Geography of Szabolcs-Szatmár-Bereg

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Szabolcs-Szatmár-Bereg is situated in Hungary's far east, at the north-eastern tip of the country. It borders the Ukraine, the Slovak Republic and Romania, and has good communications both by road and rail. Within Hungary, the county is bordered by Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén county and the River Tisza from the north west and Hajdú-Bihar county from the south west.

The early Hungarians transformed this region significantly by clearing large areas of forest to make way for pastures and plough-land. Approximately 5 to 5 square kilometres of forest were cleared for the construction of the Szabolcs earthwork in the ninth and tenth centuries and its ruins are still present. With the subsequent development of the country, the region became marginalized in the 15th century. On going civil war, rebellion and war exacted a heavy price and further hindered the region's development.

The county's borders have been altered frequently over the years, its current territory being established in 1950 with the amalgamation of the counties of Szabolcs-Ung and Szatmár-Bereg-Ugocsa.

There are many forests, fields, pastures, meadows and moorland forests in the county. The bog moss moors at Csaroda, the Nyíres lake and the Bábtava lake are especially valuable, as they contain many rare species of fauna and flora.

Szabolcs-Szatmár-Bereg is Hungary's sixth biggest county with a total land area of 5 936 square kilometres. From a geographical aspect, it is possible to divide the county into two main regions: The Upper Tisza Valley and the Nyírség. Tisza is the most important river of the county. It enters Szabolcs-Szatmár-Bereg - and Hungary - at Tiszabecs, and leaves the county at Tiszadob. Its segment in Szabolcs-Szatmár-Bereg county is 235 kilometres long, out of which 208 kilometres belongs to the Upper Tisza Valley, reaching the area of Tokaj and Rakamaz.

The northern part of Nyírség is covered with sandy forest soils, the southern areas have loose wind-blown sand. Alluvial and meadow soils are found in the Upper Tisza region.

The county has a continental climate; it is cooler than the Great Plain because it is further north. Summers are cooler than in other parts of the Plains. Annual precipitation is 550-600 millimetres. The higher than average number of days of sunshine make ideal conditions for the growing of tomatoes, sunflower, tobacco, apples and other fruits.

The county has 229 settlements, of which 20 are towns. The county capital and largest city is Nyíregyháza with a population of 116 900 in 2003. The other cities have relatively small populations, only those of Kisvárda and Mátészalka having around 18 000 inhabitants. The eastern part of the county is lightly populated and is dotted with small villages which often have very poor economic conditions.

Rivers, lakes and thermal waters[edit]

The Upper Tisza region has many streams and rivers, but the Nyírség region has little surface water. The most important of River Tisza's tributaries is the River Szamos, which is also characterised by great variations in water volume. There are irrigation systems, a water barrage and a hydro electric power station on the Tisza at Tiszalök.

Lakes of various sizes have evolved in sandy areas such as the basin of the Sóstó (Salty lake) of Nyíregyháza, whose alkaline, hydrogen carbonated waters have medicinal qualities. Many water reservoirs have been built according to local demand. Thermal waters of 55-65 °C can be brought to the surface from wells as shallow as 1 000 metres. The most important thermal water reserves are in Nyíregyháza, Kisvárda, Mátészalka and Tiszavasvári. The county's geothermal energy still awaits exploitation.

The county has relatively few mineral reserves. Almost all of the big energy source transporting systems cross the county.