Somewhere near the border between the two Galilees, the Upper Galilee on one side and the Lower on the other there is an elusive stream that changed the course of its direction long time ago. The Hebrew name of this wadi is nahal Tzalmon which lexicologically means calmness; however this word would not apply on Saturdays and holidays, when the banks of this stream are overcrowded with flocks of our countrymen and countrywomen who would flock to one of the only streams in the country that runs their lovely water all year around. The footpath that follows Tzalmon stream is nice and easy, has plenty of flourmills and places so inviting in their relaxing sound of running water that you’d just want to sit and settle there for a whole day.
The ring-like itinerary along Tzalmon can take either half an hour or a whole day. Although some places along its stream allow for a refreshing bathing, most others would make only for wetting your feet in it. The route is very enjoyable for the whole family, and the visit is warmly recommended but not on Saturdays when it is brimmed with herds of our people.
The Tzalmon nature reserve is located along route 804 between Rame and Hilazon Junctions, the former is for those who arrive from Akko by route 85 and the latter is for those who take route 805, somewhat north to Araba.
For those who arrive from Rama Junction (1), drive south c. 3.5 km [2.1 miles], pass the few houses built around Ein Tzalmon, the Tzalmon spring, and after another 400 meters [1,300 feet] park on a kurkar [sandstone] parking lot along the right side of the road. Then follow the sign directing to Tzalmon stream .
For those who arrive from Hilazon Junction, continue eight more km [5 miles] north, pass the entrance to Tzalmon stream near Salma , and after another 1.5 km [0.930 mile] park next to the kurkar ruin near the head of the stream – the starting point of our trek.
For those who might think about leaving a second vehicle at the end of the path about 1.5 km south to the starting point , I recommend not to do so and return back through the same way along the stream to their vehicle at starting point.
The origins of nahal Tzalmon are somewhere at Hillel Mount of the Meron mountains. Its 30-km [18 miles] long path bespeaks an immense geological change that shaped the view of Israel during millions of years. According to one hypothesis, which is not very widely received, in prehistoric times the stream had ran its water towards the Mediterranean and drained the whole Upper Galilee’s rainfall water. With the gapping of Great Rift Valley and formations of Dead Sea, Jordan Valley, Sea of Galilee, and even Hermon, the stream had changed its course, and ever since then it empties its water to the Sea of Galilee. Changing its course into the new, dipper drainage basin is evident from the way its stream goes, i.e. it starts to flow west, and around the area of our trek its changes its path southward, only to roll its water eastward where its affluent flows, near Kibbutz Ginosar, between the Arbel Mount and lower part of Amud stream, into the Sea of Galilee.
The stream is fed by several springs: Ein Parod and Ein Rame'el in the upper part of the stream, Ein Tzalmon in midway, and Ein Ravid and Ein Dashna at the lower. Today most of its water is pumped for supplying drinking water for the settlements in the area and the smaller part of it, through an arrangement with the National Water Company, flows freely along Tzalmon’s waterbed. In our walk we shall follow a part of the stream, which back in May 2005 was claimed a nature reserve by the interior minister then, Mr. Ophir Pines. Hopefully, these regulating laws of nature preservation would protect of this delightful treasure of Nature.
Following a blue-marked footpath we'll reach the riverbed. Immediately upon starting our walk we will meet with the lush of water, river flora, and planted orchards. Among the variety of wild plants we could find fig trees, common willow [salix acmophylla], bramble [rubus], rush [cyperus longus], watercress [apinm nodiflorum], marshwort [apium nodiflorum], horsemint [menthe lonifolia], common reed [phragmites australis] and more. The canyon is a habitat for some rare genera e.g. rough-leaved michauxia and field elm [ulmus minor]. On its surroundings and covering the eastside of its slopes the flora is a typical company of kernes oak [quercus] and thorny burnet and on the west side of its slopes it is the lovely reddish-evergreen mosaic of kernes oak and eastern strawberry tree.
Right upon starting our walk we'll encounter a small pool of water which can nicely fit for wetting our feet in. The water supply for the pool depends on that year water capacity, beginning from 50 cubic meters in an arid summer up to 300 cubic meters through intensive flow. As we shall probably notice in our drive here, the water outlet in this part of the stream gushes from Ein Tzalmon, which flaws very near houses of the small Bedouin village, Ras El-Nabea (head of the spring) and irrigates fruit orchards and plantations.
Up to 14 flourmills are scattered along the streambed, most of them are totally ruined, some of them are better preserved, and few were working up until 1948. The flourmill working system is very familiar and like that of many others which are spread along streams (see illustration) all over the country: some stream water was captured in a canal and brought to the flourmill while keeping height deference between the canal and waterbed's altitudes. In entering the flourmill building, the water was flowed down through a chimney and vertical shaft to a paddlewheel. Using the power of gravity, the press of falling water was yoked for generating a movement upon the paddlewheel, of which pole was tied up in its lower part to both upper and lower millstones. From this point the water flowed back to the riverbed. It's worth noting that water after starting the paddlewheel movement had caused no pollution and were fowing clear and clean back to the river. Usually flourmills were named after the village nearby. Thus we can find A-Sajuria flourmill which is named after Sajur, A-Armia flourmill after A-Rame, a village near which we shall pass in our way here.
Nahal Tzalmon is not rarely mentioned in Josepus Flavius’ writings as one of the centers for the First Jewish-Roman War in 67-70 AD; it is not hard to imagine how its water quenched the thirst of the many peoples living next to it throughout history. This can be evident from a burial tomb dug on the riverbank about 200 meters from the pool we shall visit .
Resting places for relaxation can be found just everywhere, and bringing a good book is a good idea along with settling down somewhere on its banks, reading and enjoying the soothing sound of lapping water. Please be meticulous with keeping clean after you even if former visitors were not as caring as you. Collect your garbage and throw it to the big garbage container at the end of the footpath.
After 1.5-km [0.9 mile] walk we shall approach two big flourmills – the El-Kardi mills – and discover in the chimney of the lower one a paddlewheel that used to operate the mill.
The fifth last flourmill in this part of our walk is El-Mashrava (a drinking place) near the Bedouin village Salma. From here the water runs further south in the streambed until being absorbed in the ground near Tzalmon ruin, about 1 km [0.600 mile] south to the Bedouin village A-Salma.
Built by Israeli government, the village brought together and facilitated the settling down of Bedouin populations from this locus and Hula Valley which were mostly of the A-Sued tribe.
From this point, the area of this flourmill , we shall turn and go back to our car awaiting us at the beginning of route.
For good hikers who'd wish to continue further
Our blue footpath descends further along the Tzalmon stream, and we can stick to it. In our walking near the streambed we'll meet in our way many remains of flourmills, and in about 2-km walk we'd notice the Tzalmon ruins on a hill to our left. It is interesting to leave the footpath and climb the ruin. Tzalmon was a city in the days of the Second Temple, and Josephus Flavius fortified it in preparing for the First Roman-Jewish War. In the Mishna and Talmus periods the place was populated by guards from the Dahlia and Ginton clergies. In the 18th century it was a Druze settlement which was ruined by Arab citizens from a nearby settlement, Arabe, who joined forces with Daher el-Omar, a Bedouin ruler of the Galilee in those years.
In no more than a 3-km [1.8 mile] walk we shall encounter the Tsalmon Reservoir Junction and parking place of the second vehicle for the ride back. This place is named after the Tzalmon Reservoir that picks up the water of the National Water Carrier in its way from the Amud siphon to Tzalmon siphon. The function of the Tzalmon Pamping Station, the second one along the National Carrier, is to boost water from 145 m below sea level to 152 m above sea level toward the Eilabun Pamping Station and from thence in an open channel to the Eshkol Site.
For those who wish to continue with the blue marked footpath all the way to Sea of Galilee, just continue and walk along Tzalmon stream another 17 km [10.5 miles].
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