Proper management of karst aquifers requires a better understanding of flow and transport mechanisms in these systems. Flow in karst aquifers is inherently very complex due to the non-linear and non-stationary relationship between recharge and discharge. Information on this relationship has been acquired for a large (1,000 km(2)), mountainous (> 3,500 m asl) karst aquifer with a deep unsaturated zone (> 2,000 m) in the Aladaglar mountain range of south-central Turkey. All major discharges from the aquifer, which drain almost all the recharge, have been observed periodically for specific electrical conductivity, tritium and oxygen-18 variations during a period of 12 months. Observations reveal that the system's response to recharge depends strongly on the competition between the infiltration and drainage velocities. These velocities, which are controlled by variables such as the time of precipitation, time of infiltration, intensity, and continuity of recharge, determine the degree of dominance of different types of flow mechanisms in the aquifer. Bypass, well-mixed and piston flow mechanisms are used to explain the response of the aquifer to the spatio-temporal variations in recharge. It appears that the aquifer switches among these flow mechanisms depending on the prevailing recharge mode and the competition between infiltration and drainage velocities.