Yarkon National Park (Tel Aphek) – The Guide


Yarkon National Park in central Israel

Yarkon National Park guide starts with basics (map, directions, opening hours, camping, trails), and then we will hike in the park. Let’s begin!

Map

Yarkon National Park is located in central Israel between Petah Tikva and Rosh Haayin.

Map of the area:

Yarkon National Park has two areas with two separate entrances. I marked both regions on the map above, and you can also see them on the following map.

Map of Yarkon National Park
Map of Yarkon National Park

Note: you can click on the map to enlarge it.

On the right side of the map, you can find Tel Aphek. In this area, you will see Antipatris Fort, the British water pumping station, the artificial lake, paddling pools, and other POI.

And on the left side of the map, you can find the Yarkon springs area. In this region, you can walk along the Yarkon river, see the Yarkon bream pool, Al-Mir flour mill, and several other places. Also, the camping area is situated in the Yarkon springs area.

No road inside the park connects Tel Aphek and Yarkon springs area. There is only a hiking trail between the two parts of the park. That means that you have to choose in advance where to park your car and hike from there. If you want to drive from one part of the park to another, you have to exit the national park and drive around it.

Trails

There are several optional hikes. The first two options would be to make a short hike in each area (about half an hour to an hour). You can also extend these hikes by visiting the Water-Lilly Ponds in the center of the site plan (marked as #6 on the map above). Then a typical hike will take about one and a half to two hours. And the longest walk includes visiting both areas. If you have a car parked in each region, then it will take you about two hours. Otherwise, you will have to return to the initial point, meaning four hours long walk.

Directions

As I mentioned above, you have to choose in advance whether to park at Tel Aphek or the Yarkon springs area. There are two separate entrances, and they are not close to each other.

Tel Aphek Entrance

You can reach the entry to Tel Aphek from road #483. Here are its coordinates 32.103343, 34.933875. If you enter “Yarkon National Park” into Waze, then it will also take you to this entrance.

If you are using public transport, then here is already a preset link to Moovit. Just enter your starting point, and you will get the updated directions.

Yarkon Springs Entrance

You can reach the entry to Yarkon Springs from road #40. Here are its coordinates 32.112181, 34.911553. If you enter “Yarkon Springs” into Waze, then it will also take you to this entrance.

If you are using public transport, then you can take the train to the Segula Yarqonim train stop. And walk about two km from there. Here is already a preset link to Moovit. Just enter your starting point, and you will get the updated directions.

Note: there are many parking spaces inside each section of the park.

Opening Hours

Sunday – Thursday And Saturday: 8 – 17 (16 during winter).
Fridays: 8 – 16 (15 during winter).
On holidays usually 8 – 13.

Entrance Fee

Adult 28 NIS, child 14 NIS, and student 24 NIS. And free for National Parks annual subscribers.

If you are going to visit several National Parks, then consider purchasing a combo ticket. You can find additional info at National Parks And Nature Reserves.

Note: opening hours and ticket prices were updated in July 2020. In any case, recheck the official site before visiting.

Yarkon River

Since life begins with water, let’s start with a short review of Yarkon river.

In Arabic, the Yarkon river is called “Al-Auja” – meandering. The total length of the river, from the springs at Rosh Ha’Ayin to the sea, is 27.5 km, and within the boundaries of the national park, it is 17.7 km. In the past, the Yarkon was the coastal river with the greatest flow capacity in Israel: the water flowing from its springs produced an annual quantity of 220 cu.m. However, in 1955 the government began pumping water from the Yarkon to the Negev via the National Water Carrier, and the Yarkon lost its power, and the quantity of spring water flowing in it gradually declined. The decrease in the quantity of water reduced the Yarkon’s self-cleansing capability.

In the 1960s, a momentum of construction began around the river – the cities of the Dan region and other towns around it were built up, and industrial and domestic sewage flowed into the river, leading to severe pollution.

Towards the 1970s, sewage treatment facilities were established in the region, but the wastewater was of poor quality, and the pollution of the river continued. Today, as part of the “Yarkon Redemption” project, the wastewater treatment facilities have been upgraded, and a system of green basins was constructed to deal with the wastewater before it reaches the river. The upgrading and pre-treatment improved the quality of the sewer and the condition of the river in general. At the same time, accidents do happen occasionally, and the quality and capacity of the water are not stable. Nature and Parks Authority believe that rivers must be rehabilitated by using source water only.

Note: unless stated otherwise, all quotes were taken from the official site.

Camping

If you are looking for a place in this area to spend the night, then Yarkon Campsite can be a good alternative. Yarkon Campsite is located inside Yarkon Springs, and you can see it on the map above between points #10 and #12.

The lodging options include tents, staff rooms, and a caravan park. You can find additional information, including pricing and availability, at the official site.

Events

Since the Afek area is quite big, they hold different events. Thus you can combine a visit to an event with a hike in the park. Here, for example, we visited the Classic Car Club in Israel. So check out the official website for nearby events in this park.

Which Part of the Park Should I visit?

As I mentioned above, this national park is divided into two sections: Tel Afek and Yarkon springs. And if you are not going to take the long hike, then you will have to choose one of them.

I visited both of these areas several times, and I always prefer Tel Afek. And the main reason is Antipatris. But when I am looking for a lovely place for a picnic, then I usually choose Yarkon springs. And from this point, I will focus on Tel Afek.

Tel Aphek

Why was Aphek important? And what does Afek mean?

In the past, it was not possible to pass from the southern coastal plain towards the Sharon and northwards due to the marshes that had developed around the river. The ancient Via Maris that traversed the country lengthwise had to circumvent the marshes from the east, which is why the region was called the “Afek Passage.” The route went along a pass between the mountain and the sources of the Yarkon. Already from ancient times, this passage was a focus for human settlement, which is evidenced by the remains of a settlement at Tel Afek.

The area was settled continuously for 5,000 years, from the beginning of the Bronze Age until the Ottoman period. In the later Roman period (2nd-4th centuries CE), Antipatris was the major city in the region and an important junction in the system of roads built by the Roman rulers in Palestine. Antipatris (and Mirabel at Rosh Ha’Ayin) commanded the Afek Passage, the Yarkon basin, and the Southern Sharon. The name “Afek” derives from the Akkadian word “Aphek”/Aphekum,” meaning springs, which also appears to be connected to the Hebrew word “Afek” – riverbed, stream.

The Squill Trail

We will visit Tel Afek using the Squill trail. It is an easy circular walking path that is about two km long and takes around an hour.

The Squill trail – a walking route along which squills (Drimia Maritima) were planted in 2011. The inspiration for selecting squill to mark the trail came from the ancient practice of using the plant as boundaries between fields. The Squill Trail is a circular route passing through sites from the Roman, Ottoman and British periods.

Map of the Squill trail at Tel Aphek
Map of the Squill trail at Tel Aphek

The Squill trail starts at the parking near the winter pool (marked as #1 on the map).

The Squill trail at Tel Afek
The Squill trail at Tel Afek
The Squill trail at Yarkon National Park
The Squill trail at Yarkon National Park

Along the Squill trail you can find different informational signs in Hebrew.

And after about ten minutes, you will reach the Cardo.

The Roman Cardo

It was the main street of the Roman city of Antipatris. You can see grooves on the paving stones, carved by carriages.

The Roman Cardo at Yarkon National Park
The Roman Cardo at Yarkon National Park

At the far end of the Cardo, you can see a lookout tower. This is Antipatris Fort and we will reach it shortly. But meanwhile, let’s visit the theater.

The Roman Cardo
The Roman Cardo

The Roman Theater

The Cardo and the Roman Theater were used by residents of the Roman city Antipatris at the beginning of the first century.

The Roman Theater at Yarkon National Park
The Roman Theater at Yarkon National Park
The Roman Theater at Yarkon National Park
Under the stage of the Roman Theater

Alexandroni Brigade Memorial

Shortly after the theater, you will see a sign to the Alexandroni Brigade memorial.

Forty one soilders from the Alexandroni brigade died in this region during the independence war.

Alexandroni Brigade Memorial
Alexandroni Brigade Memorial

Tel Afeq – Antipatris

We will continue along the Cardo until we reach the Antipatris Fort (marked as #3 on the map at the beginning of this post).

In this post, you will see the word “Tel” many times. Tel is an artificial mound that was created by building one city of top of another over and over again. You can find more information about Tel at Tel Megiddo National Park.

Archeological excavations at Tel Afeq exposed many layers starting from the fourth millennium BCE until the 20th century. In the Second Temple period, Herod built the city of Antipatris. And the remains of the fortress you can see today is the Ottoman fort called “Head of the Spring.”

The Cardo and Antipatris Fort
The Cardo and Antipatris Fort

The City of Antipatris

Short overview about Antipatris:

Antipatris was one of the most important cities in Israel; it was settled almost continuously for 5,000 years, from the early Bronze Age to the Ottoman period, and achieved a size of over 120 dunams. Its importance derives from its location at the “Afek Passage” – the narrow passage that connects the hills of Samaria and the sources of the Yarkon River. This passage served to circumvent the marshy area and was part of the Via Maris, which traversed the length of the country.

At the top of the Tel the ruins of a Turkish fortress can be seen, and within the Tel palaces from a Canaanite city were found. Part of the Roman-Byzantine city Antipatris was excavated south of the fortress, and in it were found the cardo with stores alongside it, a villa with mosaic floors and the city square. West of the Tel was found the remains of the Odeon – a Roman structure similar to a small theater, designed for musical performances. East of the top of the Tel are buildings and concrete pools belonging to the Mandate-period water facility that pumped water from the Yarkon and transported it to Jerusalem.

Who was Antipatris?

Antipatris was a city built by Herod the Great and named in honor of his father, Antipater II of Judea. It lay between Caesarea Maritima and Lydda, on the great Roman road from Caesarea to Jerusalem, and figures prominently in Roman-era history.

According to Josephus, Antipatris was built on the site of an older town that was formerly called Chabarzaba, a place so-named in classical Jewish literature and the Mosaic of Rehob. During the outbreak of the Jewish war with Rome in 64 CE, the Roman army under Cestius was routed as far as Antipatris.

Paul the Apostle was brought by night from Jerusalem to Antipatris and next day from there to Caesarea Maritima, to stand trial before the governor Antonius Felix.

Only one of the early bishops of the Christian bishopric of Antipatris, a suffragan of Caesarea, is mentioned by name in extant documentation: Polychronius, who was present both at the Robber Council of Ephesus in 449 and the Council of Chalcedon in 451. No longer a residential bishopric, Antipatris is today listed by the Catholic Church as a titular see.

In 363, the city was badly damaged by an earthquake.

Source: Wikipedia

Antipatris Fort

Antipatris Fort
Antipatris Fort

The fortress at the top of the Tel was built between 1572 -1574 in the Ottoman period and is called “Binar Bashi,” an Arabic corruption of the Turkish name Pinar Basha, literally – “fountainhead” or “head of the springs” (in Hebrew – Rosh Ha’Ayin). The fortress is known mistakenly as Antipatris Fort, after the Roman city that existed here. The function of the fortress was to guard the Afek Passage – the narrow pass that connected the hills of Shomron with the sources of the Yarkon River.

This pass circumvented the marshy region and was part of the ancient Via Maris that traversed the length of the country.

And now let’s enter the fortress.

Inside the fortress at Yarkon National Park
Inside the fortress at Yarkon National Park

In the far end of the fortress, you can see a tower with flags on top of it. If you climb the stair to the second level of the tower, you will see something similar to a spyglass.

On the second floor in the tower
On the second floor in the tower

If you look through that spyglass, then on top of a mountain, you can see another fort. That is Migdal Afek, which is part of Migdal Tsedek National Park. And the “Afek Passage,” which is part of Via Maris lies between the two fortresses. Moreover, today the same passage us used for road #6, #444, and the train.

We visited Migdal Afek at Migdal Tsedek National Park more than a decade ago. Back then, it looked abandoned, but in pretty good condition. Today Migdal Afek is under reconstruction, and this national park is expected to be opened towards the end of 2020.

View from the fort towards the Artificial Lake
View from the fort towards the Artificial Lake
In the citadel at Yarkon National Park
In the citadel at Yarkon National Park

Inside the fortress, you can find an excavated area. The lower level is an Egyptian governor’s house.

Excavated area in the fort, Yarkon National Park
Excavated area in the fort

And as you take the stairs down, look at the stairway. Each stair lists another period and the name that this city was called then.

The stairs
The stairs
Egyptian governor's house at Yarkon National Park
Egyptian governor’s house

We will leave the stronghold, and continue towards point #2.

The British Water Pumping Station

Between 1936 and 1939, water was supplied from this point to Jerusalem. The supply was made using more than sixty km long pipes. And as you guessed, we are in the British Water Pumping Station (marked as #2 on the Map of Yarkon National Park).

The British Water Pumping Station
The British Water Pumping Station

The British Water Pumping Station – a facility erected by the British in Palestine during the Mandate, which was part of the facility that conveyed water to Jerusalem. The water was collected in pipes at the Rosh Ha’Ayin springs and transferred to filtering pools for cleaning and then to a chlorination structure. After that, the water was conveyed to an underground reservoir and pumping stations, and from there, it was delivered to Jerusalem. The old structures seen in the Afek area are the pumping station, the sinking and filtering pools, and the chlorination structure. Opposite there are buildings that served as offices and residence for the British soldiers who guarded the pumping station, which Nature and Parks Authority use today.

The British Water Pumping Station
The British Water Pumping Station

The Artificial Lake

From the water pumping station, we will descend to the artificial lake (marked #4 on the map of Yarkon National Park).

The Artificial Lake, the fort (right), and the water pumping station (left), Yarkon National Park
The Artificial Lake, the fort (right), and the water pumping station (left)

The Artificial Lake – a narrow peaceful waterway flows into the lake originating from the National Water Carrier pipeline. The lake was built in a natural basin located there, in order to create a suitable habitat for water fauna and for leisure and recreation purposes.

If you stand on the shore of the lake you can see many catfish.

catfish
Catfish

Besides catfish, you can also see Yarkon Bleak. The Yarkon Bleak is an endemic species that was almost extinct.

Saving Yarkon Bleak species
Saving Yarkon Bleak species

Since I already wrote about the Yarkon Bleak, I will not elaborate here. You can find additional information in my guide to Ein Afek Nature Reserve.

Yarkon Bleak returned to Yarkon National Park
Yarkon Bleak returned to Yarkon National Park

The lake is also used to nurture plants that used to grow in Yarkon and became almost extinct.

Egyptian lotus
Egyptian lotus

Recreation Area and Amusement Facility

If you would like to have a picnic or a barbeque, then there is plenty of space for that.

Recreation Area and Amusement Facility
Recreation Area and Amusement Facility

Paddling Pools

There are several paddling pools for kids. They are located near the winter pool (marked as #1 on the map). And the depth of the wading pools is about 40 cm.

The Paddling Pools – above the artificial lake a few paddling pools were built at the end of 2012, and visitors are invited to paddle in them (bathing is prohibited in the lake itself).

Paddling Pools at Yarkon National Park
Paddling Pools at Yarkon National Park

Summary

Yarkon National Park is liked not only because of its location. But also because it has many things to offer. There is archeology, history, and wildlife. Moreover, if you are looking for a hike, a place for a picnic, or some activity for the kids, then you can find it all in this park.

Have you ever been to Yarkon National Park? Tell us about your experience in the comments below.

That’s all for today, and I’ll see you in future travels!

Stay Tuned!

   

Additional Resources

Here are several resources that I created to help travelers: And if you have any questions then check out Useful Information For Tourists To Israel.  
Did not find what you were looking for? Email me at [email protected], and I will do my best to answer your questions.

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