Turkey's rivers are the principal source of its fertility. Apart from the lazy Tigris and the rebellious Euphrates, hundreds of large and small rivers give life to the soil of Anatolia.
A Turkish poet said, "Rivers are the roads into the world", so let us take a journey along Turkey's rivers, beginning with those of the eastern Black Sea region, where the rivers rush violently through their mountain gorges.
For thousands of years these and other Turkish rivers have given life to the civilisations which have been born here over the ages. In addition to their role in man's cultural evolution, they are a vital link in the ecology.
One of the most famous is the Çoruh, which rises at Baskoy near Erzincan, flows through Ispir and then Yusufeli, the confluence with the Sivri (known in its lower reaches as the Oltu), to become even larger and more exuberant. It then flows through Borçka in Artvin and across the border into Georgia, where it finally empties into the Black Sea after a journey of 300 kilometres.
Boiling and frothing in all shades of green, the Firtina truly deserves its name, which means storm. Rivers are often at their loveliest in the wildest settings, where they prevent all hut the most intrepid from crossing this natural boundary. The people who inhabit its deep rocky valleys are as exuberant and generous as the river which is such an important part of their lives. Another wild river west of the port of Hopa is less well known but just as enchanting. The Firtina keeps you company along much of the way from Pazar to Çamlihemsin, as it pours down from the Kaçkar Mountains.
The Yeşilirmak is one example. Rising below the summit of the Büyük Güney (2812 metres) in the Köse Mountains, it swallows up the Şerefiye, Findicak, Çilhane and Kelkit rivers on its way down to the Hasan Ugurlu Dam near Ayvacik, and then to its estuary at Çarşamba on the Black Sea. I must digress here to remark that the Hasan Ugurlu Dam is an outstanding illustration of the way human hands can change the landscape and give new dimensions to life. The Kizilirmak is a legendary river which rises near Kizlarsivrisi Tepesi (3025 metres] and crosses Anatolia virtually from end to end. Swelled by the Gemin, Acisu, Kirikli, Tavşanli and Fadlim tributaries, the Kizilirmak or Red River is finally joined by the Çermik before leaving Sivas in central Anatolia on its way westwards.
Turning to the southwest it sweeps past the Kurşunlu Mountains at high speed to reach Avanos, and waters the ancient cities of Cappadocia before turning to the northwest. Passing through the Hirfanh Dam, Kirikkale, Altinkaya Dam, and Derbent Dam, it finds its way at last into the Black Sea at Bafra Head-land. Known as the Halys in antiquity, the river was home to many ancient cities along its course.
EUPHRATES & TIGRIS
Anatolia's history has always been shaped by its two greatest rivers, the Tigris and Euphrates. The early civilisations of Mesopotamia owe their existence to them. The source of the Euphrates (the Firat in Turkish) is the Karasu river, which rises near Erzurum in eastern Turkey. Before reaching the Keban Dam the Euphrates is joined by the Aşkale, Tercan, Erzincan, Kemah and Murat rivers. Subsequently it enters the Karakaya Dam and then the Atatürk Dam near Samsat. Passing by the celebrated ruins of Gargamesh it passes across the border into Syria, then Iraq, where it joins the Tigris (the Dicle) and spills into the Gulf of Basra.
The Tigris rises in the Akçakara Mountains, is joined by first the Batman and then the Botan, and flows into Iraq at the Habur border post on its way to meet the Euphrates.
Two sister rivers whose journey ends at the Mediterranean are the Ceyhan and Seyhan of southern Turkey. Two rivers which rise in the northeast Toros massif, to the east and west of Aladag's summit of Demirkazik (3726 metres), form the Seyhan, whose tributaries are the Ecemiş near Çamardi, and the Yenice and Göksu to the east which channel the waters of the Anti-Toros into the river. The Seyhan is at its most rapid near Karsanti.
If you happen to be in western Turkey you will certainly see the Büyükmenderes, or ancient Meander, which has played a crucial role in trade over the ages. Fed by the Demirler and Banaz rivers near Usak, the Büyükmenderes flows into Adigüzel Dam, which is where water from Ahirdagi and Lake Işikli on Akdağ (2449 metres) converge.
The principal river in Turkey's Marmara region is the Madra, which empties into Kuş Lake and continues its journey to the Marmara Sea via underground channels. Many species of birds live along the banks of this river, where the best time for birdwatching is May.
The Meriç rises in Bulgaria. Its main tributaries are the Arda which joins the Meriç at Edirne, and the Ergene. Its estuary is on the Gulf of Aynos in the Marmara Sea.
The river flows quietly across a broad plain, and is a magnificent sight at sunset. Wild ducks take refuge here from the chill of the Russian steppe.
On the Sakarya are the Sariyer and Gökçekaya dams. This river rises in central Anatolia and passes through Mihaliçcik, Geyve, and Adapazari before reaching the Black Sea.