The “Sorgenti del Pescara” natural reserve, established by Regional Law No. 57 of 31 October 1986, is one of the oldest protected areas in Abruzzo. Located entirely in the municipal territory of Popoli (PE), it covers an area of about 50 hectares to which must be added 86 hectares of the protection strip . Situated at the foot of the Capo Pescara hill, the Reserve consists of a crystal-clear body of water of rare beauty originating from a myriad of small and large springs, with a total flow rate of about 7,000 l/s. This large quantity of water, coming from Campo Imperatore, permeates the limestone rock and, travelling underground for 30 days, arrives at the foot of Colle Capo Pescara where it resurfaces thanks to the presence of impermeable soil. From here, after a few kilometres, it flows into the Aterno River, giving rise to the Aterno-Pescara River.
The surrounding banks are occupied by a dense reed bed which, together with the water mirror, constitutes the main landscape element.
The relief of Capo Pescara, formed by limestone rocks, represents an arid environment that greatly enriches the biodiversity of the entire area.
Those arriving by car at the Reserve can stop at the “Riccio parking area” and immediately drop by the so-called Information Point, where the Reserve operators will give you all the information you need for an interesting visit to the protected area. You can pick up, or buy various information material, and get a first taste of what you will see during your visit to the place, observing a small but valuable Diorama on the habitat of Capo Pescara and the Aquarium of the Springs. Near the car park and the Information Point, the ‘La Talpa’ picnic area has been set up, much appreciated by tourists, given its spring and summer attendance. It is a large area of about 5,000 square metres, with about twenty tables, several fire spots for cooking meat and a fountain of fresh drinking water. In the area there are also games for the little ones, who will be able to run around the area without any danger. To complete the facilities and services of this first sector, next to the information point, there are toilet facilities, also for the disabled people, another drinking fountain and a small educational pond.
From the Information Point starts the easily walkable Nature Trail, which leads directly to the central part of the Reserve: the Pescara springs. To observe the clarity of the water and the underwater springs, it is possible to stop at the observation point ‘le polle’. In front of the stretch of water there is the White Poplar Education Area, a charming open-air space with a fountain, benches and wooden tables. Besides being a resting place, it is dedicated to environmental education. For the more adventurous, it is recommended to take the circuitous Nature Trail (Sentiero Canapine – Sentiero Colle Pescara), which leads past the springs and the Piccolo belvedere. The path is also accessible to the disabled people thanks to the use of the “joëlette” available in the Reserve. The nature trail also makes it possible to discover other valuable environments surrounding the body of water, such as the riparian forest and the Mediterranean scrub of the Colle. Along the way, it is possible to stop at the “la Folaga” hut to observe the avifauna and at the “la Poiana” observation point to admire the suggestive landscape: downstream you can see the stretch of water, to the left the Tremonti Gorges where the Gran Sasso National Park and the Majella National Park meet, to the right the Peligna Valley and the first peaks of the Abruzzo National Park. Comfortable shoes and binoculars are recommended for the visit along the trail.
The clarity of the lake, formed by slow-moving waters, means that the photosynthetic process can develop down to a depth of 5 metres, giving rise to lush underwater vegetation. Among the hydrophyte plants are the common Brasca, the submerged Ceratophyllum and the aquatic Ranunculus.
The most naturalistically interesting aspect of Capo Pescara, from the point of view of fauna, is undoubtedly linked to the presence of a diverse avifauna, whose settlement, or momentary stationing, lies in the fact that the biotope constitutes one of the few wetlands in the entire region. Numerous species colonise the spring area. Among them are the Purple Heron, Grey Heron, Kingfisher, Cormorant, Reed Warbler, Great Reed Warbler, numerous surface ducks (Teal, Garganey, Shoveler, Pintail, Wigeon), diving ducks (Pochard, Pochard), grebes (Great Crested Grebe, Little Grebe, Little Grebe).
From the point of view of ichthyofauna, the Capo Pescara spring basin can be regarded as the realm of the brown trout (Salmo trutta). Specifically, the spring waters are colonised by the native trout (Salmo trutta macrostigma).
Of great scientific interest is the presence of the stickleback, which is in considerable decline in many Italian rivers. The lake is also home to the Rovella, which is almost certainly autochthonous.
In the area of the Pescara Springs, especially in the canals on the sides of the reservoir, the Brook Lamprey (Lampetra planeri) can be found, a cyclostoma that has become extremely rare in Italy, having disappeared in many watercourses: this is a case of extremely rare zoo-geographical interest, living in the entire Adriatic only near the Pescara Springs.