Elli’s Dam- Riverine forest of Axios
- Distance on vehicle: 2 km.
- Time on vehicle: 10 min.
- Walk: 20 min.
Elli’s Dam offers the opportunity for a very nice excursion, especially in spring, when the riverine vegetation is at its best. The route offers impressive views of Axios river meandering down to the sea, and also a close look at the function of the dams. This route goes on outside the limits of the National Park, but within the area of responsibility of the Axios – Loudias – Aliakmonas Management Authority, as a site listed in the Natura 2000 European network of protected areas.
In order to reach the dam you should follow the national road Thessaloniki – Edessa and, before crossing the bridge over Axios, turn off at the guardhouse sign marked as “ΓOEB”. After riding on an unpaved road for 2.5 km you will encounter the dam.
Elli’s dam was constructed in the 60’s as part of the irrigation system of the plain of Thessaloniki. Since 2008 a little hydroelectric station is functioning at its west edge, near the village of Eleousa. Fortunately, the construction of the dam resulted in the creation of a small fresh water lake with a very large reedbed, where you can see herons, dubbling ducks, diving ducks, grebes and birds of prey.
Leave your vehicle and walk along the unpaved road for a 10 min. walk, up to the small hill; from there you will enjoy the views of the river meandering down from the north, the reed bed and the large islet inside the river. It is so large that the locals call it “the island”. Untouched by humans, the islet is covered by riverine vegetation and is home to Dalmatian pelicans, cormorants, herons and other bird species. With a little bit of patience and luck you may see some of the wild horses which live on the islet.
The riverine forest
Before starting your vehicle’s engine creep through the vegetation into a little footpath on the north of the dam and take a walk through the riverine forest consisting of poplars, willows and alders. A pretty little beach extends along the forest, “decorated” with fine white sand.
This is one of the last remaining fragments of the riverine forest of Axios, which in the previous decades shrank due to human interventions; land reclamation, intensive sand extraction, overgrazing, overexploitation and pollution of the waters, illegal wood cutting and fires. Since the beginning of the financial crisis in Greece, the problem of illegal wood cutting has increased dangerously in the forest of Axios.
You will most probably also encounter a lot of plastic trash. Although human presence is minimal here, trash is inevitable: the river brings it when flooding from the cities and villages it encounters on the way down, in Greece and the neighboring country FYROM. Every year the Management Authority organizes volunteering clean ups in different parts of the National Park, including the riverine forest, in cooperation with the local authorities.
- Play hide and seek in the dense riverine forest.
- For a little piece of history, take the opportunity to visit the Balkan Wars Museum, in the village Gefyra. You will find relics and documents from the period when the Turks turned over Thessaloniki to the Greek army.