The Alharabe river rises 1,440 meters high, on the slopes of the Sierra del Zacatin in the municipality of Moratalla. In its first section, it receives contributions from the Serreta de la Torre and Zacatin watercourses, as well as from the streams of Las Polladas and Zaen.
It runs throughout the north of Moratalla, where it is known as the “Big River” given its important presence in this municipality. It has a route of 49 kilometres, flowing between the beautiful landscapes of the community of Murcia, where it receives the waters of its tributary, the Benamor river, to later reach the Segura river, near the Sanctuary of Hope.
It is a special area of ecological value. The course of the Alharabe river and surrounding areas have been catalogued as a Special Protection Area for Birds (ZEPA), defined as "Sierras and Vega Alta del Segura and Alharabe and Moratalla rivers". This is because it is an area of great importance for endangered birds.
These are areas that the European Union considers as privileged because they harbour habitat, food, and climatic conditions that promote the survival of birds considered to be migratory, as they move from one place to another at different times of the year.
The banks of the Alharabe river are very affected by its scant vegetation, which is present intermittently. In the low areas of the valley are areas of fruit trees and orchards as well as other productive activities. In the separated areas of the valley, towards the slopes, some soils have eroded and the land can be used only for the cultivation of cereals.
The pine forests have had a significant presence among the vegetation that accompanies the channel of the Alharabe river. Among them are the black pine, the Aleppo pine, and the maritime pine. There are other types of vegetation, such as the riverside, which is conditioned by phreatic water, as well as by the specific conditions of the ecosystems that are present.
In general terms, the landscape and its vegetation have been transformed throughout the centuries in such a way that there are few virgin areas in the valley and the slope of the Alharabe river and its tributaries, which have lost their capacity for the growth and natural protection of their vegetation.
Many species of flora have disappeared. Hence, a reforestation initiative of approximately 30 kilometres has been carried out in the river basin. For this, 15 different species of trees have been planted, as well as 50,000 shrubs. These are indigenous and have contributed to the regeneration of the Alharabe river habitat.
Among the native flora that has been planted are ash, willow, tamarisk, elm, and black poplar, which is one of the most important in the river's habitat.
Surrounding the Alharabe river is fauna whose numbers have diminished. Among them, the otter is significant, as are the Spanish pond turtle and bats. All of them are under protection programs established by the European Union, as they are in danger of extinction.
Among the species of birds that have made the Alharabe river their habitat, and that have also been considered endangered, are the stilt, the eagle owl, the curlew, the red-billed chough, and the peregrine falcon.
It is worth noting the mountainous areas that surround the river and that serve as a shelter for mountain goats, which have been seriously affected by hunters and whose presence must be protected. In addition, small mammals and wild boars are facing extinction due to uncontrolled hunting.