological finds.
We’ll start the path at Givat Hamofa’im, near the Ganei Yehoshua parking area. Don’t worry – the walk up to the top of the hill does not require much effort and is well worth the energy, since the view is amazing. You can look over the green park and see the skyscrapers all around; this is a great place to get away from the noise and overcrowding of the city.
The next rest stop is near the lake, where visitors can go boating. Just west of the hill, the lake is one of the most enjoyable parts of the park.
Many people walking along the river decide to take a break here, making one feel they’ve been temporarily transported to Europe. The tall green trees evoke a sense of detachment and serenity, so I recommend lingering here to enjoy the peace and quiet for a while.
After you’ve finished enjoying the area around the lake, walk in the direction of the Seven Mills.
Located just west of the lake, the water-powered gristmills are the remains of a centuries-old settlement that existed on this spot. As you’ve probably guessed from the name, there used to be seven mills here, some of which were built during the Ottoman period. Three of the mills that are still standing were built in the 19th century, and there is also a dam and a lovely bridge leading to the other side of the river.
Animal-lovers can delight in watching nutria, which look like beavers and have invaded the river (to the dismay of nature reserve officials).
The nutria have been busy digging tunnels along the riverbank, causing quite a bit of damage. But for visitors, they’re a lot of fun to watch and learn about.
Tel Gerisa (Napoleon’s Hill)
The next stop is Tel Gerisa – or as it’s popularly known, Napoleon’s Hill. The 19th-century French emperor is believed to have stopped there during his siege of Jaffa. A favorite spot for couples looking to escape the city for some quiet moments, it is also a great place to see pieces of pottery and other remains from cities that existed here in ancient times. From artifacts found at the tell (archeological mound), you can see that communities lived here during a number of different periods in history; among the remains are objects that date back to the Bronze Age. The reason so many people lived here over time, of course, is its proximity to multiple water sources.
When you’ve finished inspecting the remains and enjoying the view, make your way back to your car or continue in the direction of Rosh Hatzipor.
Rosh Hatzipor Forest
How many times have you driven on the Ayalon Highway without thinking about all the natural treasures waiting for you right under your nose? The best place to begin the walk through Rosh Hatzipor Forest is where the Ayalon River spills into the Yarkon. The forest is an amazing place to hike any day of the year (except for really rainy days), and there are two circular walking trails to choose from right in the heart of Ganei Yehoshua Park. In addition, there are a number of bike trails.
If you’re up for still more walking, catch a glimpse of the Hadar Gristmill (also known as Ten Mills). This is one of the most impressive mills along the Yarkon; when the mill was working at peak capacity, there were 20 pairs of millstones in operation. Because the Turks blew up the dam in World War I, the only parts left standing today are remains of the wall on the mill’s western side, and part of the dam that redirected the water into the mill.
Translated by Hannah Hochner.
Location: Yarkon River, Tel Aviv area
Type of outing: Easy, appropriate for the whole family
Length: Half-day
Season: All year long, except for rainy days
Directions: park in the lots near Ganei Hata’arucha, Meymadion and Maccabiah Bridge.