Lake Kerkini in Greece – A True Swampy Oasis for Many Birds and Buffalo
Lake Kerkini is surrounded on all sides by tall mountains, close to the border between Greece and Bulgaria. It is a 72 sq. kilometer fresh water lake which formed in 1932 with the construction of a dam on the Strymonas River, on the lands previously occupied by a swamp. Due to a large silt buildup, it was necessary for another dam to be built on the lake in 1983. With this came an understanding between the two neighboring countries on the usage of the lake’s waters. Because of this, the water levels fluctuate up to 5 meters throughout the year. Lake Kerkini begins to fill up at the beginning of February, reaching its maximum level in May.
In recent years, rising levels were higher than ever and many surrounding forests and marshlands have been swallowed by the waters. However, some plants have benefited from these changes, especially water lilies. Moreover, willow trees have adapted to their new living conditions and have become Europe’s only semi-aquatic trees. The remaining forests surrounding lake Kerkini are mostly oak, hornbeam, elm and ash.
The relatively new environment this lake has created, attracts many species of wild animals. The lake is full of fish, with some over 300 species swimming in its waters. It’s also a very important wetland in Greece which is a perfect breeding ground for many water-birds. Lake Kerkini sustains a large population of birds, all throughout the year, among which are many rare and endangered species. In spring, the lake is completely covered by thousands of ducks, pelicans and many others. Spring is also the perfect time to witness this amazing natural spectacle.
Many water buffalo graze the surrounding marshes and forests, often times found swimming and diving, in search for aquatic vegetation. Though mostly docile, these buffalo can become dangerous if they feel somehow threatened. Lake Kerkini is also home to some 19 species o reptile, among which are frogs, snakes, lizards and turtles. From atop the Beles and Krousia snowy peaks, a wonderful panorama opens up, with Lake Kerkini at its center.