World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

El Pinacate y Gran Desierto de Altar Biosphere Reserve


El Pinacate y Gran Desierto de Altar Biosphere Reserve

Reserva de la Biosfera El Pinacate
y Gran Desierto de Altar
IUCN category V (protected landscape/seascape)
Crater Elegante with the Pinacate peaks
Map showing the location of Reserva de la Biosfera El Pinacatey Gran Desierto de Altar
Location of the Reserve in Mexico
Location Sonora, Mexico
Nearest city Puerto Peñasco
Plutarco Elías Calles
San Luis Río Colorado
Coordinates [1]
Area 7,146 km2 (2,759 sq mi)
Established June 10, 1993
Governing body Instituto Nacional de Ecología and Tohono O'odham
Official name: El Pinacate and Gran Desierto de Altar Biosphere Reserve
Type: Natural
Criteria: vii, viii, x
Designated: 2013 (37th session)
Reference No. 1410
State Party: Mexico
Region: Latin America and the Caribbean
Official name: Agua Dulce
Designated: February 2, 2008[2]
Pinacate volcanics with teddy-bear chollas, ocotillos, young saguaros, and a palo verde tree. Photo by Jack Dykinga.

El Pinacate y Gran Desierto de Altar Biosphere Reserve (Spanish: Reserva de la Biosfera El Pinacate y Gran Desierto de Altar), is a biosphere reserve and UNESCO World Heritage Site[3] managed by the Federal government of Mexico, specifically by Secretariat of the Environment and Natural Resources, in collaboration with state government of Sonora and the Tohono O'odham.

It is in the Sonoran Desert in Northwest Mexico, east of Gulf of California, in the eastern part Gran Desierto de Altar, just below the border of Arizona, United States and north of the city of Puerto Peñasco. It is one of the most significant visible landforms in North America seen from space. A volcanic system, known as Santa Clara is the main part of the landscape, including three peaks; Pinacate, Carnegie and Medio.

In the area there are over 540 species of plants, 40 species of mammals, 200 of birds, 40 of reptiles, also amphibians and freshwater fishes.[4] There are threatened endemic species as sonoran pronghorn, bighorn sheep, gila monster and desert tortoise.[5]

The extension of the Biosphere Reserve is 7,146 km²,[6] greater than that of the states of Aguascalientes, Colima, Morelos and Tlaxcala separated.[7]


  • Formation 1
  • History 2
    • Pre-Columbian era 2.1
    • Explorations 2.2
  • References 3
  • External links 4


El Pinacate y Gran Desierto de Altar is known for its unique physical and biological characteristics, by the presence of a volcano shield, and by the extensive areas of active dunes that surround it and the greatest concentration of Maar craters. The Pinacate mountain range has orogenic features of high interest for its abruptly conformation, product of volcanic eruptions, that accumulated lava in compact rocks, sand and volcanic ashes that formed colors of special beauty and craters as El Elegante, Cerro Colorado, MacDougal y Sykes.[8]

Picos del Pinacate (Pinacate Peaks) are a group of volcanic peaks and volcanic cinder cones, are located north of the recreation center of Puerto Peñasco. The highest peaks are Cerro del Pinacate (also called Santa Clara volcano), with an elevation of 3,904 feet (1,190 m). Pinacate comes from náhuatl pinacatl, desert endemic beetle.

The volcanoes have erupted sporadically for about 4 million years. The most recent activity was about 11 000 years. From 1965 to 1970, NASA sent astronauts there to train for future lunar excursions given the similarities of the land with the lunar surface.


Tohono O'odham woman. Photo by Edward S. Curtis, circa 1907.

Pre-Columbian era

The first inhabitants are known as San Dieguito people, they were hunter-gatherer who lived off the land, moving from the mountains to the sea of Gulf of California looking for food. The early stages of occupation seem to have ended at the beginning of ice age about 20 thousand years ago, when drought forced people to leave the mountain range.[9]

A second stage of occupation by San Dieguito people began in the late glacial period. This group returned to the mountains and lived as their ancestors had. Tinajas must have been a reliable source of water during this time. The second stage of occupation ended with the arrival of an antipyretic period 9000 years ago, which again forced the people to leave the territory.[4]

The most recent indigenous inhabitants of the Pinacate and Gran Desierto de Altar are the Pinacateño band of the Hia C-ed O'odham. Like the prehistoric San Dieguito culture, the Pinacateños roamed the Pinacate all the way to the sea in search of food, concentrating their camps near the tinajas. During these voyages, they left signs of their presence; one example of this is the network of paths that go from tinaja to tinaja, as well as the stone tools and potsherds found near these water sources.[4][10]


There are few records of those who were the first explorers in this area. Possibly the first white man to see the mountain now known as Sierra Pinacate was the explorer Melchior Díaz on 1540. Subsequently, on 1698 the priest Eusebio Kino, founder of Mission San Xavier del Bac in southern Tucson, Arizona, visited the site and return on several occasions, he and his group climbed to the top of El Pinacate, which named Santa Clara Hill.[4]

Before 1956, few scientists and explorers had been in El Pinacate y Gran Desierto de Altar, the most famous, the group MacDougal, Hornaday and Sykes who explored the western part of the mountain on 1907.


  1. ^ UNESCO. "El Pinacate and Gran Desierto de Altar Biosphere Reserve". Retrieved June 24, 2013. 
  2. ^ "Ramsar List". Retrieved 11 April 2013. 
  3. ^ UNESCO. "El Pinacate and Gran Desierto de Altar Biosphere Reserve". Retrieved June 24, 2013. 
  4. ^ a b c d Comisión Nacional de Áreas Naturales Protegidas. "Reserva de la Biosfera El Pinacate y Gran Desierto de Altar". Retrieved September 29, 2010. 
  5. ^ Red Escolar. "Reserva de la Biosfera El Pinacate y Gran Desierto de Altar". Retrieved September 29, 2010. 
  6. ^ Comisión Nacional para el Conocimiento y Uso de la Biodiversidad. "Regiones terrestres prioritarias de México". Retrieved September 29, 2010. 
  7. ^ INEGI. "Información por entidad". 
  8. ^ Instituto Nacional de Ecología. "Reserva de la Biosfera El Pinacate y Gran Desierto de Altar". Retrieved September 29, 2010. 
  9. ^ Hayden, 1998.
  10. ^ "Pinacate y Gran Desierto de Altar". Red Escolar. Retrieved September 29, 2010. 

External links

  • Pinacate y Gran Desierto de Altar Biosphere Reserve Official Website
  • Vista del volcán Pinacate Foto satélite de la NASA.
  • Sierra Pinacate a Volcanic Wonder
  • Global Volcanism Program: Pinacate
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.