A rockslide occurred on the morning of Friday (19/1) in the Kourtaliotiko Gorge (or Kourtaliotis Gorge), also known as the Asomatos Gorge, situated on the southern side of the western part of the island, within the prefecture of Rethymnon. This event prompted an immediate response from the “ENA” Civil Protection Voluntary Organization of the Prefecture of Rethymno, as reported in a recent Facebook update.
A vehicle carrying two passengers was ascending towards the Plakias when it was struck by a colossal boulder – thankfully, no injuries were sustained in this unforeseen encounter.
The Municipality of Agios Vassiliou and the Regional Unit of Rethymnon took swift action by dispatching a front-end loader tractor to clear the rocks from the road surface expeditiously.
The Kourtaliotiko Gorge was shut down at 4 pm yesterday and will remain closed for 24 hours in response to the recent rockfalls observed on December 29 and Friday morning to facilitate the competent services in determining the origin of the issue that led to the rockslide from a staggering 300 meters to the road.
To maintain accessibility to and from the southern part of Rethymno, the Directorate of Technical Works of the Regional Unit of Rethymno has temporarily reopened the Kotsyfos Gorge until early Saturday afternoon. This measure seeks to ensure continued connectivity to the area. It is important to note that Kotsyfos Gorge will be closed for ongoing road repair works from Saturday afternoon onwards and will remain so until the end of January.
At the time of the accident, there were a few theories as to what caused the rockslide:
The dislodgement of rocks in the Kourtaliotiko Gorge may have been exacerbated by weather conditions marked by the alternation of rain, drought, and powerful winds.
Another hypothesis under consideration is the potential impact of the vigorous activity of a substantial number of sheep in the area, surmising that the rock may have been loosened, leading to its descent from a height of over 300 meters.
The possibility that the rockslide was an after-effect of an earthquake months ago, which triggered a rockslide in the Samaria Gorge and affected Kourtaliotiko and Kotsyfos, resulting in their (temporary) closure, was also considered.
However, this morning, the official authorities informed the public that uncontrolled grazing was at the root of the problem.
Following the recent rock falls in the Kourtaliotiko Gorge, occurring on 29/12/2023 and 19/01/2024, stemming from a considerable altitude of over 300 meters from the road, the conclusion was that unrestrained grazing on the gorge’s periphery by goats and sheep poses an escalated hazard to road safety.
The authorities will promptly initiate all requisite legal measures, urging the pertinent services to effectuate the removal of all sheep and goats, thus averting the lamentable prospect of future casualties. The authorities also urged the shepherds to collaborate in expediting the removal process.
The Kourtaliotiko Gorge, 22km south of Rethymno, spans a length of three kilometres and counts as one of the most remarkable natural marvels on the island. Originating from the village of Koxare, it winds its way amidst the imposing mountains of Kouroupa, soaring at 984m, and the Koules of the Xiro Oros range, reaching a height of 676m.
Kourtaliotiko Gorge’s Appeal for Tourism and Research
Traversed by a paved road, the canyon leads intrepid explorers along the route from the village of Koxare to Asomatos, culminating at the base of the gorge where the venerable church of the local saint, Nicholas Kourtaliotiko, holds court. Adjacent to the chapel, the Kourtaliotiko springs exude an irresistible allure, standing as one of the most captivating features of the ravine. Just below the springs, the resplendent Kourtaliotis waterfall cascades with a formidable rush of water through a narrow gorge section, accessible by a daring swim from a lower point of the river.
This region, nestled along the south-central coast of Crete, is pivotal in protecting endangered birds of prey, serving as a refuge for the likes of vultures, with one of the final breeding pairs within the Balkans finding sanctuary here. The area also provides a haven for various avian species, including the griffon vulture, the Golden Eagle, and Bonelli’s Eagle.
The Kourtaliotiko Gorge boasts an exceptional blend of aesthetic, biological, and ecological significance. Alongside the expansive clusters of Cretan Date Palm trees, constituting the island’s second-largest palm forest, the gorge’s slopes teem with abundant vegetation and the river’s estuary is bedecked with sand dunes and flourishing beds of Posidonia, among the most protected marine flora. Noteworthy denizens of the Kourtaliotiko Gorge encompass the Auremys caspica tortoise and the indigenous freshwater snake, Elaphe situla.