Simeto River

A river surrounded by history, landscapes and phenomena ...

Simeto River

The Simeto is the longest river of Sicily. It has a catchment area of ​​about 4200 square kilometers, and flows for  about 130 km before reaching the sea. Of this river do not have a real source, but a point, the Biviere of Cesarò, where was born the creek Martello, who then joins itself to other two streams coming from Nebrodi, the Cutò and the Saracen. From here rises the Simeto . Its waters are fed by many other affluents that not lead only water, but also a solid discharge different for each of them, by changing the chemical characteristics of the river.At the beginning these are poor in salts and minerals, classified among those trace elements. Near the town of Adrano, insert the Salso, containing many salts.

The water of the Simeto becomes therefore particularly salty. Proceeding in its course, meets the Dittaino and the Gornalunga, which enrich it of carbonates. The Simeto River is the youngest of Sicily. Almost the entire region was formed about 30 million years ago, with the exception of the Etna area, formed half a million years ago. Subsequently, with the counterclockwise movement towards the north of earth plates, there has been a rise of the lands, then the formation of Etna, and later of the river.

A phenomenon, unique in Europe, which occurs in Simeto, is that of the so-called lava gorges. In some places, the lava flows of Etna have created patches of volcanic barrier. The water stops before this barrier and forms a sort of lake. Meanwhile, started the erosive activity of water, but because the lava is a very hard stone, the result is the creation of a very narrow passage, with subvertical walls, called “gorge lava”. We find one at the bridge Cantera, near Bronte. Between Bronte and Randazzo has instead formed, starting from this phenomenon, the Lake Gurrida. Other particular phenomenon is that of the “Marmitte of Giganti”: along the river bed creates vortices that trap pebbles that start to spin, eroding the rocks below.

A typical landscape of a river environment is characterized by forests of willowsand beechs, an environment rich of sources, ponds, swamps: the so-called riparian forest, made of vegetation connected with humid environments. However, throughout the entire course of the river we don’t find all this landscape, but at the beginning. Only the man has intervened along the path created by the river: 90% of the basin is cultivated, and of this, only 30% with forests. The river passes through a large number of countries (for example, Maniace, Bronte, Adrano, Paternò, Biancavilla, Misterbianco, Motta S. Anastasia and Catania, which draw water from the river). Often the river was channeled into artificial beds, real highways cemented which regulate all the qualities of a river, destroying the chatacteristics of flora and fauna . These constructions are used to direct the water into a dam, as an artificial lake. In the Simeto have been built four dams (Ancilo, Pozzillo, Iastro and Nicoletti) to bring water to crops. The most important is that of Lentini.

L’acqua viene deviata nei pressi di Paternò, e l’invaso venne costruito circa 50 ani fa per alimentare il polo industriale di Siracusa. Questa politica degli invasi però distrugge tutte le caratteristiche del fiume, e soprattutto ne diminuisce la portata solida. Infatti insieme all’acqua scorrono materiali solidi, che equilibrano nella costa la normale erosione del mare.

The water is diverted around Paternò and the dam was built about 50 years ago for powering the industrial center of Syracuse. This policy of the invaded however, destroys all the characteristics of the river, and reduces the solid discharge. With the water flowing solids, which balance in the coast the normal sea erosion . It is estimated that once the river was carrying six million cubic meters of solid material, but now it takes only one. This involves the gradual advancement of the seam of water . The best aspect of the work carried out by the man on the river is that of the construction of monuments, such as the Bridge of the Saracens. It is located in the town of Adrano and despite its name, probably it has nothing in common with the Arabs that came to Sicily. It is located in a place where the Simeto form a gorge. It consists of four spans with ogive arches.

The large number of spans compared to the width of the river makes us assume that once the bed of the river was larger. The true mouth  has an artificial origin, replacing a few years that natural. But since the flow at this point is really negligible, the waters are discharged into the sea, has they haven’t the strength to move the debris brought. As for the fauna, until a century ago the otter lived in the areas of Simeto. Today, however, is extinguished, because it requires an environment with a clear ecosystem. Still live in these areas some gastropods, porcupines, foxes, hedgehogs, storks, flamingos, the knight of Italy, the heron, grebeand ducks. Regarding the flora, we refer to the herbarium made ​​just with some species found along the river, particularly near the Saracens Bridge .