The Alexander River, in the Emek Hefer Region of Israel’s Mediterranean Coastal Plain is a beautifully restored river which runs the width of Israel to its estuary near the moshav of Beit Yannai. Along its course, a number of beautiful parks have been developed, including on where you can see the amazing softshell turtles which make the river their home, as well as hiking and biking routes, and of course, the beach where the river meets the sea.
The Alexander River runs 32km – from the hills of Nablus in the West Bank, across the border into Israel, and across the Mediterranean Coastal Plain through the Emek Hefer Regional Council, an area of rural communities – kibbutzim and moshavim to the sea. Until ten years ago, the river was heavily polluted, and a major undertaking by the regional council, in cooperation with their Palestinian counterparts has led to the river being transformed into a model for river restoration and coexistence. The polluted water has been cleaned up, and where banks had collapsed and vegetation been removed, they have been re-sculpted and re-planted. Along its route are bike and hiking paths, and a number of parks which are popular with families who travel from near and far.
Starting from the east, we’ll explore the major parks along the route of the Alexander River.
The Italy Park is a beautiful grassed area surrounding the Alexander River very close to Kibbutz Ma’abarot. The park is about 8km upstream from the rivers’ estuary in the Mediterranean and provides a great starting point for those who want to make a walk or bike ride along the river.
Access Italy Park from the access road to Kibbutz Ma’abarot and Mishmar Hasharon, which branches off Highway 4 behind the gas station at Ha’ogen Junction.
The River Trail
A special paved pathway, the River Trail takes you the 2.7km from the Italy Park along the banks of the river to the next major stop, the Water Turtle Park. Alongside the trail are playgrounds as well as shaded places to sit and perhaps have a picnic. Park here and head towards the sea.
Water Turtle Park
The water turtle park is the best place to see the soft-shelled turtles which live in the Alexander River. Hibernating in winter, these amazing creatures (which can grow up to 1.2m long and 50kg in weight) can be seen in the warmer months swimming majestically through the water. A beautiful observation deck provides a great viewpoint of an area where the turtles love to congregate. The park also has an observation tower from where you can see across the amazingly flat Emek Hefer (Hefer Valley).
Access the Water Turtle Park via the access road to Kfar Vitkin, which branches off Highway 4 at Hefer Junction
A large recreational area can be found at the Samara Ruin which stands on a mound alongside the Alexander River, very close to its estuary in the Mediterranean. The ruin was originally the tollhouse for the Ottoman authorities who were monitoring goods being transported along the river to the sea. Aside the river at the ruin is a large car park and picnic area.
To access the Samara Ruin head north from the Michmoret at the Beit Yanai Interchange on Highway 2. Soon you’ll come to the bridge over the Alexander River, and will see a gravel road on the right hand side – turn onto this and follow the road under a bridge and along the northern bank to the recreation area.
Alexander River Estuary
The Alexander River meets the Mediterranean just north of the moshav of Beit Yannai, at Beit Yannai Beach. The main area of the beach is just south of the estuary itself which is a beautiful and calm spot. The beach itself is considered to be one of the best beaches in Israel.
Access the Alexander River Estuary by turning off Highway 2 at the Beit Yanai Interchange and heading towards the sea. You’ll see signs to the Beit Yanai Beach National Park (entrance fee required if entering by car), and walk north along the shore until the estuary.