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Scenic Jordan River trail and the ruins of the Crusader fortress Chastelet

The Jordan River has two sections - a northern part which feeds into Lake Kinneret and a southern section which exits the southern edge of Lake Kinneret and flows into the Dead Sea. This picturesque circular family hike is along the bank of the northern section of the Jordan River and visits the ruins of the Crusader castle of Chastelet (Little Castle) which overlooks an important ford across the river. The hike is fairly short, but can be lengthened by continuing along the Jordan River.

THE HIKE

 

Time: 1 hour, but can be lengthened by at least 30 minutes.

Distance: 2¼ Km.

Type of hike: Circular.

Difficulty: Easy hiking along smooth jeep trails and a concrete path.

Directions: Enter into Waze “derech hayarden haharari.” The turning is off Route 91, about 200 meters from Gesher Benot Ya’acov (Daughters of Jacob Bridge) on the Galilee side of the bridge. There is a brown sign to the trail. Continue a short distance along the jeep road that is indicated until you come to a parking area.

Public transport: Enter "Gesher Benot Ya'akov" into Moovit. The closest bus stop is a 1.4-Km/17-minute walk from Gadot Intersection. This stop is serviced by buses from a number of locations.

River Jordan.jpeg

THE HIKE

  • From the parking lot, head down to the river. At the T-junction by the river turn right.  Continue walking along this trail some distance until you come to a parking lot by the river.

 

  • This circular trail now goes up to the fortress on the concrete path on your right. However, before doing this, it is worthwhile crossing the concrete bridge and continuing along the bank of the Jordan River for another 15 minutes or so.

 

As you walk along you will notice another stream on your right that will eventually become a lake. Plans were devised in 1950 to begin Israel’s National Water Carrier from here, with the intention of bringing water to the Negev using the hydroelectric power from the flowing water. However, this plan was foiled by Syria. Instead, the Water Carrier was built from Lake Kinneret.

 

  • Continue along the jeep trail until you see a small enclosed damn on your right. A short distance on your left is an unmarked observation area from which there is a great view of the Jordan River. This is a good point from which to return to the parking area by the river and then to the fortress, although you can also extend your hike much further along the Jordan River.

 

  • On turning back and after crossing the concrete bridge, you will see a concrete path on your left which goes up to a small upper parking lot. This leads to the ruins of the fortress, which can be explored.  On the other side of the fortress is a path back to the parking area.

The Crusaders captured this area from the Muslims in 1099 CE and their Kingdom of Jerusalem lasted for almost a century. Throughout this time, the Muslims were disorganized and did not resist the Crusaders in any meaningful way. The Christian military monastic movement the Templars saw the necessity for a fortress overlooking this natural ford across the Jordan River. The bridge and ford were part of the Via Maris, an important road linking Egypt with Syria and Mesopotamia. The Crusader king Baldwin was persuaded to build a fortress on a hill overlooking the ford. It was called Chastelet or Little Castle. Meanwhile, the Kurdish monarch Saladin was establishing an empire from his base in Egypt. Because of its strategic importance this ford was contested and in 1179 Saladin successfully defeated the Templars guarding an as-yet unfinished fortress. All the Christian forces were defeated at the Battle of Hittin in 1187 and this effectively brought their kingdom to an end, since there were no knights left to defend their territory (see the webpage Karnei Hittin National Park).

Ruins of Chastellet.jpeg

Ruins of the castle of Chastellet built to guard the ford across the Jordan River.

Trail along the Jordan River and to Chastelet. To follow your location on your smart phone, click on https://israelhiking.osm.org.il/share/ylhk7uPDn4. Click on the black box with a cross at the top left of the map and it should change color to green. It is not necessary to download the app unless you wish to, although it's free.

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