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The Turkish Lake District
2003 / March

In pale winter sunshine we drove along the eastern shore of Lake Beysehir, heading for the Hittite rock carvings at Eflatunpinar. The expanse of water marbled in countless tones of light green and blue against the backdrop of the snowy mountain range stretching along the opposite shore was a magical sight. We were in the Turkish Lake District, which lies north of Antalya. The lakes in this mountainous region are home to hundreds of thousands of water birds. In the crisp clear air the views are marvellous in every season, with a light and depth ideal for photography. By day white clouds gliding across the sky and by night the stars of the Milky Way are reflected in the waters of Beysehir, Egirdir, Kovada, Acigöl, Burdur, Salda, Yarisli, Akgöl, Eber, Aksehir, Sugla and Çavuscu lakes. Beysehir is the largest of the lakes here and the third largest in Turkey. Cracking, folding and sinking of the eath'sg crust created this beautiful landscape.

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The Turkish Lake District
2003 / March

The principal lakes in the region are tectonic, but since the region is largely limestone the terrain has a fascinating karst structure featuring gorges whose walls rise hundreds of metres in height, countless deep caves, ridges and furrows known as lapies, swallow holes, potholes and poljes. Lake Beysehir stretches 45 kilometres from north to south on the eastern side of the Dedegöl Mountains at an altitude of 1125 metres. There are thirty islands of various sizes in the lake, which became a national park in 1993 to protect this unique natural habitat. The area around the city of Beysehir on the lak'si southeast shore has many buildings and ruins dating from the Seljuks, including the Seljuk summer palace of Kubadâbad, famous for the remarkable tiles and stucco decoration discovered during excavations here. These 13th century works of art can now be seen in the Tile Museum in Konya. For a view of the lake from high above, take the road leading westwards from Yenisarbademli.

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The Turkish Lake District
2003 / March
This road runs through forests of black pine and juniper and climbs over the Dedegöl Mountains to Lake Egirdir, which is 50 kilometres long and lies at an altitude of 900 metres. Making your base in the town of Egirdir, you can visit Mount Barla, Aksu, the Zindan Caves near Gelendost, and the magnificent Lake Kovada, which is also a national park, and lies in the same tectonic valley as Lake Egirdir. Travelling this time to the southwest brings you to Lake Burdur, which is 35 kilometres in length. Since it forms a closed drainage basin its waters contain a high proportion of soda, sulphur and chlorine, and very few species of fish live here. However, it is an important home for water birds in the winter months, including the world's largest colony of white-headed ducks, which are an endangered species. Twenty kilometres to the west is the 27-kilometre long Lake Acigöl. The water has a high salt content and the shallows dry up in the summer months, creating large salt flats where many species of water birds and waders such as ruddy shelducks, flamingos and avocets feed.
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The Turkish Lake District
2003 / March

Lake Eber and Lake Aksehir share the same depression between Mount Emir and the Sultan Mountains. Lake Eber is inhabited by a wide range of wildlife, including fish, watersnakes, turtles, shellfish and water birds, and became a nature reserve in 1992. A large part of the lake is covered by reedbeds five to six metres in height which provide an important breeding ground for birds like the pygmy cormorant, Dalmatian pelican, various species of heron, glossy ibis, and spoonbills. Migratory birds which stop to rest and feed here include the white pelican, greylag goose and several species of duck. Eber's neighbour Lake Aksehir is equally spectacular. All these lakes with their unforgettable scenery and diversity of wildlife and plants, are like gems in their mountain settings.

* Ali Ihsan Gökçen is a photographer and freelance writer.

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