The Beautiful and Vitally Important Estuary at San José del Cabo

The Beautiful and Vitally Important Estuary at San José del Cabo

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Tucked away on the Sea of Cortez coast in San José del Cabo, the San José Estuary and Bird Sanctuary is one of Baja’s great natural treasures. Residents of the Los Cabos area appreciate the estuary for its beauty and tranquility, as well as for the important environmental role it plays in the region. Not only is the San José Estuary a great place to spend the day walking and bird watching, but it is also a vital part of the ecosystem of Southern Baja.

While the estuary is a freshwater lagoon, fed by the Rio San José, its proximity to the Sea of Cortez has given rise to a complex and unique ecosystem. At the upper end of the lagoon the plant and fish life are mostly of the freshwater varieties, but at the lower end of the lagoon the salt water of the sea mixes with the freshwater, creating a brackish environment more suitable to species’ with a higher saline tolerance. This creates an environment that gradually changes from one end of the lagoon to the other, allowing for a large and disparate variety of life to coexist in a relatively small space. At the upper end of the estuary freshwater staples such as Willow and Cattails will be found, while the brackish area at the lower end is dominated by salt tolerant plants like Sea Grape and Spike Grass. The entire lagoon is ringed with Tlaco palm trees, a hardy species of tall palm that has evolved to thrive in a variety of environments. The lagoon is also home to underwater Eelgrass “meadows”, which serve both as an important link in the food chain, as well as a nursery for native fish and crab species’. While the Eelgrass provides a safe underwater place for juvenile fish and crab to reach maturity before heading out to the open ocean, the nutrient rich growth above the surface attracts ducks, geese, and even sea turtles.

Rancho San Lucas

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The Estuary at San José del Cabo is an ecosystem that is essential to the health of Southern Baja. But more than that, for the residents of the region the estuary is a source of pride. It is at the estuary that residents and visitors alike can experience the natural beauty of Baja California, and witness first hand all the complexity of a balanced, thriving ecosystem. Because of this complexity preservation of the estuary habitat is a delicate thing, and those who visit should be mindful not to leave any trash behind, and take especial care with any cigarettes or matches. As the Boy Scouts say, “Pack it in, pack it out”, meaning any foreign object brought into the estuary should be brought back out upon leaving. The Estuary at San José del Cabo truly is a treasure to be protected, preserved, and enjoyed.

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