Awash National Park is one of the national parks of Ethiopia. Spanning across the southern tip of the Afar Region and the northeastern corner of the Misraq Shewa Zone of Oromia, this park is 225 kilometers east of Addis Ababa(and a few kilometers west of Awash), with its southern boundary along the Awash River, and covers 756 square kilometers of acacia woodland and grassland. The Addis Ababa – Dire Dawa highway passes through this park, separating the Illala Saha Plains to the south from the Kudu Valley to the north. In the south of the park, the Awash River gorge has amazing waterfalls. In the upper Kudu Valley at Filwoha are hot springs amid groves of palm trees.
The Awash National Park was established in 1966, although the act authorizing its existence was not completely passed for another three years. In establishing this park, as well as the Metehara Sugar Plantation to the south, the livelihoods of the Karayyu Oromo people indigenous to that area have been endangered—an effect that is contrary to the Ethiopian government’s original intention of these establishments serving to benefit the local population.
The park is traversed by a series of well-maintained tracks, which take in the most spectacular of the many scenic attractions. One of the main features is the Fantale volcano, on the southern flank of which can be seen the dark scar of the latest lava flow of 1820. The mountain slopes hold evidence of sixteenth-century habitation, seen as remains of walls and settlements of considerable proportion. The interior of the mountain-top crater — with its wispy white breath of steam vents — is still used by the local people, the Kereyu, for grazing livestock on a seasonal basis.
The wildlife of Awash reflects its dry nature, at all places and all times it is possible to see its population of mammals such as the Beisa Oryx, Semmering Gazelle, and Wild Pigs are common. Slightly less frequent are the furry waterbuck which tends to appear near the river in the late afternoon. The tiny Salts Dik-Dik, not easy to spot in the speckled shade of the acacia thorn, Zebra grazing the plains to the west of Fantale, Cheetah, Serval, and Leopard are also there but it is not easy to spot them; Baboons, both Anubis and Hamadryas, Kudus, lesser and greater, the Giant Tortoise, Reedbuck, Aardvark, and Caracal are also represented. Klipspringer inhabits the higher slopes of the mountain and curious Hyrax peer at you curiously from behind their rocks. In the bottom of the gorge, you can spot the black and white Colobus Monkey. Crocodile and Hippopotamus are seen both in the Awash river and in the cooler parts of the hot springs and rivers in the north.
The birds of Awash are numerous, over 350 species are recorded for the park. They range from the great ostrich, frequently and easily observed, and the less common Secretary Bird and Abyssinian Ground Hornbill, to the flashes of brilliant pink which are the Carmine Bee-eaters, and the Abyssinian Roller with turquoise and purple, wings. And between these two extremes, birds of the riverine forest, Coucal, Turaco, Go-away Birds; birds of prey; and birds of the savannah.
The park itself is traversed by a series of well-maintained tracks, which take in the most spectacular of the many scenic attractions. It is possible, and perhaps advisable, to hire a park guide.
To the north at Filwoha lies the hot springs oasis in its groves of palm trees. It is reached by either one of two scenic tracks which start opposite the main gate on the far side of the road and bearing right, progress either along the floor of the Awash Falls lower Valley or along the top of the ridge.
The Awash river gorge in the south of the park has some spectacular waterfalls near the park headquarters. Rafting is also a possibility, one or two days rafting trips can be organized on the Awash river, with its spirited rapids, wildlife, and impressive rugged cliffs and side canyons.