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17 abril 2024

Zaragoza province: a sea of proposals in aquatic activities

Descending the Ebro in a canoe, touring the Ribarroja reservoir in a small traditional sailing boat called Llaüt, splashing in the white waters of the Gállego with the Mallos de Riglos in the background, gliding on a kitesurfing board on the waters of La Loteta, sailing on the Mequinenza reservoir or kayaking on the Tranquera reservoir.

These are just some of the possibilities of Zaragoza province in terms of water activities, which attract tourists from Aragon and the rest of Spain of the most varied profiles, from regular practitioners to groups that approach for the first time to the aquatic proposals.

The Provincial Council of Zaragoza (DPZ), through its tourism strategy, seeks to publicize the many alternatives offered by river tourism, with the aim that citizens try it and become “prescribers” themselves.

In this article we take a look at some of the aquatic and nautical activities that can be practiced in Zaragoza, in environments as varied as La Loteta reservoir, the Gállego river or the waters of the Ebro. Time to set sail!

1. La Loteta, a kitesurfing paradise thanks to the cierzo wind

The reservoir of La Loteta is since its construction, in 2010, one of the almost obligatory stops on the national kitesurfing circuit. Located in the Ribera Alta del Ebro and Campo de Borja, it is, in the words of Jorge Herrero, from the La Loteta Kitesurf Club, “one of the best places in Spain for kitesurfing”.

“It is spectacular for this sport because it combines a little bit of everything: we have a sheet of water that measures up to 6 kilometers long by 2 kilometers wide and we have all the wind in the world thanks to the cierzo”, says Herrero about the coming and going of vans of fans of this sport who come in search of watching from Communities such as Madrid, Navarra, Basque Country, La Rioja or Catalonia. “They take their van, drive 200 or 300 kilometers and stay in La Loteta for the whole weekend”, illustrates this member of the club’s organization, which has 250 registered members, many of them from Aragón.

And those who want to “slip” for the first time in this sport have up to four schools in La Loteta to learn. “We always recommend that when you start kitesurfing you don’t do it in a self-taught way, you always have to do it through a school with qualified instructors”, insists Herrero about this sport that is practiced with a kite and a board that allows you to “surf” on the water.

At the end of September, La Loteta hosts the Cierzo Festival, the largest kitesurfing event on the peninsula. An appointment with a decade of tradition that the club organizes with the Aragonese Sailing Federation and coincides with the Kitesurfing Championship of Aragon.

Zaragoza water activities
One of the participants of the Cierzo Festival. Photo_ Mariano Hotto

2 . The Gállego river, a reference in whitewater in a spectacular setting

Murillo de Gállego, in the Pre-Pyrenees of the province of Zaragoza, is one of the national reference places to enjoy the white waters of the Gállego river. There are several companies that offer kayaking, hydrospeed, canoeing, paddle surfing in the Ardisa reservoir and, of course, rafting. The descent down the river with an inflatable boat is the star activity and is carried out with a guide so that all the rapids can be overcome “in a safe and fun way”. All this, with the backdrop of the imposing cliffs of vertical walls, the Mallos de Riglos.

“The setting is spectacular and is one of the things that makes it singular, magical and unique. The descent between the two towers that are the Mallos de Riglos and Peña Rueda makes it something very special, something completely hypnotic,” says Gustavo Ortas, from UR Pirineos.

The most common in these water activities in the Gállego during the spring are children and young people who come from all over the peninsula with their schools. In the summer, it is the family public that approaches these activities, many times, with weeks of multi-adventure to “peck” among all the options offered by the whitewater river. In addition, as Ortas points out, groups of friends and bachelor and bachelorette parties are also common on weekends.

Water activities in the Gállego with UR Pirineos. Photo_ Rebeca Cárdenas

3. Doing sports and knowing a story: the Ribarroja reservoir

Water sports often go beyond the practice of sport, but allow you to reach privileged spaces and discover the history of the place. This is the case of the Ribarroja reservoir, next to Fayón, in the Bajo Aragón-Caspe region. The current village was built in 1967, when the old one was submerged by the construction of the dam, except for the tower of the Church of San Juan, which still emerges above the waters.

Today, in addition to the activities offered by the companies that operate in the area, the Fayón Tourist Office periodically offers paddle surfing, beach surfing (with larger boards that allow groups) and kayaking.

Another possibility are the river tours organized by Fayón Tourism aboard its Llaüt boat, with guided tours that depart from the Reixaga wharf and go through the mouth of the old railroad tunnel, the bell tower of the old village church and the old mouth of the Matarraña river into the Ebro.

“All these water activities are linked to knowing the history of Fayón. We explain the whole history of the old town of Fayón, the flood and how in the end it changed the lives of all the people who lived there and who had to move two kilometers away from where they were born,” explains the guide and coordinator of the Tourist Office, Eva Amposta.

4. Mequinenza Reservoir: variety of activities in “the sea of Aragon”

Known as “the sea of Aragon”, the Mequinenza reservoir is home to a wide variety of clubs and sports companies offering sailing, windsurfing, kayaking, water skiing, canoeing and paddle surfing. One of these companies is Río Caspe Aventura, which allows individuals and groups, such as schools, summer schools, farewell parties or company incentives, to explore its waters.

The nautical sports technician Eduardo Catalán highlights as the main advantages of the Mequinenza reservoir “the tranquility, the security and the good conditions for the initiation in nautical sports”, in addition to the proximity to the Aragonese capital.

As the representative of this company indicates, which allows both initiation in nautical sports and to obtain the navigation license, this year has not been good because of the drought. For this reason, they move from their facilities in Caspe downstream or to Alcañiz, to be able to continue enjoying nautical activities in nature.

Zaragoza water activities
A group practices kayaking in the Mequinenza reservoir. Photo_ Río Caspe Aventura

5. The Ebro river, a navigable environment of contrasts

In addition to the exceptional nautical possibilities of the Mequinenza and Ribarroja reservoirs, there are also those of the Ebro river as it passes through the riverside towns and the Aragonese capital. The network of piers located in the province of Zaragoza allows you to enjoy nature, heritage and landscape from the inside and on board the ideal vessel to cross these waters: the canoe.

Embarking in Cabañas and ending in front of the imposing image of the Basilica del Pilar, in Zaragoza, traveling the almost ten kilometers that separate Sobradiel from Monzalbarba or gliding through the waters from Pradilla to Alcalá, to remember the passage of Don Quixote in which Sancho Panza demonstrates his virtues as Governor of the Isle of Barataria, are just some of the possible routes.

“There are many different stretches that can be navigated, in fact, the entire Ebro in Aragón is navigable,” says Néstor Jiménez, one of the partners of EbroNAUTAS, which offers “to fall in love with the Ebro from the inside” with its river ecotourism proposals in Zaragoza and its surroundings.

Twilight descent in canoe. Photo_ EbroNAUTAS

As Jiménez narrates, in the seventies and eighties the Ebro and the rivers in general were polluted, but now in our century, with the European Union’s directive on discharges, many treatment plants were built, which contributed to improve its health and factors such as its transparency.

This EbroNAUTAS boatman tells how the experience of descending the Ebro in canoe is, beyond its sporting aspect, an informative activity, as it allows to observe and learn from the hand of the guides the rich fauna and flora that populates the interior and the banks of the river.

“The attraction now is that it is a healthy environment, it is a river jungle. The fauna is amazing, especially the birds; it’s like a documentary on La 2, you see them all the time,” says the geologist about travel companions such as the kingfisher, the sapper plane, the herons or the night heron.

For Jiménez, a member of this project that organizes programmed descents and activities for groups of different profiles, the Ebro is above all “a landscape of contrasts”: from the steppe to the jungle or from the “exuberant lushness” of certain stretches to the architecture of the Expo or the monumentality of the Pilar on arrival in Zaragoza.

6. The Tranquera reservoir: kayaking and paddle surfing enliven the swamp

The next stop is the Tranquera reservoir, which dams the waters of the Piedra river and is located in the municipalities of Carenas, Nuévalos and Ibdes, in the province of Zaragoza. As the president of the Comarca de Calatayud, Ramón Duce, points out, a few years ago not many aquatic activities were practiced, mainly only at an individual level. But, for the last two years, through the regional sports service, they have proposed to promote the use of the reservoir for these activities.

Zaragoza water activities
Tranquera reservoir. Photo_ Community of Calatayud- Tourism.

“It is a reservoir that retains quite a lot of water, especially in the area of the dam, and very little sporting activity was done. Now, with this type of activity, it also contributes to promoting the area,” explains Duce about the kayaking and paddle surfing activities organized by the region starting in the spring.

In addition, they are trying to promote a project to create a center for sports activities, which involves the transfer of a property next to the dam, a bar that closed some time ago. An initiative that is still in process, but that, according to the regional president, “is on the right track”.


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