For thousand of years, swamps covered most of the Hula Valley and served as a home for tens of thousands of migrating birds and many types of rare plants and fish. Following the drainage and drying project, begun in 1951, in which 14,800 acres of swampland were drained in order to free land for agriculture, it was decided to preserve a small area of about 790 acres of swampland as the first nature reserve in Israel and one of the most important, particularly for those interested in bird watching.
During the migration seasons, from Africa to Europe in the spring and from Europe to Africa in the autumn, the Hula Valley, part of the longer Jordan valley, serves as a transit route for migrating birds, and the Hula swamps are a transit stop for thousands of cranes, pelicans storks and various types of birds of prey.
A walk through the reserve provides an unforgettable experience during these seasons. Visitors first enter the Visitors Center, a museum in which a three dimensional movie presents the Hula swamp flora and fauna both in the past and in the present. Following a visit to the museum, we enter the reserve and walk for about a kilometer and a half along comfortable walking paths, some of which are bridges over swamps, leading to seven observation towers. Looking down into the swamp from the bridges, we can see turtles sunning themselves on the stones, large numbers of catfish which have become the dominant fish species, and nutrias, remnants of an attempt to set up a fur industry using the skins of these water-loving rodents which were imported to Israel during the 1950s from South Africa. We can also see rich water vegetation: yellow water lilies, nymphaea, and papyrus, the plant from which the ancient Egyptians produced their famous paper. Perhaps the best part of the visit in the migrating seasons is the large number of ducks, herons, cormorants and pelicans, seen close-up with the binoculars which can be rented at the Visitors Center or the telescopes which are scattered throughout the reserve. From afar, we can watch the herd of buffalo, nourished by the vegetation, which maintain the character of the open grazing land in the reserve.