A gem of a trail in the Negev

Nahal Shikma is a stream lined with sycamore trees.

Nahal Shikma (photo credit: ITSIK MAROM)
Nahal Shikma
(photo credit: ITSIK MAROM)
Among its vast fields of cultivated land the northern Negev hides many a natural gem. One of these is Nahal Shikma primarily maintained by Keren Kayemet Le’Israel- Jewish National Fund, for travelers and nature lovers alike. This seasonal stream and path originates in the lower Hebron hills and curves west for 60 km. until it reaches the Mediterranean Sea close to Kibbutz Zikim.
A newer path that runs along the wadi provides additional travel opportunities for the visitor.
A hill in the south, the Pura reserve, is an island of wild vegetation, home to many species of wildflowers in spring. Continuing west along the gravel road will bring you to a small lake blocked by a dam. Past the lake is a camping spot situated in a pine forest.
A walking path is posted with green signs, leading to the ruin of a Turkish railroad bridge built almost 100 years ago.
The bridge is also accessible by car. Next along the gravel path are wells dug by the British for the benefit of Beduin tribes, so as to be able to parley with their sheikhs.
A little further is Tel Nagila, the highest point in the area, marked by a lone tamarisk tree. An easy climb provides a scenic view which includes the Shikma ravine, before the main gravel road reaches Bitronot Ruhama, where the sandy soil is interspersed with ridges and valleys. This landscape supports gazelles, foxes, badgers, lizards, snakes and sundry species of bird, among other wildlife. The sycamore trees that grow along the ravine give the stream its name. To leave, return to Highway 40 or exit near Ruhama onto Highway 334.
To start the trail, travel on Highway 40 to the Pura nature reserve. Coming from the north or center the reserve is directly after Highway 6 (at km. 215) and merges with Highway 40. To your right a sign will point you in the direction of the reserve, and once inside you are already on the Shikma trail.
Whether traveling by car, bicycle or on foot, the gravel road is well prepared and it is advisable to stick to it. A number of organizations have joined forces to provide this trail, including the JNF, the Nature and Parks Authority, the Nahal Shikma Authority and local municipal councils.
A SHORTER route along the ravine can be encountered on the eastern side of Nahal Shikma, driving on Highway 40 towards road 325 as far as Kibbutz Dvir, where a sign indicates the Shikma path along a dirt road. Once at the ravine, the road follows the Shikma route to the west. There are deeper canyons which descend to the riverbed, at times rocky, when its limestone is exposed. Once you reach the elevated road 40, drive out to the road near the gas station south of Dvira junction.