Lake Kerkini National Park, founded in 2006, is situated about 100 km north of Thessaloniki in the district of Serres close to theBulgarian border. The lake was created in 1932 with the construction of a dam on the river Strimonas near the village Lithotopos at the southern end of the lake and with the creation of embankments on the east and west side.
The lake is surrounded by mountain ranges on three sides: to the north the Kerkini Mountains (2000m) which constitute the natural border between Greece and Bulgaria, to the west the Kroussia Mountains ( 1200m) and to the east the Orvilos mountain range (2000m).
Lake Kerkini is being nourished by the river Strimonas. It springs from the Bulgarian Vitosha mountains, flows into Lake Kerkini near Magalochori, flows through Lake Kerkini over a distance of 16 km, continues 100 km further through the plain of Serres until it reaches the Mediterranean Sea.
The plain of Serres is lowland and marshes. Before the dam was built in 1932 there were floodings every year. The regular capacity of the river is 1500 cubic metres per hour, during the thaw of snow in springtime the capacity rises to 4-5000 cubic metres. The consequence of the ever returning floodings was Malaria. The situation escalated during World War I when in the Ottoman Empire the persecution of Greek people began together with massacres, deportations and death marches into camps. The persecution culminated in the expulsion and resettlement of about 1.5 millions of Greek survivors. About 100.000 of these settled in the lowlands of Serres, 15.000 of them died of Malaria over the first years. So in 1932 the river Strimonas was diverted, the lake was dug out and the dam and embankments were built. (In 1982 these were made higher once more).
The purpose of the lake is to avoid floods and to facilitate the irrigation of the plain of Serres for agricultural purposes. The water surface fluctuates between 4000 and 7000 hectares, the depth of the water between 30-35 m. Due to the geographical location a mild micro climate prevails. There are huge areas of shallow water to the east so the water is relatively warm and rich with nutrients which leads to the fish starting to spawn very early in the middle of February.
Thanks to its abundance of fish and its geographical position with regard to the migration routes of birds the lake has become an important overwintering place for numerous bird species and a resting place for species that migrate to and from the Balkan area and northeastern Europe.
Apart from serving flood control and irrigation for agriculture Lake Kerkini is one of the richest fishing lakes in the country and boasts of an impressive biodiversity:
The conservation of this rich fauna and flora is the most important task of Kerkini National Park.
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