Mexico / Baja California  / Breakpoints / Guerrero Negro
Friday, May 26, 2017

Guerrero Negro

After having traveled about half the length of the peninsula of Baja California, you will come across the 28th parallel north, el Paralelo 28.

A steel monument about 140 ft (43 m) high (a stylized eagle) marks the border between the Mexican states of Baja California Norte and Baja California Sur. The state border means also a change of time zone from Pacific Time to Mountain Time. A military base, a gas station and the La Pinta Hotel have been established at this point of the MEX-1.

Another 3 miles‘ (5 km) drive to the south takes you to Guerrero Negro, the black warrior. The name of the town does not refer to bellicose Indians, but to the American ship “Black Warrior”, which, over loaded with whale oil, sank in 1858 on entering Scammon‘s Lagoon.
Guerrero Negro, in former times only important as a possible stopover on the long way through the peninsula, now has a population of 10,000 people and is a flourishing town. The Exportadora de Sal, the greatest salt manufacturing plant in the world, is located here. The company, which was founded by an American in 1953 and whose capital today belongs to Mitsubishi (49%) and the state of Mexico (51%), extracts the “white gold” from the residue of evaporated sea water.

The conditions for salt production are particularly favorable in Guerrero Negro, and the facilities are correspondingly gigantic. A wide, shallow lagoon, called Ojo de Liebre (the official name of Scammon‘s Lagoon), is situated southwest of the town. Its salty water is fed into immense evaporation basins, which take an area of 35,000 ha (86,500 acres). The wind that blows permanently over the land, dries the basins within 3 months. The residue remaining in the basins is crystallized salt, which from a distance looks like a landscape in white. Oversized caterpillars push the salt together, and harvesting machines load it onto tractor trucks of 3 gondola cars, each of which can hold 120 tons. They take the white freight to the washing plant for cleaning. The salt is then loaded onto boats to be transported to the isle of Cedros, some 60 miles (100 km) away. Only there is the water deep enough to admit big oceangoing cargo ships, which ship the salt to the main consumer countries, i.e. the USA, Canada and Japan. The most important economic factor and employer of the town, the gigantic enterprise presently produces 7.5 million tons of salt a year.

But that‘s not all. Economy and nature are closely interlaced in Guerrero Negro. Between January and April, the Laguna Ojo de Liebre is full of gray whales. The area, one of three frequented by the marine mammals, has since 1972 been under protection as Parque Natural de la Ballena Gris. The landings of the whale-watching boats are reached by a way that passes through the premises of the salt company, and a visit of the facilities can be combined with the whale excursion. The shallow waters are an ideal feeding place for marine and wading birds. No less than 95 bird species were counted on the area of the salt company alone, 60 migrating or hibernating species from the north and 35 nesting species. The platforms that have been mounted to the towers of electric transmission lines serve 100 pairs of ospreys as breeding places. All this makes Guerrero Negro a goal of international renown for all who have ornithological interests. We will be pleased to organize observation tours with our ornithology experts; if you want to make a tour on your own, the road from Guerrero Negro to Puerto Viejo is recommended. Or you can visit the Dunas de Soledad, a system of gently curved coastal dunes up to some 25 ft (8 m) high. The access to the dunes, which is situated to the west of the MEX-1, is unrestricted. Visitors are fascinated by the constant change, and many of them use the sand for frolic play