Eber Lake

Tinged with shades of blue and green, Burdur’s Lake Eber is hidden away in a quiet corner of Anatolia, full of birds, reeds, flowers, and tiny islands.

Anatolia is a land dotted with lakes all over, fed by countless streams and rivers that form a delicate blue fabric around the plains, mountains, and forests. Our people are naturally drawn to these lakes, whether they appear in a shade of green, or take on the deep blue of the sky above.
Home of the waterfowl
 Lake Eber gets its name from an area in the Bolvadin district of Afyonkarahisar.  Bound by the Emir Mountains to the north and the Sultan Mountains to the south, the lake is fed by the Akarçay River which flows gingerly over a good deal of Afyonkarahisar Province. Encompassing 62 square kilometers, Lake Eber is one of a handful of untouched habitats for Turkish wildlife, including such bird species as the pygmy cormorant, the common spoonbill, Dalmatian pelican, squacco heron, and purple heron.

There is an element of ceremony to the way these birds glide effortlessly over the lake once they emerge from their nests in the marshy areas and reeds on the shore. These birds greet each new day on the surface of the lake; at dusk, they bid the day farewell as they fly overhead, trying to make the best use of the remaining light. It’s enough to make you want to set off in a rowboat so you can join them in their dance.

The arrival of springtime at Lake Eber is marked by an influx of thousands of birds, bringing a breathtaking storm of sound and color to the ordinarily tranquil landscape. The air is permeated with the earthy smell of the birds and aromas of reed and moss. The storm grows though the day. The pelicans leave at the end of summer just as they came in at spring, leaving nothing behind. Lake Eber falls into silence and the flowers that decorate the shores, mountains, and plains start to fade away. There is one flower in particular that makes its mark on Eber. Unknown to botanists until 1982, Thermopsis turcica flourishes exclusively in patches on the southern shores of Lake Akşehir and Lake Eber. It is known to the locals as Eber sarısı (Eber yellow) or piyam. This is Lake Eber’s gift to the natural world.

The lake and its people
Far away from the city, Lake Eber is a favorite spot for birdwatchers. Its distance is a small price to pay for such beauty; after all, every rose has its thorn. Of course, the birds and fish are not solely the providence of birdwatchers from the city and local fishermen – though the natives prepare excellent meals of the fish. Populations of carp, mirror carp, northern pike, and gudgeon make this a natural fishing spot, providing livelihood for many nearby villages. The red and blue boats you see floating among the birds belong to the native fishermen. Sometimes they’ll go out on the lake to catch fish, sometimes they’ll cut and gather reeds.

For the fishermen of Eber, the lake is both their home and the source of their meals. Perhaps it is where they got married. Isn’t it the best time to get married right after the harvest season? Does the lake belong only to the fishermen? The harvesting of reeds provides a livelihood and a future for all the villagers who live by the shore, and it will do so for their children too.

What makes a livelihood for some makes an allowance for others, pocket money, even a dowry or bride price. Lake Eber is just this bountiful - for the bird, for the reed, for the fisherman, and for the hunter.

At the right time of the year, fishermen flock to Lake Eber and stay throughout the season. It’ll be many months before they go back home, for now, they live in reed huts put up on the shores of the lake. They’ll hardly notice when their little homes become flooded when the lake rises, responding with this a gem of Anatolian wisdom: “Sir, we have forgotten all about the lake rising. It’s just trying to assert itself.”

Floating islets
After the fish have been caught and a certain amount has been set aside for the family, they are taken to nearby settlements and put on sale. The reeds that were cut and gathered are sent to small workshops to be used as filler in traditional Berdi cushions. A key element of the recreated traditional family rooms in homes and hotels, the Berdi cushions made with crimson reed and wicker from Lake Eber are completely unlike those produced in other regions.

The lake was once part of a much larger lake, which also contained Lake Akşehir. As nearby sources dried up, Lake Akşehir separated from Lake Eber and became an independent body of water. After a long struggle with draught, Lake Eber has been revived thanks to the dedicated efforts of environmental activists, local officials, and the native population  toward tearing down the dams that prevented the flow of fresh water to the lake.
At dawn, a cloud of fog lightly kisses the surface of the lake before disappearing. It’s cold, a little frosty even. But when the sharp smell of the reeds starts to fill the air, you know that Lake Eber has warmed up. This is what ties the villagers, the lake, and the reeds all together. Lake Eber is also one of our nation’s most ecologically diverse lakes. Small islets float on the surface of the lake, silently drifting in the breeze, creating a sort of natural labyrinth for boats. So, how about it? Wouldn’t you like to explore and enjoy this little known piece of heaven in Anatolia?