Historians of ancient times report Lake Kerkini for the first time under the name «Prasiada» and place it in the northwestern part of the plain of Serres. Dense forests of oaks, beeches, pines and chestnut trees were covering the mountains and hills, where boars, deer, bears, huge bulls, leopards, lynx and lions were living. According to historians, lions attacked the Xerxes’ camels during the passage of the Persian army from the river Strimonas. The lake and its marshes provided the raw materials to ensure the survival of the inhabitants. After the Asia Minor Disaster, about 85.000 refugees settled in the wider area trying to survive under harsh conditions.
The momentum of the uncontrollable river Strimonas was ruining crops and settlements, while malaria was decimating the human souls. As a result, 20% of the refugees died in a short time. The Greek government, in 1928, assigned to the American company JohnMonks-Ulen & Co the implementation of sanitation projects in the plain of Serres. Thus, in 1932, the first dam next to the village Lithotopos was delivered, creating the artificial reservoir of the lake Kerkini and draining at the same time the lake of Achinos and the marshy lands in the plain. Due to the transfer and dumping of large quantities of sediment from the river, it became imperative a new higher dam to be constructed, as well as the dykes to be lifted and expanded. These projects were completed in 1982, increasing the capacity to store larger quantities of water for irrigation and improving the flood protection of the plain. The lake has the shape of a «pear», with the dam on the top near the village Lithotopos. Its maximum length is about 15km, the maximum width is 8,5km and the depth ranges from 1 to 10m. Its surface fluctuates, depending on the season, from 55 to 73 km2.
Lake Kerkini is a valuable ecosystem with multiple benefits and a multitude of values. The main ones are:
- Flood protection: It plays a significant part in flood protection by holding Strymonas’ waters and preventing flood in the lower part of the Serres’ plain.
- Irrigation: It provides water for irrigation to a large part of the prefecture of Serres, which has a strong agricultural character and it is one of the most productive prefectures of Greece.
- Fishing: It is one of the richest in fish lakes in Greece and many inhabitants from the lakeside communities are engaged in fishing.
- Biodiversity: The existence of the lake and wetland vegetation offers food and shelter to many species of wildlife. It is one of the 10 Wetlands of International Importance of Greece (also known as Ramsar Wetlands) and it is also protected by other international treaties (it is a Special Protection Area (SPA) and it is also included in the Network of Protected Areas Natura 2000). It is one of the richest wetlands of Greece from an ornithological point of view with more than 300 species of birds, since it is the most important area of wintering and migration of the species Argiropelekanos throughout Europe (it is one of the 196 Important Bird Areas of Greece (IBA)). The lake provides home for at least 58 species of mammals, 12 amphibious species, 22 species of reptile, 31 species of fish and it has the largest aquatic area in Greece that is covered by water lilies. The largest number of waterbuffalo of Greece lives around the lake (almost 500), which is the 2/3 of the total population in the country. The coexistence of fishermen and pelicans and the winter image of the fishers feeding these magnificent birds, clearly indicate the harmonious interdependence of man and ecosystem.
- Educational: It is offered for practising on environmental and creative education for students and visitors.
- Recreation: It can provide the visitor with rest and tranquillity and be a pole for the development of mild eco-tourism activities.
- Scientific: It is an important field of scientific research on wetlands, their management and the anthropogenic (human-caused) effects on their functions, due to the diversity of their biological wealth and the activities that are being developed in the area.
National Park of Kerkini Lake
In October 2005, by decision of the Minister of Environment, Mr. Souflias, the Greek part of the basin of Lake Kerkini, which is located outside the planning regions of the prefecture of Serres (Municipalities of Irakleia, Kerkini, Petritsi and Sidirokastro and the Communities of Agistro and Promachonas), was characterized as » National Park of Kerkini Lake «. With an area of 850.000 acres and rare flora and fauna, the wider area of the lake is a wetland of international importance.
Activities – agrotourism
The opportunities for sightseeing and providing information, which are offered in the wider area of the wetland by public and private entities, have increased in the recent years. So, those who are visiting the lake can get involved in: bird watching, boating, hiking, mountaineering, nature photography, fishing, cycling, canoeing, horseback riding, etc.