MEXICO NATIONAL PARKS
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Mexico mainland and Baja have plenty of wide open spaces and there are plenty of people, including the Mexican Government, who are trying to preserve some of this open space for future generations.
Not surprising for a peninsula with over 2,000 miles of coastline, not all of Baja's protected areas are on land. Protected areas off shore are gaining increased attention in Baja, and hopefully more ocean areas will become protected in Baja's future.
A brochure with a map of Baja's National Parks and Biosphere Reserves is available from CARACOL the center for Mexican Culture. Their phone number is 011-52 (617) 8-7192 or they may reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Brochures are available in English and Spanish!
ALTO GOLFO DE CALIFORNIA Y DELTA DEL RIO COLORADO - (UPPER GULF OF CALIFORNIA AND COLORADO RIVER DELTA)
This Biosphere reserve is one of the largest protected areas on the Baja Peninsula. It includes the Sea of Cortez from the point where the Colorado River spills into the sea and includes all of the area south to San Felipe, including much of the shores on the upper west coast of the Mexican mainland.
CABO PULMO NATIONAL MARINE PARK
Cabo Pulmo National Marine Park is the smallest of all national parks in Baja. It may be small, but this jewel protects the only coral reef on the west coast of North America, and is well deserving of it's national park status. The coral reef consists of seven parallel fingers or bands of reef which start right next to the shoreline and line up progressively further out to sea. Sea life is abundant here, the water visibility is usually very good, and the water temperature runs from a low of 70 degrees in winter to about 90 degrees in the summer.
Popular recreation here includes snorkeling, scuba diving, kayaking, and taking naps on the beach! Several facilities are available nearby for food and overnight accommodations.
For more information on the area near Cabo Pulmo, drop by the EAST CAPE section of Baja Expo. And for more details on Cabo Pulmo Reef the OCEANIC RESOURCE FOUNDATION has a very informative web site on the area!
Cabo Pulmo can be reached by taking Baja Highway One north of San Jose del Cabo to the paved La Ribera turnoff. Make another right turn after 6 miles at the marked sign, prior to meeting the coast at La Ribera. The paved road turns to dirt and gravel 5 miles before reaching Cabo Pulmo. It is also possible to reach Cabo Pulmo from the Los Cabos area, via the coastal road east of San Jose del Cabo. However, this road can be a real adventure, and downright impassible after heavy periods of rain. Even when the road is in good shape it is not recommended for vehicles with trailers or larger RVs.
CABO SAN LUCAS UNDERWATER WILDLIFE RESERVE
The Cabo San Lucas Underwater wildlife reserve is one of the most recent areas to be added to Baja's protected areas. The area includes San Lucas Bay, as well as areas in the Sea of Cortez west and east of Cabo San Lucas. The large amount of tourist activity in these waters added to the need for a protected area here. Included in this marine park is the underwater "sand falls" discovered by Jacque Cousteau before the Cabo area was established as one of Mexico's most popular resort destinations.
EL VISCAINO BIOSPHERE RESERVE
The El Viscaino Biosphere Reserve was established by the Mexican Government in 1988. The area covers 2,546,790 hectares and includes the Vizcaino Desert, the Sebastian Vizcaino Bay, and San Ignacio Lagoon. It is a h-u-g-e protected area. This area has also been designated as an internationally recognized biosphere reserve by the United Nations Educational Science and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
The Mexican government and Mitsubishi are planning to permanently alter a significant part of the land in this Biosphere on the northern shores of Laguna Ignacio. They are planning a second salt producing facility that would include development on the natural lagoon and much of the surrounding open space on land. This new facility would be in addition to the existing facility further north in the waters of Laguna Ojo de Liebre, near Guerrero Negro. Yes, the local Mexicans could use the employment opportunities from this proposed project, but no, the world's salt is not in short supply. So think twice before you purchase a Mitsubishi product. For more (unbiased) information on the new salt project, drop by the GREY WHALE ADVOCATE web site.
ESTERO DE SAN JOSE DEL CABO STATE RESERVE
The estero which empties into the Sea of Cortez behind the city of San Jose del Cabo obtains it's water from the runoff of the Sierra la Laguna mountains north of Cabo San Lucas. This beautiful marshland plays host to a host of birds and other wildlife, and can be enjoyed by kayak on the wider western end. During times of heavy rains the lagoon flows directly to the ocean, and when the water flow is low a sand bar separates the estuary from the Sea of Cortez.
BAHIA DE LORETO NATIONAL MARINE PARK
The Bay of Loreto National Marine Park was established in 1996 by President Ernesto Zedillo to help protect the fish, sea life and waters offshore, north and south of Loreto. The protected area extends north up the coast from Loreto approximately 12 miles, and out to sea approximately 20 miles, covering nearly half a million acres!. The protected area runs to the south over 35 miles, and includes the islands and waters of (from north to south) Isla Coronado, Isla del Carmen, Isla Danzante, Isla Montserrat, and Isla Santa Catalina. Sportfishing is permitted in the protected area, but commercial fishing is prohibited. Baja Communications offers a good MAP OF THE PROTECTED AREA. And Loreto's BAJA BIGFISH Website offers additional information about the park and park rules.
For more information on the Loreto area, drop by the LORETO section of Baja Expo.
ISLAS DEL GOLFO DE CALIFORNIA BIOSPHERE RESERVE (ISLANDS OF THE GOLF OF CALIFORNIA)
This protected area includes the islands in the midriff region of Baja, including many of the islands off of Bahia de los Angles and the islands running south of Bau of LA Also included is the huge island of Isla Tiburon which is adjacent to mainland Mexico.
ISLA GUADALUPE BIOSPHERE RESERVE
Isla Guadalupe is located off of Baja California's west coast south west of Catavina and north west of Isla Cedros. It is located over 100 miles off of the peninsula coastline, and is the most remote protected area in Baja.
PARQUE NACIONAL CONSTITUTION DE 1857
This National Park is the closest to the U.S. border and one of the highest destinations in Baja. A special feature of this park is Laguna Hansen, a beautiful (but shallow) alpine lake surrounded by Jeffrey pine trees, located 22 miles in from Highway 3! Primitive campsites can be found on the lake's western shore. After extensive periods without rain this lake can dry up considerably. On the other side of the coin, the park often receives snow!... one of the few places in Baja that gets cold and wet enough to do so. It is interesting how quickly the terrain drops off to the east...approximately 10,000 feet to Laguna Salada below. Runoff from these mountains creates the river that forms the oasis and pools at Canyon Guadalupe, below the park in the lower eastern foothills of the mountain.
The park is accessible by taking Baja Highway 2 southeast of Tecate, or (the more popular route) by taking Baja Highway 3 east of Ensenada to the Laguna Hansen sign near Km. 55.
PARQUE NACIONAL SIERRA SAN PEDRO MARTIR
Located in the northern part of the Baja Peninsula, Parque Nacional Sierra San Pedro Martir is Baja's highest national park, as well as it's largest mountain park. Topping out at 10,154 feet at the top of Pichacha del Diablo, this pine covered mountain is also the highest point on the Baja Peninsula. Because of it's high elevation and distance from population, this park was chosen for the location of one of Mexico's finest observatories. The high altitude and lack of light interference provide the perfect location for the large domed telescope. Directly to the east of the park, and about 10,000 feet down the mountain, lies the dry lake bed of Laguna Diablo, and a bit further east the town of San Felipe. Because of the steep grade there is no access from the park to the eastern side. Snow is a frequent visitor to the park during some of the colder winter months. Unimproved camping is available inside the park boundary, south west of the road to the observatory.
The park is accessible by taking Baja Highway One south from Tijuana to a marked graded road which meets the highway approximately 6 miles south of Colonet. After passing by Meling Ranch at mile marker 32, the park entrance is approximately 50 miles due east of the blacktop. It is another 15 miles to the observatory. The road is passable in most passenger vehicles and RVs unless recent storms have damaged the road.
SIERRA DE LA LAGUNA BIOSPHERE RESERVE
The Sierra de la Laguna mountains are located north of Cabo San Lucas and east of Todos Santos. These spectacular mountains rise to over 6,000 feet above sea level and offer thick forests, beautiful wooded areas, meadows, streams and pools, and are home to plenty of wildlife. Although access into these mountains is possible from the eastern side, north of San Jose del Cabo, but the preferred and easier route is up the western flank, south of the town of Pescador.