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Pinacate Biosphere Reserve

Photo: Biosphere

The Pinacate Biosphere Reserve and the abutting Gran Desierto de Altar Reserve are less than a day’s drive from the U.S.-Mexico border.

Together, the two contiguous reserves protect the sea, coast, and inland desert. El Pinacate stands out for its easier access and its surreal beauty.

Located in the state of Sonora the region contrasts sandy coasts with rugged volcanic cones – the region is a 30-mile wide volcanic field. The region is named after a local species – a beetle that when threatened, sits vertically on end and emits a foul odor. More loveable wildlife includes puma, deer, antelope, wild boar, the Gila monster, bighorn sheep, pronghorn, quail, and red-tailed eagle. Visitors to the park will find a rustic vistors center.

There are few paths in this region and you can climb on the volcanic cones to observe the craters. You are urged to travel with someone who knows the region or hire an experienced guide and explore the area in a four-wheel-drive vehicle, as the roads are of dubious quality.

Guide information can be obtained through the visitor’s center. Be aware that this area is uninhabited and presents many dangers. Make sure to bring along extra water.

VOLCANO FIELD
The park’s chief attraction is its bizarre and mind-boggling scenery. About 3 or 4 million years ago, an erratic series of volcanoes erupted in what is now the Pinacate lava field. Hundreds of blank cinder cones and craters mark the surface. The Pinacate Reserve and the abutting Gran Desierto de Altar Reserve are less than a day’s drive from the U.S.-Mexico border.

Together, the two contiguous reserves protect the sea, coast, and inland desert. El Pinacate stands out for its easier access and its surreal beauty.

Located in the state of Sonora the region contrasts sandy coasts with rugged volcanic cones – the region is a 30-mile wide volcanic field. The region is named after a local species – a beetle that when threatened, sits vertically on end and emits a foul odor. More loveable wildlife includes puma, deer, antelope, wild boar, the Gila monster, bighorn sheep, pronghorn, quail, and red-tailed eagle. Visitors to the park will find a rustic vistors center.

There are few paths in this region and you can climb on the volcanic cones to observe the craters. You are urged to travel with someone who knows the region or hire an experienced guide and explore the area in a four-wheel-drive vehicle, as the roads are of dubious quality.

Guide information can be obtained through the visitor’s center. Be aware that this area is uninhabited and presents many dangers. Make sure to bring along extra water.

DESTINATION MOON
Some of these lava fields were used to train U.S. astronauts heading to the moon during the Apollo space program.

While the craters definitely evoke an otherworldly terrain, what is amazing is not the sterility, but the fertility of the land. You’ll see many cacti, including saguaro, ocotillo and chollo. The desert blooms in February and March after the spring rains. Dune sunflowers, verbena and desert lilies blossom in the sand, and if you look, you might see the tracks of bighorn sheep.

BIRTH OF A RESERVE

Mexico declared this area a biosphere reserve in 1993, at the urging of Ezekiel Escurra, then-director of Mexico’s protected areas. Escurra had performed his graduate research here years ago and knew the importance of the local biodiversity as well as the park’s larger role in the region of the Sea of Cortez.

Management authority for El Pinacate rests with IMADES (Instituto del Medio Ambiente y Desarrollo Sustentable del Estado de Sonora), an institution created in 1996 as the result of a merger between Sonora’s Center for Investigation and Development of Natural Resources and the Centro Ecologico de Sonora (Sonora Ecological Center, or CES). IMADES is headquartered in the ecological park in Hermosillo.

El Pinacate and well as the Upper Colorado Gulf in the Sea of Cortez to west were jointly declared biosphere reserves. One of the reasons was to protect the vaquita and totoaba species. The totoaba resembles white bass and is considered a delicacy, and consequently, overfished. The vaquita has perished in fishermen’s nets, and is now one of the rarest marine mammals on earth.

The area is also the spawning grounds of a highly commercial fishing industry that thrives in the middle portion of the Sea of Cortez. By protecting the breeding grounds, officials hope to be able to sustain future marine production.

Visiting?
LOCATION — The entrance to El Pinacate is 50 kilometers (31 miles) west of Sonoyta, Sonora, on Highway 2. If you’re approaching the park from the United States, be sure to visit the Organ Pipe Visitor’s Center on the Arizona border for up-to-date information.

Key Links
http://elpinacate.conanp.gob.mx

Elsewhere on the Web
la-unesco-vuelve-a-premiar-a-mexico.html
cedo-tours-al-pinacate
infografiasemarnat
Protected Planet
el-pinacate-habla-de-20-mil-anos-de-historia
sonoraturismo
parksinperil
lonelyplanet

World Heritage
http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1410
O’odham
*Schuk Toak en dialecto O’odham significa Montaña Sagrada (o montaña negra depende de la región)

Embedded Tweets

Wikipedia
El_Pinacate_y_Gran_Desierto_de_Altar_Biosphere_Reserve
Reserva_de_la_Biosfera_El_Pinacate_y_Gran_Desierto_de_Altar
Gran_Desierto_de_Altar

Planeta.com

Mexico-USA Borderlands

Baja California

Wild México

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