This time we went on a tour of time in one of the places that contains one of the greatest biodiversitys in the world, but an ancestral biodiversity: Cuatro Ciénegas.
We’re talking about a valley in the middle of the desert, nestled in Coahuila state. Its full name is Cuatrociénegas de Carranza, after Don Venustiano Carranza, president of Mexico from 1917 to 1920, who was born here in 1859. In this article I will tell you about everything you need to know to go visit this amazing place.
Why did they put Cuatrociénegas on it?
A swamp is a place where there is standing water, such as swamps, and dense aquatic vegetation can grow there. It was founded in 1800, named cuatrociénegas because there was a swamp at each cardinal point; North, South, East and West. This area is formed of springs that formerly formed large areas of swamps.
The Origin of Life…
In the waters of this valley were born the first inhabitants of the planet: bacteria, which are very good for the ecosystem because of their ease of adaptation to the different environments, that is why they have survived millions of years.
These bacteria are still alive in the pooles of Cuatrociénegas, but today they find themselves surviving a great challenge: the overexploitation of water for the use of agriculture in recent years. This has reduced water levels and put much of its endemic wildlife endangered.
The climate is very dry, its temperature reaches up to more than 40 degrees in summer and reaches up to 0 degrees during the winter season.
How was Cuatrociénegas formed?
Formerly all four hundred was covered by the Tethys Sea, what we now know as the Indian Ocean (the third largest in the world), it covered 70% of what is now the state of Coahuila.
This happened when THERE was PANGEA, the supercontinent that contained the entire Earth’s surface 70 million years ago, at the end of the Paleozoic era and early Mesozoic.
After the separation of the tectonic plates and the formation of the different continents, the waters of the sea dried up and only mountains of sand, gypsum, salt and other minerals remained and with these changes the deserts and wells of Cuatrociénegas were formed.
When the sea dries, there are some lagoons that form these springs of water that are here, and the species were then isolated in different pools, allowing them to adapt to the different conditions of each. Some of them survived for a few years, hundreds of others and those we know today, thousands of years.
Where to sleep?
In Cuatrociénegas there are several hotels that welcome all travelers, Hacienda 1800 is one of my favorites.
Can you camp in Cuatrociénegas?
Only 8 kms. from the Hacienda 1800 hotel dates back to Aruna Río San Marcos Natural Park, a place where you can do everything from a kayak ride or paddle board along the San Marcos River to a bike tour, these are some of the activities that can be done here. Here you will also find some of the endemic species of flora and fauna.
This place has two palapas areas to enjoy with your family and friends:
Zona Celeste: it has the largest palapas, recommended for groups greater than 10 people and in which it is not necessary to pay more than the access fee to the park.
Aqua Zone: Here you will have a little more privacy because the palapas are a little more separate, they are for groups under 10 people and you have to pay a fee of $500 MXN per palapa.
Aruna also offers the camping experience, costing $650 MXN.
Park ticket prices
- Foreign adult visitor $120.00
- Minor visitor (-12) foreign $80.00
- Adult local visitor $60.00
- Minor visitor (-12) local $40.0
The Dunes of Plaster, a breath-taking landscape.
The accommodation is 27 kms away. from the center of Cuatrociénegas, you actually do only about 20 minutes to get there and it is very easy to find this destination on Google Maps. The only thing is that you must take out the permit at Hotel 1800, even offer to have a private picnic at sunset!
The Dunes measure just over 800 hectares. All the rocks found in Cuatrociénegas are saline rocks and that is proof that everything was covered with seawater in the past.
They say that if you look at Cuatrociénegas from above, the valley is shaped like a butterfly, in which the right wing which, to the east, is richer in calcium carbonate, while the left wing has more volcanic influence (calcium sulfate) and is dominated by plaster.
It is said to be a composition similar to that of the planet Mars; water, minerals, sulfur and heat, just like the plaster on this planet. There are only three regions in the world with plaster dunes in addition to Cuatrociénegas: New Mexico, Texas and Tunisia (Africa).
That’s why plaster dunes are made from snail dust from more than 200 million years ago. They say if you’re in the dunes watching the stars, those fossilized snail crystals, they shine around you and you sit in the galaxy.
Although there seems to be nothing and it is only a desert with pozas, each pool is a different universe, there is a unique community in each of them. In this magical place, species and bacteria that feed on CO2 and hydrogen from the rocks survive, just as the first organisms that existed on the planet survive! These mineral structures are called stromatolites.
Cuatrociénegas has systems of underground currents, springs (pozas), canals, rivers, lakes and temporary ponds. Some of the springs are hot springs with temperatures between 30 and 35oC.
It is located almost next to the San Marcos River, you can ask at the entrance and they will tell you how to get there.