Rivers and Waters
El Acueducto del Rey
The GR-249 takes the visitor to the Acueducto and the Puente del Rey, dated back to 1726, a project which has never been completed but whose grand span is suggested by the arches and cutwaters made of limestone ashlars. Málaga, situated between the rivers Guadalmedina and Guadalhorce, has always had problems with water supply because of seasonal nature of the first river and turbid saline waters of the other. When Sierra de Mijas was being divided, the part of the mountains which was assigned to Malaga city had a major water spring. When the spring was selected to supply water to the city it earned the name Fuente del Rey (King´s Spring). The aqueduct has never materialised due to the death of the architect who was the project developer and because of political and economic problems. The city focused its attention somewhere else and concentrated its efforts on the Acueducto de San Telmo, another hydraulic construction work of undeniable interest.
The Puente del Rey had another equally or even more important purpose for the province capital which was connecting the big city with the area of Alhaurín which has always served as a granary for Málaga. The construction has been known as Los Arcos de Zapata but the second, most important function, earned it the name of Puente del Rey (King´s Bridge).
As far as the Fuente del Rey natural spring this is situated behind the old quarters of Guardia Civil de Churriana, in an enclosed area. Currently it is not used but forms part of the past (which could have gone differently) and it is a superb historical element infallibly connected to the unfi nished aqueduct.
El Canal de la margen derecha
El Valle del Guadalhorce enjoys an enviable climate and a fertile soil thanks to the seasonal flooding of the terraced fields. Next to climate and soil, the agriculture triangle is made complete by water. The Guadalhorce is a river which carries a substantial volume of water and so seasonal irrigation channele, the “asequías, or the improvised re-directed channels were of no use. Not until the 70´s of the last century the so called Plan Guadalhorce was carried out, the river was regulated by the two reservoirs, Embalses del Chorro, and two large channels were constructed.
The one which is of interest here is the Canal de la Margen Derecha. It runs in a pipe in some sections, and in some it is excavated in the ground with added concrete walls; this great acequia runs along the final part of the valley reaching Alhaurín de la Torre. Channelled waters, logically, are at first destined consumption and only then for agriculture, especially when droughts occur seasonally. The worst affected areas are upstream furthest away from the water source. These are the areas which the GR helps you discover, practically the last stretch before the coast. This is the reason why there are small water stations on each plot of land from where water is pumped from the Guadalhorce aquifer, eliminating this way the necessity for the tricky business of so-called surface (or flood) irrigation.
You will cross the Canal Secundario de la Margen Derecha at the very start, close to El Peñón de Zapata, even before you reach the first kilometre of the walk. Further up at km 1.6, it appears again, with its many sluice gates, and then it disappears underground. The channel reaches as far as Churriana.
El Río Guadalhorce
El Río Guadalhorce has kept the Gran Senda de Málaga company from its headwaters close to Stage 12 Villanueva del Rosario-Archidona and then from the stage 19 to 22 where it reaches the area of reservoirs. Now, as if symbolically, they both reach their end.
The big river has been undergoing modifications of its course and its appearance since for ever, due to its double facet as a creator but also a destroyer of life. The collective memory of Málaga inhabitants is full of images of the periodical flooding of the city outskirts. Perhaps this is more of a case of having chosen the wrong location for settling, rather than the result of “nature´s fury”. Whilst nearby and upstream the river maintains the spectacular riparian thickets of tall trees, this is not the case along its final stretch where the absence of trees is striking. The Tamarisk and the White poplar have lasted the longest struggling against the housing estates, retaining quite dense little forests. Other plants which are much more resistant to the current itself and can withstand the pressure of the main riverbed, form carpets which create refuge for the numerous species of fauna: reed beds, clumps of bulrushes and rushes.
The river normally remains somewhat far from the path but there are many occasions where, if you like, you can rich the lower terraces of the terrain and then the river bank. The fish population and aquatic fauna are quite healthy despite of the turbulent waters which are also this river´s characteristic feature. Moreover, the river´s closeness to the sea encourages more biodiversity with the arrival of species tolerant of saline waters.
El Paraje Natural Desembocadura del Guadalhorce
La Red de Espacios Naturales Protegidos (Network op Protected Areas) of Andalucía was enriched by adding this small site of 67 hectares which harbours a outstanding ecosystem, a small delta, like an island within and island, which encompasses a series of lagoons and isolated river bends. In reality the area is more influenced by humans than one might imagine as the lagoons are actually old gravel pits where sands and gravels used to be extracted. This does not seem to bother the large number of visiting water fowl which sometimes establish permanently in the lagoons.The beach, completely free of human activities, is no less interesting.
About 1.5 km long, it stretches between the two branches of the mouth of the river. Such isolation as it is achieved here is doubly important for the breeding coastal species of birds, especially given the continuous interference the birds suffer during that natural process along the major part of the coast.
The area around Peñon de Zapata is strongly marked by agriculture, by the proximity to the Río Guadalhorce and to the airport. From the very beginning of Stage 35 you will be walking past orchards, vegetable plots and farmland with crops that become an oasis for birds during migration periods. Here, the irrigation canals and ditches play an important role for wildlife during dry periods. Soon, you will encounter the Guadalhorce river, where in addition to numerous water birds you will have a chance to see other birds that frequent the area in search of water and food. Shortly after crossing the Guadalhorce river, the walk takes you to Malaga city where typical urban species are predominant.
This stage crosses the area of the province of Malaga with the most number of bird records, the lower stretch of the river Guadalhorce. In the beginning you can see species linked to populated areas, Eurasian Collared Dove, Pallid Swift, Barn Swallow, House Martin, Common and Spotless Starling and House Sparrow, and as soon you enter cultivated areas with irrigation channels and trees, you can observe various species of herons and egrets (Grey Heron, Little Egret and Cattle Egret), Turtle Dove, Bee-eater, Hoopoe, and passerines typical of this type of environment (Crested Lark, White and Grey Wagtail, Meadow Pipit, Common Stonechat, European Robin Common Nightingale, Bluethroat, Common Blackbird, Song Thrush, Cetti´s Warbler, Zitting Cisticola, Blackcap, Sardinian Warbler, Common Chiffchaff, Spotted Flycatcher, Great Tit, Woodchat Shrike, Golden Oriole, Jackdaw, Common Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Serin, Eurasian Siskin and Corn Bunting). This is an environment where the birds gather during migration, although crops have been encroaching on their territory in a gradual but unstoppable manner. In the fields of alfalfa some of the rare species have been recorded such as Aquatic Warbler and Savi's Warbler. If you make this trip late in the evening or very early in the morning, preferably in summer, you will have a chance to find Little Owl, Barn Owl and Red-necked Nightjar. As soon as you start walking along the Río Guadalhorce you may be able to spot Great Cormorant, Night Heron, Grey Heron, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Mallard, Common Pochard, Common Buzzard, Osprey, Common Kestrel, Red-legged Partridge, Quail, Coot, Moorhen, Stone-curlew, Little Ringed Plover, Common Sandpiper, Green Sandpiper, Common Snipe, Yellow-legged, Lesser-black Backed and Black-headed Gulls, Collared Dove, Monk Parakeet, Kingfisher and Red-rumped Swallow, besides other species.
At the site called Paraje Natural de la Desembocadura del río Guadalhorce, the mouth of the river, you can view up close the Great Cormorant, Grey Heron, the previously named gulls, the Booted Eagle, Common Kestrel and Jackdaw.
As you cross the bridge over the Río Guadalhorce, the bird diversity decreases, since now you are entering the city itself. However, the bird species which are present here can reach very good numbers. Crested lark, Zitting Cisticola, finches (Goldfinch, Greenfinch y Serin), can bee seen around here mostly thanks to the existence of open fallow land. Most common species however include Yellow-legged, Lesser Black-backed and Black-headed Gull, Eurasian Collared Dove, Rock Dove, Common and Pallid Swift, Monk Parakeet, Spotless and Common Starling plus House Sparrow. It is a good idea to have a look at the tops of the tall chimneys which mark the end of Stage 35, and the end of The Great Malaga Path, since they serve as habitual perches for the Peregrine Falcon.