The Alcantara River Park is a regional park in Sicily that was established in 2001 in place of the pre-existing Reserve and includes that part of the territory of the provinces of Messina and Catania that forms the river basin of the Alcantara river, and is located on the north side Etna, in order to protect and promote the existing natural system.
The Park headquarters are located in Francavilla di Sicilia , in the structure built in the nineties to house a nursery and never used.
The park is accessible for those coming from Messina or Catania by means of the A18 motorway exiting at Giardini-Naxos and taking the SS185 in the direction of Francavilla and Randazzo.
At kilometer 17, in Motta Camastra in the locality of Fondaco Motta, there is access to the Alcantara Gorges, where you can descend by means of a long municipal staircase to the riverbed and follow it on foot or by means of lifts. private property for a fee.
During the summer, the Circumetnea Railway offers a special tourist package for a guided trip to the Alcantara Gorges.
The territory crossed by the Alcantara river is of particular importance by virtue of its morphology created precisely by the flow of the waters that have shaped and engraved it, creating, in the crossing of an imposing series of lava flows , in the locality of Fondaco Motta (Municipality of Motta Camastra ) of the suggestive and deep overhanging gorges, known as the Alcantara Gorges . Together with a spectacular succession of lakes and waterfalls, of very cold waters, it is possible to observe the amazing columnar lava structures with a prismatic base .
Arranged like organ pipes, they decorate the basalt rock walls for long stretches. Thanks to the study of these structures, geologists have been able to elaborate precise studies on the evolution of the Etna volcano and on the succession over time of its most impressive flows.
In 1493 Bembo described the Alcantara valley as dense with woods of plane trees, oaks, oaks and elms . Today only rare traces of Platanus orientalis survive, while the typical Mediterranean scrub predominates with various species of broom and the Peony mascula with its red inflorescence. As you descend, dense hazelnut woods alternate with citrus groves and vineyards from which a dark and full-bodied wine famous since ancient times is obtained.
More oak groves and pastures. In spring the banks are all a chromatic explosion: blooms of violet, poppy, anemone, myrtle, dog rose, prickly pear, terebinth, oleander and varieties of orchid (also rare of Ophrys tenthredinifera, Orchis papilionacea rubra and Orchis fusca).
The avifauna of the Alcantara valley is very varied, about 200 species, among which the peregrine falcon, the kestrel and the lodolaio , extinct as nesting the Lanner, must be mentioned among the birds of prey.
The presence of the wild pigeon is doubtful, the wild turtledove and the kingfisher are well distributed up to the migratory ones at the mouth. Not infrequently, the rock partridge, the little egret and the imperial crow are also encountered.
Other animals present are the fox, the wild cat, the marten, and the dormouse; and again the hedgehog, the porcupine, the Savi vole and the Sicilian crocidura.
Near the banks you can find the painted discoglossus, a typical Sicilian amphibian and the leopard snake, a beautiful rare and harmless reptile. Among the fish species we find the rainbow trout that can reproduce in this particular stream, the roach, the eel and the goby.