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The Delta de l’Ebre Natural Park has a unique, magical landscape. As it’s flat, it is perfect for those who enjoy cycling, which in my humble opinion is a wonderful way to absorb its immense personality, as is horse riding. The European Commission has designated it as an EDEN (European Destination of Excellence), because of its commitment to sustainable tourism.
The part of the overall space of 320km2 which was designated as the protected reserve of the Delta de l’Ebre Natural Park takes up an area of 80km2, which is located in the province of Tarragona.
It was in 1983 that it became a protected area, thanks to the peaceful occupation and mobilisation of people from the area of Deltebre, which given our level of ecological awareness of that time, is quite impressive. In 1983 it was only the left bank areas that became protected, but two years later so did the areas of the right bank.
The natural park is of immense ornithological and ecological importance. In 1993 the Ramsar Convention included it on its list of wetlands of International importance.
The Delta de l’Ebre is Catalonia’s largest wetland, the second largest is Aiguamolls de l’Empordà. Within the landscape of the natural park, as well as wetlands, there are amazing beaches, sand dunes, rivers, estuaries, salt pans, lagoons and marshes.
It is home to a wealth of flora and fauna, with 95 species of birds who breed there, as well as around 300 species that come to stopover. You can also see varieties of reptiles, fish, invertebrates and amphibians. (At the end of the article is a list of the bird species you may see in the Delta de l’Ebre Natural Park.)
You may decide to go by yourself, lots of people do and just feel your way around. There are also tours that you can take part in, one good option is MónNatura that are committed to eco-tourism and educating visitors. Try to see as much of it on foot as possible, or hire a bike or go by horseback. It is an amazing environment to do any of these in.
The vegetation differs throughout the different parts of the Delta de l’Ebre. Around the lagoons there are reeds, sedge and cattails, all of which have underwater roots. By the sea there are plants that adapt to saltier conditions, such as glass wort. On the dunes you’ll see sea daffodils and marram grass. When you reach the more humid environments, you’ll encounter salt cedar, white poplar, river honeysuckle and willow.
Eucalyptus Beach seems to go on forever, it’s nearly 6km long. It seems almost untouched, with low lying sand dunes and their indigenous flora. I have seen the most wonderful mirages on this long sandy beach.
I cycled around the Delta when I first moved to the area in 2003; each day feeling blessed to be there and in total awe of the surroundings. Granted I had never been to another place where rice grows, I had never seen the mirage type landscape that you can see in parts of the Delta de l’Ebre Natural Park, and I had certainly never seen flamingos in a natural habitat.
Traditionally the main crop of the area is rice. When you visit, observe the small houses that sometimes appear to sit in the middle of the paddy fields, seeming from a distance as if they are quirky tiny houses surrounded by water. You can’t help but wonder how their owners access them!
Rice has been growing in the Ebro Delta since 1860. Today 14 different varieties of rice are produced in the Delta, amounting to a grand total of 45 million kilos every year. Innovation and tradition have been married successfully to ensure that the quality of the product is top notch. You can imagine the families who have lived in the Delta for generations and passed down their art from generation to generation.
Those who work in the paddy fields seem to blend in perfectly with their environment, feeling privileged and in harmony with this protected area and their work. April is when the waters flood into the fields until harvest time in mid September.
20% of Spain’s rice is grown in the Delta and 98.5% of Catalonian rice production happens there. Of course it is an important part of the Mediterranean Diet, best appreciated internationally in the dish of paella. Of course there are numerous other ways to incorporate rice into wonderful dishes, and this subject has been addressed by an initiative called – Much More Than Rice.
The renowned Catalan chef, Carme Ruscalleda, along with NOMEN, presented Much More Than Rice in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Barcelona, in the hotel’s cocktail bar, Bankers. 10 dishes in which rice is the main element were presented, which is included in a book that was launched in 2014, at Alimentaria. Here you can read about the six Michelin star chef, and the Much More Than Rice initiative.
If you want to learn even more about the rice from the Delta de l’Ebre click on Delta de l’Ebre rice
Located in the southern part of the park, l’Encanyissada is the biggest lagoon in the Delta l’Ebre with two parts: the big and little basins. It’s cane plantation is home to the little bittern, the purple heron, the cattle egret, the little egret and the black-crown night heron. In the big basin, which is in the north, there are reed beds, marshes and bulls grazing.
Tancada is the second biggest lagoon in the Delta de l’Ebre Natural Park, after L’Encanyissada, and in fact the two lagoons were together, but they have been made separate because of rice cultivation. Most of the time you see the colony of greater flamingos there. There are also comorants, ducks, coots and terns to be spotted there.
Partida de la Cuixota
Llacuna de l’Encanyissada (l’Encanyissada Lagoon)
Poblenou del Delta
Phone: 977 261 022
A group of hunters built the Casa de Fusta in the late 1920s, having settled in the area because of its obvious attractions. Today this emblematic wooden house serves as the park’s Information Centre. Go there to get advice on your route. Also the Ornithological Museum is located there.
One of the most beautiful ways to enjoy the Delta de l’Ebre is on horseback. Below is a link to an Equestrian Centre. I have yet to try them, so this is not a recommendation – for now their website is not in English, but of course you can always use one of those clever translation tools!
If you fancy a spot of Mediterranean sea fishing then go to the jetty at Eucalyptus beach. For river fishing try Balada or Amposta.
(The photo on the right below of me in the sea at Eucalyptus Beach, was taken by our friend Luis Alfano)
There are numerous routes and ways to explore the area. One option is to contact MónNatura you can find out more about them by clicking on MónNatura Delta de l’Ebre.
Below is a list of the bird species you can see all year round in the Delta de l’Ebre:
Great Crested Grebe
Great White Egret
If you would like to see what has been spotted recently then click on bird watching Delta de l’Ebre