Rivers and Waters
The Great Málaga path has already shown you the two tributaries which make up the Guadalevín, namely the Arroyo de la Toma and del Lancero. Originally called Arroyo Carboneras from its source in the pinsapar woods of Ronda, el Río Guadalevín or Río Chico gets its name around the Llanos de Aguaya and is joined by one more tributary, el Arroyo de las Culebras, just as it divides in two the plateau on which Ronda was built. When it appears on the other side of the canyon topped with the three surviving historical bridges, a great oval cauldron appears, surrounded by huge cliffs, the Tajo de Ronda.
The vegetable gardens and orchards on the river banks have always been quite famous in the town and these are the few spots where Pero de Ronda is cultivated, a local variety of apple. There used to be various flower mills at the gorge´s outlet and an electricity station which nowadays is located in a new spot on the right side of the walk. The excess water expelled from the station flows into the Guadalevín at the bridge, which the Gran Senda crosses.
Residual water in Ronda is directed into an underground tunnel which the walk crosses just before El Puerto de la Muela. The tunnel can be seen as it comes out of the Tajo wall direction eastwards. The waste water is carried to the Estación Depuradora de Aguas Residuales, visible at km 4 approximately, just before La Indiana and looking west. The new station has allowed the river to recover after a long period of El Río Guadalevín having been contaminated.
The Gran Senda passes by the exact spot where the Guadiaro river gets its name, at the confl uence of Río Guadalevín with the Guadalcobacín, a special place of the Ronda region. The recovery of fish and aquaticfauna species is quite evident here. You can easily observe sizable Barbels from the little bridge over the second river, also Spanish Pond Terrapins and various wading birds. There is an information panel explaining the local birdlife.
The thickets of vegetation around the rivers are quite well preserved at the points where you access the river both at Hoya del Tajo and Estación de la Indiana. There are abundant poplars, ash, willow, and basket willow and in the clearings there is oleander and bulrushes.
The development of Río Guadiaro with its straight line north-east to south-west can be seen from various vantage points when climbing up to the Puerto de Ronda. It is here where the river connects with its fi rst major tributary Río Gaduares or Campobuche as the latter emerges from Cueva del Gato. Approximately under the Puerto de Ronda, 150 metres below the calcareous rock there is one of the most famous cave systems, Hundidero - Gato.
The second important tributary to the newly recuperated Guadiaro is the Nacimiento de los Cascajales or del Molino del Santo. This emergence drains from la Sierra de Líbar to the west of Benaoján and constitutes one of the most spectacular nature shows in the Serranía de Ronda when it carries a lot of water after heavy rains. There are two ditches coming out of the source used for irrigation in summer and a third one a little lower down. The Nacimiento, as it is simply called, can be accessed easily from the end of La Trocha, however the paved footpath adapted by the Benaoján town hall gives you good views of the entire place.
This stage of the walk starts in a built-up zone, yet it includes typical rocky environment ingredients, so frequent in this mountain area. Once you leave behind the Tajo de Ronda and Alameda cliffs, the path leads through farmland where watercourses play a major role. You will be passing through a Stone Pine wood, walking past sizeable riverside vegetation, crossing the river and continuing through a formation of retama bushes mixed with a few holm oaks, wild olives and, at the end, cultivated olive trees on the way to the Puerto de Ronda. From here to Benaoján, cultivated areas intertwine with natural vegetation along the last section which leads to the end of Stage 24, the Benaoján Station.
Stage 24 starts in an impressive environment due to its steep slopes and its sheer size. Here, the rock dwelling birds take over the sky, including such attractive species as Peregrine Falcon, Common Kestrel, Lesser Kestrel, Rock Dove, Pallid, Alpine and Common Swifts, Crag Martin, Black Redstart and the acrobatic flyer, Red-billed Chough, which can be seen mere metres from the bridge, Puente Nuevo. In spite of being so close to town, the first part of the route harbours the Eagle Owl, Tawny Owl, Scops Owl and Barn Owl, therefore a night outing can reward you with owl calls and get you closer to these nocturnal raptors. Close to the riverbed the passerine community becomes visibly richer. There are four species of Hirundines during the breeding season (House and Crag Martin, Barn and Red-rumped Swallow) plus Sand Martin on migration, also White and Grey Wagtail, European Robin, Common Nightingale, Black-eared Wheatear, Stonechat, Common Blackbird, Blackcap, Sardinian Warbler, Great Tit, Eurasian Jackdaw, Spotless and Common Starling, Golden Oriole, House Sparrow, Common Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Serin, Greenfinch, Common Linnet, Rock and Cirl Bunting. As soon as you enter farmland, Crested Lark, Zitting Cisticola and Corn Bunting turn up. Learning Kingfisher´s call will help you find it along the river banks since it is much easier to hear this bird than to see its extremely fast flight.
The mountain environment supports various species of birds of prey at Stage 24, including Griffon Vulture, Short-toed, Bonelli´s and Booted Eagle, Common Buzzard and Eurasian Sparrowhawk, together with previously named species. Noteworthy concentrations of finches and starlings occur in winter, they can happen around La Indiana, including such species as Eurasian Siskin and Brambling also present in the area.
Back in the holm oaks, climbing up towards the Puerto de Ronda, the bird community is boosted by the presence of Hoopoe, Black-eared Wheatear and Western Orphean Warbler, as the most prominent species. Since more rocky outcrops appear, the Black Wheatear occurs and breeding pairs of Black Redstart are present. In the area of vegetable plots the Meadow Pipit, White Wagtail and Stonechat are the most common species. Along the downhill section leading to the station, House and Crag Martins are predominant; they mingle with swifts in their high-speed flights. Species such as Little Owl, Bee-eater, Cuckoo and European Turtle Dove also populate the route of Stage 24.