Hortobágy National Park Directorate
Hortobágy Great Fishponds

Hortobágy Great Fishponds

 

After the regulation of the River Tisza in the 19th century, a considerable part of the Hungarian Great Plain, including the Hortobágy, lost its natural water sources other than precipitation. Several drawbacks of the river regulation have been recognized since as even affecting agriculture. Therefore, a few decades later a project was started to establish fishponds, ricelands and irrigated grasslands. In this period, altogether some 6000 hectares of fishponds were created in the Hortobágy. The establishment of the first one, the Hortobágy Great Fishponds, was started on an approximately 2000 hectares area during World War I, using human labour force of Russian prisoners-of-war. The fishpond system was completed in the early 1970s. The Hortobágy Great Fishponds were built with circular embankment technology in an extremely alkaline and economically valueless grassland area called Csúnyaföld ('Bad Lands'). The flats were surrounded with raised dykes, therefore the water level of the ponds is above the ground level of the surrounding grasslands. According to our current knowledge, these areas were alkaline grasslands and alkaline barren lands, with the most valuable possible land use being nature conservation. Originally, the complete pond system included 17 units. Currently, 10 ponds are in use, because certain ponds merged due to broken dykes and some smaller units were taken out of use and are now completely covered by reed or other marsh vegetation. The lead channel of the pond system, which derives from the Nyugati-főcsatorna (the Western Main Canal branching out from the River Tisza), was excavated at the same time when the pond system was finished.

After the fishponds were finished, the extent of certain alkaline wetlands decreased, while some others completely disappeared, like the flats and meadows of Zoltán-fenék, Nagy-fenék, Matyó-fenék, Ludas-rét and Vince-fenék. After the Tonnás-canal (the effluent sluice of the pond system) was built, the water balance of the nearby areas and watercourses, like the Pap-ere, Hosszú-fenék and Máta-puszta deteriorated. Later on, the maintenance and treatment of the Hortobágy Great Fishponds was handed over to the Hortobágy National Park Directorate, and since then an extensive, environmentally conscious fish farming technology has been applied. At the same time, the National Park Directorate created a nature trail at the Great Fishponds, and also restarted the narrow gauge railway line as an ecotouristic attraction in 2006.

The Hortobágy Great Fishponds have been part of Hortobágy National Park’s territory since its foundation in 1973. Furthermore, the pond system is listed in several international conventions: it is a Ramsar site (a wetland of international importance), an Important Bird Area, part of the World Heritage Site and a Natura 2000 area (a natural reserve of European importance).

Walking along the nature trail, visitors can discover the flora and the birdlife of fishponds and open marshlands of the Hortobágy. Considering that this area is one of the most important waterfowl habitats in the Hortobágy and in Central Europe, visitors can gain a thorough impression about the breeding and migrating waterbirds of the Carpathian Basin, including several endangered species. Beside broadening their knowledge about birds, visitors can also gain insight into the fish farming activities and the methods of conservation habitat management.

Location and accessibility:

By car: turn to north on main Road 33 at the 67 kilometer mark. There is a side road to ’Halastó’, approximately 2 kilometres to the narrow gauge railway station and the nature trail starting point.
From Budapest, Road 33 can be reached via the M3 motorway.
By train: via the Debrecen-Füzesabony line at the Hortobágy-Halastó station. The narrow gauge railway starting point is approximately 100 metres to the west from the station.

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