More than a quarter of a million visitors spent the Passover holiday at the country's forests, national parks, nature reserves and other open spaces yesterday, a number expected to be matched today.

The Jewish National Fund said it had more than 170,000 visitors to its forests, with cyclists coming out in particularly large numbers this year. JNF sites in the north drew 35,000 visitors, with Lake Agmon in the Hula Valley an especially popular attraction, as in previous years. Some 4,000 visitors ventured to the lake yesterday to catch a glimpse of migrating birds, including ducks, raptors and pelicans.

Other popular sites in the north were the Beit Keshet Forest, the Lavi Forest, and Goren Park in the Western Galilee.

The kayaking season kicked off yesterday at Kfar Blum in the Hula Valley, with about 1,000 visitors paddling the Jordan River. Arik Israel, from Mitzpeh Aviv, said his children still wanted to go kayaking despite the relatively cool weather.

"They didn't mind the cold water or the wind. The strong flow of the water was thrilling," he said.

Cold air coming in from Turkey led to a drop in temperatures that began yesterday and will continue today and into the weekend, with rain expected in most of the country on Friday and Saturday. Yesterday morning the mercury dropped between 8 and 10 degrees, with a high in Tel Aviv of 20 degrees Celsius and in Jerusalem of 16 degrees.

Sites in the Beit She'an Valley were also a popular destination yesterday. The Australian themed Gan-Garoo Park on Kibbutz Nir David was filled to capacity, and many went to the nearby Gan Hashlosha National Park and Maayanot Park.

Most of yesterday's visitors to JNF forests favored those in the center of the country, the organization said, with Ben Shemen Park and British Park topping the list. The Aminadav Forest and the ancient agricultural site at Sataf also drew their fair share of day-trippers.

The Israel Nature and Parks Authority reported a total of around 100,000 visitors to its sites yesterday, with about 3,000 of them heading to Caesarea National Park, and another 3,000 to Ashkelon National Park. Some 2,000 opted for Banias Nature Reserve at the foot of Mount Hermon.

Educational activities

The interim days of Passover will see a variety of activities planned in forests and nature sites. Tomorrow, the Nature and Parks Authority will host activities related to the conservation of vultures at Avdat National Park in the Negev, where telescopes will be set up for visitors to use.

On Friday, to mark Earth Day, the Jewish National Fund will host a spring hike for residents of the village of Isfiya on Mount Carmel, as well as various activities at Ben Shemen Forest.

A special exhibit on dolphins is also scheduled at the Jaffa Port on Friday.