From Hod Akeb to Ein Akeb
Map of the Route
Maps: 1:350,000 - Israel, southern section - topographical map. 1:250,000 - Israel, southern section - geological map. 1:100,000 - Sdeh Boker. 1:50,000 - Sdeh Boker. 1:50,000 - walking map with path markings - northwest Negev, map no. 14.
Length of walking route: 4 km./7 km.
Duration of route: 3 hours/4 hours.
Vehicle access: from the academy via Sdeh Tsin - Maaleh Tsin as far as the bottom of Maaleh Tsin. After rain there can be a problem to get across the Tsin Valley. Cross-country vehicles can reach the White Surfaces parking lot for collecting walkers.
Collection point: the lower Ein Akeb parking lot - the White Surfaces, for cross-country vehicles only.
Regular vehicles should collect walkers from the starting point.
Marking: from Hod Akeb to Ein Akeb - red markings.
Recommended age of walkers -14 years old and over. The route includes an ascent in a cliff-like area.

Preferred season: all year round.
Essential equipment: hat, 3 liters of water, comfortable walking shoes, map.
Medical assistance: on Kibbutz Sde Boker, at Midreshet Sde Boker.
Nature preservation: the route passes through a nature reserve. Do not harm wildlife, vegetation or mineral life.
Passability: dirt tracks can be navigated by high buses, cross country passenger vehicles and 4-wheel drive vehicles. Inquiries should be made at the field school regarding field conditions before departure.

Additional information may be obtained from the Sdeh Boker Field School; Tel: 08-6532016

Area of the walking route:
This time we will walk through the area of Ovdat Heights, the Tsin River and the Akeb River. Ovdat Heights is one the largest continuous heights in Israel. It has an average height of about 800 meters above sea level. At their north and northwestern edge the heights terminate in a cliff formation which faces the Tsin Valley (150 m. - 200 m. above sea level). This is the Tsinim cliff.

We will cross the Tsin Valley and Tsin River and climb Hod Akeb which rises above the Tsinim cliff. From there we will descend to Ein Akeb which is one of the most beautiful stratum springs along the Tsinim cliffs.

How to get to the starting point?
Take highway 40 from Be'ersheva as far as Kibbutz Sdeh Bokker. Continue south for another approximately 3 kilometers as far as an orange sign with "To Maaleh Tsin" on it. Turn left (east) and continue about 4 kilometers to the beginning of the ascent near the landing strip which was used by David Ben-Gurion while he lived at Sdeh Bokker. Descend the slope to the start of the route. Backpackers can reach the beginning of the route on foot from the Ben-Gurion Academy. On the way we will see a sign with a blue mark directing us to Ein Akeb. This path can be taken by cross-country vehicles to the collection point at the Ein Akeb parking lot, at the White Surfaces We will continue directly along the oil route as far as the sign leading to Hod Akeb. There we will follow the red markings which lead to the area at the foot of the cliff. From here we will climb to Hod Akeb along the marked path.

Note! This is a cliff section and you must not leave the marked path. The ascent takes about half an hour. Climb with care!

Route Description:

  1. Vista from Hod Akeb
    Hod Akeb is a button mountain which climbs to 576 meters above sea level and which offers a breathtaking view of Ovdat Heights and the anticlines of the northern and central Negev.
    There is a parallel series of anticlines and synclines in the northern and central Negev which stretch out along a northeast-southwest axis. The anticlines are asymmetrical with a steep southeast side and a gently sloping northwest side. To the south, the anticlines drop down to the Tsin Valley and "disappear" under the Ovdat Heights.

    As aforesaid, Ovdat Heights are one the largest continuous heights in Israel with an average height of about 800 meters above sea level. Most of the area of heights is made up of intermittent horizontal strata of chalk and lime. The chain of cliffs at the northern end of the heights was formed by intensive erosion of the Tsin River in the soft hawwar rock which comprises the base of the heights. The hard lime and chalk rocks which cover the hawwar stem the process of erosion and create the cliffs. Here we find the main rivers: Davshon, Akeb, Zik, Nahash Tsama and Hava, which drain the Ovdat Heights via impressive waterfalls to the Tsin Gorge which also drains the Ovdat heights by means of several spectacular waterfalls.

    The course of the Tsin River below (like most desert rivers, the Tsin River is also a dry river and is marked only by a line of vegetation which follows the meanders of the channel) forms the geographic border between the central Negev (where we are situated) and the northern Negev. The river is one of the largest in the Negev. It is about 120 km. long and has a catchment basin of about 1,550 Its source is at the northwestern end of the Ramon Crater. It flows in a northerly direction to the Ein Ovdat canyon. It turns east at an angle of almost 90 degrees below the Ben-Gurion Academy. The Tsin River flows to the Arava and drains out into the evaporating pools in the southern part of the Dead Sea.

    From the observation point, looking to the northeast, we can see the Hatsra anticline and, below it, the Oron Valley which separates it from the Hatira anticline.

    To the north is the Hatira anticline. Notice its steepness and southeastern slopes and impressive outcrops. The anticline slopes gently down to the northwest towards the Yeruham Valley. Sdeh Tsin, Sdeh Bokker and the Ben-Gurion Academy are located to the south of the Yeruham Valley. To the northwest we will see the Yeruham ridge and, in good visibility, we should be able to see the Edom Mountains in the east.

    Below us is the route we used to cross the Tsin Valley. This route was made for the laying of the Eilat-Ashkelon oil pipeline in 1957 and it follows the ancient route of the El-Sultan Way (the King's Way). In ancient times this route served as one of the important traffic arteries which linked Ein Yahav in the Arava with the plains of the southern coast of Israel.

  2. From Hod Akeb to Ein Akeb
    We will descend the southeastern path to Hod Akeb. After a walk of about 1 km. (red marking) we will enter one of the tributaries of the Akeb River. The vegetation in the gorge is much denser. After one more kilometer we will leave the gorge where it turns to the north. We will circumnavigate the northern slopes at a height of 514 m above sea level. from east to west and, after about 1,100 m., we will reach the main course of the Akeb River opposite the parking area. We will ascend the course to the south for a distance of about 400 m. to reach the lower Ein Akeb.
    The start of the Akeb River (Wadi Um Kaab) is on the wind plain, 800 m. above sea level.

    From here, the river drops northwards to the Ovdat Heights and drains into the Tsin River.

    There are two main springs along the river channel: the upper Ein Akeb (only marked on maps with path markings) and, at a distance of 3 km. To the north, the lower Ein Akeb where we are situated. The lower Ein Akeb is a stratum spring.
    The rainwater which falls on the heights partly seep through cracks and horizontal strata of the chalk and lime rocks and flint until they reach the impervious clay stratum. The water flows along this stratum and break through where the stratum is exposed.

    The waterfall is 10 m. high and the spring water falls down into a deep pool which is full of water all year round. The wall of the waterfall has a river drips ?? - rock formed from oxygen-rich groundwater which contain dissolved chalk. The vegetation absorbs the oxygen at the mouth of the spring and the chalk settles and forms rock. The pool near the spring fills from floods.

    The vegetation around the pool requires a lot of water, such as the palm tree, about which was said: "its top is in the sky and its base in the water", and reeds. As we move away from the pool we will encounter vegetation which is typical of dry and cold growing areas, such as the tall salt wort. The spring attracts ibexes which descend to drink from its water. The ibex is a mammal from the primal family which inhabits the cliff areas and feeds of different plants. Males and females can be clearly distinguished from each other: the male is large, heavy and muscular, the back of the neck is well developed and the horns are large and bent backwards. The male's horns serve as a means to reduce the number of male rivals. The female is smaller with slender, short horns which bend slightly to the rear. It appears that, in the summer, ibexes need to drink every few days and, consequently, they are restricted to areas near sources of water, such as Ein Akeb and Ein Ovdat. This is one of the most beautiful nature reserves in the area of the Tsinim cliffs. During your stay in the area, and when you leave, please keep the place clean and follow the rules of the nature reserve!

    Our walk ends here. We will leave the spring and follow the course with the blue markings to the jeep parking lot. We will continue on for about another 40 minutes along a dirt track until we reach the white rock surfaces where the vehicle is parked.

Other alternatives:
Good walkers can combine this walk with other routes (see map with path markings):

Hod Akeb - lower Ein Akeb - upper Ein Akeb - the city of Ovdat
Hod Akeb - lower Ein Akeb - Ein Zik.
Hod Akeb - lower Ein Akeb - Maaleh Davshon - Ein Ovdat.