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Wild enchantment Koprulu Gorge
2003 / JULY

The Koprucay River, known in antiquity as the Eurymedon, rises in Turkey's Lake District, where numerous small and large lakes glisten in many shades of blue beneath a blazing sun. Streams flowing down Mount Sariidris to the south east of Lake Egirdir form the upper tributaries of the river which has spent thousands of years shaping its own course southwards to the Mediterranean. Gradually swelled by more tributaries from east and west, and springs of groundwater, the river reaches an average flow of 86 m3 per second. Its rushing waters have relentlessly carved their way through the layer of soft marl (a mixture of clay and calcium carbonate) deposited here millions of years ago by the Mediterranean, to form a series of gorges across the Toros mountain range. Koprulu Gorge is one of seven canyons through which the Koprucay flows on its 183 kilometre journey to the sea. The gorge is 14 kilometres long and its sheer rock walls rise to several hundred metres in places.

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Wild enchantment Koprulu Gorge
2003 / JULY
In the 2nd century AD the Romans constructed a single-arch stone bridge across the mouth of the gorge, and this spectacular work of engineering is amazingly as strong as ever today and still used. The foaming river pours down its bed 27 metres beneath the Oluk Bridge, which provides access to the outside world for the inhabitants of three mountain villages. Standing on this bridge suspended in space, the view in both directions is spectacular. Below the exuberant emerald river gushes along. Even in the summer months, when the temperature in Antalya is 30-40°C and the seawater 24-27°C, the river waters are only 12°C. Rafting is the most exciting way to explore the river, the rafting route beginning just beyond the bridge. Koprulu Gorge National Park lies in the district of Manavgat in southern Turkey. The gorge and surrounding area were declared a national park in 1973 so as to conserve the wild natural scenery and historic monuments here.
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Wild enchantment Koprulu Gorge
2003 / JULY
It covers an area of 36,614 hectares between the village of Bolagan and Beskonak. From Antalya take the road to Taşağıl 40 kilometres to the east, and soon after passing the town of Beskonak, you come to a restaurant and rafting centre which mark the entrance to the gorge. Beyond the ancient bridge arches across the mouth of the gorge. Koprulu Gorge is particularly beautiful in spring, when it is ablaze with spring flowers, the air is fragrant with their scent, and the high mountains around are still snowcapped. The forest here consists mainly of eastern Mediterranean pine, black pine, cedar, fir, juniper, oak and wild olive trees. Other historical monuments include a second Roman bridge, to get to which cross Oluk Bridge and immediately take the turnoff to the left. A kilometre later you come to the late Roman Bugrum Bridge.
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Wild enchantment Koprulu Gorge
2003 / JULY
If you continue to the right and drive for a further 11 kilometres you arrive at the ancient Roman city of Selge, which at one time was one of the leading cities of Pisidia with a population of over 20,000. First settled in the 5th century BC, Selge is set on a plateau between three hills, the village of Zerk (alias Altinkaya) is scattered amongst its ruins. The first sight to strike the eye is the magnificent ancient theatre, against the backdrop of the Bozburun Mountains. Selge's other buildings are scattered over three hills. The city's free-spirited and warlike inhabitants were independent until the arrival of the Romans, and even under Roman rule managed to retain autonomy in their internal affairs. Off the beaten track in its remote hilly setting, the ruins have remained virtually untouched. Starting your tour of Selge at the stadium inside the village, the path to the right of it takes you northwards to the theatre, which is cut out of a rocky hillside east of the city.
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Wild enchantment Koprulu Gorge
2003 / JULY
It has five gates and 45 tiers of seats that once accommodated 10,000 spectators. There is a gymnasium to the south of the theatre, and south of the stadium is the nymphaeum and agora. North of the walls, whose remains can be seen to the southwest, two large Ionic temples dedicated to Artemis and Zeus respectively stand side by side. To the west of these are cisterns, and to the north the necropolis, with its sarcophagi and mausoleums with carved decoration. Spreading across the valleys on the way to Selge is Turkey's only natural forest of Mediterranean cypresses, covering an area of 400 hectares. This is also the largest cypress forest to have survived in its original state in the Middle East. The mountains and forests of Koprulu Gorge National Park are home to red deer, mountain goats, foxes, wolves, bears, wild boar, hares and abundant other wildlife. There are innumerable hiking routes of spectacular beauty in the park, and you can hire a guide at Zerk village for a day's hiking of six to eight hours that takes in a view of the gorge from above.
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Wild enchantment Koprulu Gorge
2003 / JULY

In the valley you can see lapies, a karst structure of rock pinnacles, and one of the most fascinating sights of the area, the Devil's Rocks. These strange towers with rock caps are formations of conglomerate silica, limestone and sandstone, resembling those of Cappadocia. Oak, chestnuts, eastern Mediterranean pine and boxwood trees are scattered amongst them, and in late April the Devil's Rocks are brilliant with the pink blossom of Judas trees. Koprulu Gorge National Park is one of the loveliest and most diverse landscapes in Turkey, where history and wild natural scenery combine in irresistible enchantment.

* Ali İhsan Gökcen is a photographer

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