The Buyuk Menderes River meanders for 584 kilometers through western Turkey before reaching the Aegean Sea with a large delta, consisting of several lagoons, extensive salt steppes and mudflats. It is home to numerous birds like avocets, cormorants, flamingos, and coots during the winter. It's also the home of the Bonelli’s eagle, olive-tree warblers, ruppel’s warblers, krueper’s nuthatchs, cinereous and Cretzschmar’s buntings. The north of the delta is bordered by the steep hills of Dilek peninsula, a craggy, mountainous piece of land jutting out to the Aegean sea, with beautiful coves, bays, and remote Mediterranean forests. The Maeander is a deep river but not always very wide. In many parts its depth is equal to its width making it navigable only by small boats. It frequently floods its banks and the quantity of mud deposited at its mouth has had the effect of making the coastline move further into the sea making several small islands off the coast united with the mainland. The Dilek Peninsula and Büyük Menderes Delta National Park are comprised of 27,675 square hectares.
There are two rivers in Turkey called the Menderes. The first is the Büyük Menderes River in southwestern Turkey. It rises in west central Turkey near Dinar before flowing west through the Büyük Menderes Delta until reaching the Aegean Sea in the proximity of the ancient Ionian city of Miletus. The Büyük Menderes River also has classical name which is the Maeander - hence the English word meander - was derived from its winding course in its lower reaches. The second river - Küçük Menderes Çayi was known in antiquity as the Scamander; rises in northwestern Turkey and flows 60 miles or 97 kilometers west across the plain of ancient Troy where it empties into the Dardanelles. Büyük Menderes River rises on the Anatolian plateau south and west of Afyon then flows westward through a narrow valley and canyon. At Sarayköy it expands into a broad flat-bottomed valley with a typical Mediterranean landscape - dotted with fig trees, olive groves, and vineyards. Near the town of Aydın the river turns southwest where it empties into the Gulf of Icaros in the Aegean Sea. The ancient port of Miletus laying near its mouth has long been abandoned and eventually landlocked due to silting from the river. The tributaries of the Büyük Menderes include the rivers Orgyas, Marsyas, Cludrus, Lethaeus, and Gaeson, in the north; and the Obrimas, Lycus, Harpasus, and a second Marsyas in the south.
The coastal face of the Büyük Menderes River is characterized by a complex system of lagoons, inlets, lakes, natural levees, beach ridges and river promontories. Two large lagoons are located in the north part of the active promontory - one called Dilek Lagoon - this large lagoon lies and joins with 2 inlets to the Aegean Sea. The other one is known as Akköy Lagoon and is located on the south of the active promontory. Büyük Menderes Delta is located in the Büyük Menderes River west of Aydin in south western Anatolia and is bounded by the Dilek Peninsula on the north, the Aegean Sea in the west, and Didim highlands in the south. The Büyük Menderes Delta is formed by the sediment of the Menderes River in the Aegean region. It rises in three branches from west of Afyonkarahisar and flows generally westwards into the Aegean Sea. At the southern reaches of the delta there are abandoned meandering channels from the construction of an irrigation canal network built in the 1960's to regulate the flow of the river. The present active delta mouth at Deringöl promontory is being formed by a single channel flowing through to the north of the Lala Karakol Hills, whereas the previous delta mouth had been flowing through the south of the basin forming Akköy lagoon and Tuz promontory.
Büyük Menderes Delta is dominated by northerly and north-northwestly waves. The most frequently occurring waves are less than 2 meters in height, but in the winter heights of up to 4 meters have been experienced. The seasonal variations of the winds and waves acting on the shore of Büyük Menderes Delta account for changes in its shore and sedimentary movement. To better understand the evolution of the Büyük Menderes Delta, the effects of the human presence in the area must be recognized. The construction of water works and irrigation projects for better agricultural yields have had serious effects on the geomorphological features and the shoreline of the delta since the early 1970's. A drainage channel was added to the Büyük Menderes River which in acting as the major collector disabled the flow of southern branch resulting in the degradation of Tuz promontory. From 1957 to 2004 it was seen that water transferred to the northern channel had resulted in continuous erosion of the southern promontory. The degradation of the shoreline also affects the Akköy Lagoon fisheries as the shoreline loses its barrier with the effect of silting up these lagoons.
Also during the summer time the channel is blocked by small scale dams which store fresh water for irrigation of cotton and this completely inhibits the discharge of the Büyük Menderes River to the Aegean Sea. The Büyük Menderes River has two promontories - the southern one continuously degrading while the northern one is aggrading. The main reason for this is from construction of drainage channels and dams for irrigation. This net shift in the sediment deposits is also seen in the locations of new sand barrier islands that have shifted to the northern promontory on the meandering course of the river.