The Quiet and Craggy Kingdom of the Golden Eagle
Written by David Rios
e-mail address: email@example.com
Roaring streams coming from the western edges of the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range thread their way through deep and inaccessible gorges where it is still possible to enjoy nature in its wildest and purest state. The Dúrcal River forms (over its final stretch just before leaving the foothills of the dolomitic limestone area of the mountain range) a breathtaking landscape of vertical walls, rocky needles and pinnacles towering above the dense riparian forest that accompanies the mighty waters of the river flowing into the valley.
The walk consists of a smooth and distinct path, no more than 2.3 kilometres long, following the course of the Márgena irrigation channel (also called “Mahina” or “Mágina” ditch). It provides an easy and pleasant scenic walk through the lower part of the Dúrcal River Canyon.
The route commences just in front of the main access to the Valle de Lecrin Institute and follows a dirt track for about 1.5 kilometres before crossing the gravelly bed of the Rambla de Dúrcal ravine, which is usually dry. Along the way, the lane runs along the left slope of the valley, above and parallel to the Márgena irrigation channel and offers excellent panoramic views over the riverbanks.
Depending on the time of the year, the walker can enjoy a dynamic and changing environment that contains some ideal habitats for many bird species. For example, towards the end of winter there is a good chance to see the European Green Woodpecker (Picus viridis) and hearing its characteristic calling -something like a gentle whinny- over its courtship display. Also at the onset of spring, sheltered in shadows of the lush vegetation that grow alongside the stream, the Golden Oriole (Oriolus oriolus) fills the lower valley with singing at the crack of dawn and throughout the rest of the day.
Once the end of the broad track is reached, it turns into a narrower footpath, descending directly to the gully that has to be crossed. After a short, but very steep slope, flanked by a small plantation of cypresses, the Rambla de Dúrcal has to be waded across and after just a few metres of walking up the riverbed, the short path providing further access to the Márgena irrigation channel, starts.
From this point, located at the beginning of the tunnel used by the canal for traversing the Rambla, the walk continues along the edge of the irrigation channel made in concrete. It is important to mention the tight width of the path along the edge of the irrigation channel, less than half a metre, in addition to the increasing unevenness between the channel and the ravine floor. Even though it might seem a little dangerous, this only occurs for a few metres along its initial section.
The water flowing through the irrigation channel is generally low and the distance involved is relatively short so this is not a hardship that prevents the walker from advancing upstream. After about 120 metres of walking, the path turns right and the walker is confronted with a stunning view of the Dúrcal River gorge.
At this point the path travels a small distance inside a tunnel, which forces the walker to bow or crawl in order to get through this only obstacle on the entire route. Passing the tunnel, we are at the virtual entrance to an absolutely wild and indomitable world, amazing scenery where the sound of turbulent waters mixes with the bustle of birds inhabiting both banks. The dense gallery forest comprising essentially Willow and Poplar trees is home to passerine bird species, including among others, Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes), Robin (Erithacus rubecula), Nightingale (Luscinia megarhynchos), Melodious Warbler (Hippolais polyglotta) and Cirl Bunting (Emberiza cirlus).
The path snakes along the left side of the Dúrcal River and maintains an easy gradient. After overcoming a short stretch where the narrowness of the path compels the walker to hug the rock wall, the route finally arrives at the head of Mahina channel approximately 600 metres after leaving the tunnel. Here is located the small diversion dam, transversely built to the main stream, for diverting a portion of water to the irrigation channel, which marks the end of the walk.
Upstream from this idyllic setting the river runs through the section popularly known as “Las Presas del Río Dúrcal”. If the water is low (the flow peak occurs here during snowmelt, from April to June), we could go walk another 200 metres upriver as far as the craggy rocks. It is then necessary to use climbing skills to proceed any further.
The lack of river bank vegetation on this last section significantly increases the possibilities for getting clear views of Dipper (Cinclus cinclus), the unique species among passerines with the ability to dive and swim underwater. Apart from this true enthusiast of pure and crystal waters, it is relatively easy to spot Grey Wagtail (Motacilla cinerea) giving its characteristic sharp call as it flies low with undulations along the riverbed. Another option, once reaching the start of Mahina channel would be to climb the rock behind the Fig tree located there, for a few of metres and then take an indistinct path winding its way up the mountain slope.
After ascending a short distance, the spectacular waterfall, formed by the excess flow discharging from another higher canal (the so-called “Canal de Fuga” by local people), is an excellent viewpoint for birdwatching. Some rockdwelling species such as Blue Rock-thrush (Monticola solitarius), Black Wheatear (Oenanthe leucura) and even Alpine Swift (Apus melba) can be found there, this latter species only from May to August. Looking further up the gorge, on the opposite bank, we might be able to enjoy Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) circling above the magnificent cliffs of Tajos del Cebón at dusk. .
If you want to visit the Lecrín Valley to discover these wonderful places, we have a wide variety of accommodation, beautiful rural houses and hotels to choose from. For eating there are different types of restaurants, and if what you are looking for is something different our active tourism companies offer you all kinds of activities and sensations. We are the Lecrín Valley Rural Tourism Association: www.turismovalledelecrin.com
Si quieres visitar el Valle de Lecrín para conocer estos maravillosos rincones, tenemos un amplia variedad de alojamientos, casas rurales preciosas y hoteles para elegir; para comer hay diferentes restaurantes para escoger, y si lo que buscas es algo diferente nuestras empresas de turismo activo, te ofrecen toda clase de actividades y sensaciones.Somos la Asociación de Turismo Rural del Valle de Lecrín. www.turismovalledelecrin.com