The road leading to civilization passes through rivers… Rivers that provide fertility to the land, adorn their shores with glorious landscapes, preserve the cultural heritage, and the mother of civilizations, appear at every step in this geography.
Some flow fast, some are red, some are the cradles of civilization, some are the pearls of tourism. Here is the path to civilization through the path of water…
Heart of the matter: Seyhan
The Seyhan River, which irrigates the fertile lands of Çukurova and makes its way through Adana, flows like lifeblood. Curving over the Seyhan River, the largest river of Turkey that unites with the Mediterranean, Taş Köprü (stone bridge), belonging to the Roman Empire period, and Merkez Sabancı Mosque that dominates the landscape are the city’s iconic postcard images. One cannot get enough of watching the reflection of the mosque on the water especially at night. Visiting the mosque, walking on the Taş Köprü and strolling around the Kuş Pazarı (bird market), which is set on Sunday mornings, are among the small pleasures of the city. There are two other dams, Yedigöze and Çatalan, on the river, which is an important water source. Although these dams reduce the flow of the river, the river has always been vital for Çukurova. Seyhan reaches Adana after passing through Çukurova. It forms a large lake in front of the dam, built to protect the city from floods. Seyhan River Dam Lake is an important alternative for the inhabitants to breathe and cool especially in summer months. There are many water sports available on the reservoir, including sailing, surfing and canoeing. You can have a picnic near the dam, taste the sweet Bici Bici unique to Adana if it is the season for it, watch the sunset at Kayıkhane, sip your tea at Dilberler Sekisi, join the locals jogging in Adana Gençlik Köprüsü (youth bridge) in the morning, watch Seyhan Dam Lake from Çukurova University. Always accompanied by the coolness of Seyhan…
Water of civilization: Fırat
Mesopotamia, the cradle of civilization, the country between two rivers… It is the alluvial basin which is formed by the union of Tigris and Euphrates rivers at Shatt al-arab before joining to the Persian Gulf after passing through Turkey, Syria, and Iraq. Giving life to Turkey’s eight cities, Euphrates River passes through Syria and Iraq and unites with the Tigris for a short distance before reaching to the Persian Gulf. The cuneiform, which is considered the beginning of history, was discovered in the Mesopotamian lands, and the coasts of the Euphrates have been suitable places to establish cities throughout history. In many civilizations, the Euphrates served as a border. Despite the bare mountains of Eastern Anatolia, a journey which will be made along Euphrates River and its arms will be filled with oasis and most scenic route of Northeastern Turkey. In the thousand twists of the Euphrates that flows for a total of 2,800 km along the Erzincan-Elazığ road, there are unique lives, different geography, and an impressive history. Zeugma is undoubtedly the most famous of the 820 archaeological sites that were flooded during the construction of the dams on the Euphrates. The most striking views of the river are seen in Şanlıurfa Birecik, Adıyaman Nemrut, and Erzincan Kemaliye. In 2001, when the Birecik Dam became operational, the Euphrates overflowed. Boat trips in Halfeti reveal the results of this with its flooded neighborhoods and historical heritage. It is possible to do water skiing and rafting in the river between Erzincan and Kemah in the months when water is the highest, from July to May. The most important feature of this route is that it is one of the most enjoyable trips that can be done by train.
None stop: Çoruh
It is so fast and flows so tirelessly, that when rafting is mentioned, it enters the top 10 in the world, not only in Turkey… Çoruh is the fastest flowing river in Turkey, with 169 km of track. The river section between Yusufeli and İspir is one of Turkey’s best rafting courses. International competitions are organized particularly in the area between Bayburt and Yusufeli / Oltu. Another striking feature of the river is that the geography through which it passes has magnificent views. The length of the river within the country borders is 442 km. It starts from Mescit Mountain, which is located between İspir and Erzurum and grows with the addition of streams from Kaçkar Mountains National Park. It is fed with clean water from the glacial lakes in the national park and is strengthened by the streams from the magnificent valleys until it reaches Yusufeli. The views in the valleys along this route are quite impressive. Leaving the borders of Turkey, the Çoruh basin that joins the Black Sea from Batumi, a Black Sea city in Georgia, is suitable for extreme sports and rich in terms of cultural heritage. The road from Artvin to Erzurum reaches Yusufeli after passing along a magnificent strait along Çoruh River for 105 km. Yellow-red bare cliffs and green, gushing from the edge of the river create a striking contrast. From one side of the river to another, makeshift wooden or suspended bridges, cable cars stretch to transport loads or people. Yusufeli is the center of regional tourism. Almost all produce, figs, grapes, cranberries, pomegranates, except bananas, grow in its fertile soil and in the gardens of wooden houses. There are rice fields towards İspir. Barhal and Trans Kaçkar tours are among the most popular routes for backpacking young tourists for trekking and camping. There are many historical Georgian churches in the region.
Both trouble and remedy: Greater Menderes
It fills the sea by carrying the soil it passes through… This is the most prominent feature of the Greater Menderes, the largest river in Western Anatolia. The 584-meter long river passes through Denizli and Aydın, drawing zigzags, and flows into the Aegean Sea near the ancient city of Miletus, founded in the 6th century BC. Greater Menderes determined the fate of many important ancient cities. In antiquity, it filled the sea and caused the port cities such as Ephesus and Miletus to fall further away from the shore and ruined many lives with malaria. The river is 6 km away from the port of Miletus and 9 km away from Ephesus. Both malaria and the harbors’ getting further away had a negative impact on trade and led to the abandonment and impoverishment of these famous cities. However, the River of Greater Menderes, which irrigates the plains of Sarayköy, Nazilli, Aydın, and Söke, has created fertile soils suitable for cotton farming for centuries. The most important fish species of this river is eel. After months of travel from Mexico, the eel enters Lake Bafa and fattens here. Then it goes back to Mexico the same way. Watch the beautiful view created by the Greater Menderes in the ancient city of Priene in Aydın, climb to the top of the Miletus Theater and realize the change that Menderes has created for ages, watch the flamingos of the Menderes Delta by binoculars. Go to the Acropolis from the steps carved into the natural rock, go to the top of the old Doğanbey village for tea with fishermen accustomed to loneliness, have pleasant conversations with fishermen, watch the delta over the olive trees, visit the magnificent Faustina Baths of Miletus, and grant the Romans right for spending most of their days here…
The journey of crimson: Kızılırmak
Especially when it freezes, you will see its unique views. With its 1,355 km length, Kızılırmak (Red River) is the longest river in Turkey. Winters are very tough in Sivas, the source of the Kızılırmak River. It has been seen that its surface was ice-covered in Sivas in some winters. Kızılırmak, the journey of which ends in Samsun Bafra in the Black Sea, undoubtedly takes its legendary name from its color. The river flows red over long distances, though not every moment of it. The color of the river originates from the soil structure in İmranlı Kızıldağ, where it was sourced. When the material brought by erosion is mixed with water through red soil, the water becomes red. The river, which passes through 10 cities including Ankara, Kayseri, and Kırşehir, becomes magnificent in Avanos as it approaches Cappadocia. Avanos has the signature of the river in the potteries, among the symbols of Avanos. What they say is: “Everybody recognizes Jesus, the son of Mary, from his walking stick, the blind can find the road to Avanos, a jug is recognized from the broken pottery.” See the old Ottoman, Armenian, and Greek houses and cobblestone streets while walking down watching the Kızılırmak, walk across the old wooden suspension bridge over the Kızılırmak… Kızılırmak, where it joins the sea, especially in terms of irrigable area, constitutes the most important plain of this geography. There are many lakes in the Bafra Plain, known as the Kızılırmak Delta. Kızılırmak, known as Halys in ancient times, was home to many civilizations as well as the Hittites.
In recent years, Kızılırmak was polluted due to industrial waste, and in good times it was known with species such as catfish and tench. After the Altınkaya Dam on the Kızılırmak in Samsun, Paflagonya rock tombs and Asar Castle are worth seeing. Also the delta is among the important bird habitats.