Sítio das Fontes National Park is located on the banks of an estuary of the Rio Arade. The trail goes through a small, highly diverse area with salt marshes, mires, Mediterranean scrublands, riverine vegetation and stretches of fresh, brackish and salt water.
The Nature Interpretation Centre (CIN) is housed in a former rural building, now since rehabilitated, and usually makes available information about the area or public cultural exhibitions. Close to this building there’s a restored noria, which once was used to irrigate the fields and vegetable gardens.
Near the Forest Ranger’s Post, along the valley’s south side, you can see a rich Mediterranean scrubland, on which grow species like the mastic tree, the Genista hirsuta, the Mediterranean dwarf palm, the kermes oak, Spanish lavender and various orchids (during the spring) grow, among other plants. There are also trees common to the Algarve’s dryland fields, like the carob, fig, almond and olive trees.
Along the riverbank, in the salt marsh, you can see various species common to this habitat, like the succulent Sarcocornia fruticosa, the sea purslane, the sea orache, the exuberant Limoniastrum monopetalum and many species of reeds. At the end of the trail you are rewarded with a wide view over the river, and you can see the remnants of the old tide mill on the other bank.
Close to the picnic park, you’ll find the weir and its tide mill, powered by the springs from which the park takes its name. These springs connect to the biggest groundwater reservoir in Algarve, the Quarença-Silves aquifer, with an approximate area of 317 km2. The water mill is still used today to grind cereal and bake bread, activities promoted by the CIN.
Crossing the weir, from which you can see the crystalline springs, the way leads to the waterholes and the small ponds around them. You can see some small fish, and dragonflies patrolling the water looking for prey. The riverside vegetation is dense, forming a curtain of tamarisks, cattails, reeds, common club-rushes and other aquatic species, amid which you can see easily startled frogs. A riparian forest of poplar and ash trees was planted to line the way back to the Park’s entrance.
Location: Sítio das Fontes
Circular trail: yes
Distance: 1,3 km
Average duration: 1h
Cumulative elevation gain: 30 metres D+
Type of path: somewhat rocky dirt paths
Start of the trail: 37º 09' 40.98'' N 8º 29' 07.05'' W