THE Cabo de Gata National Park covers around 67000 hectares of land and extends a mile out to sea so protecting a further 12,200 hectares. The area was declared a Marine and Nature reserve in 1987 and a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 1997. The park covers an area bounded by
Driving on the A-7 motorway the park is easily found as none of us can miss all the ugly greenhouses forming a natural boundary for the park with the peaks of the Cabo de Gata rising in the distance. The greenhouses soon stop once Campohermoso, Los Albaricoques or San Isidoro de Nijar are passed on the way into the park.
Volcanic in origin, the area was active between 15 and 8 million years ago and was originally submerged under the then
Semi precious stones called agates are still found here and this is how the region gets its name via the old Moorish name Cabo de las Agatas from a thousand years ago. In Roman times the diet of far way Rome often dictated that meals was covered in a heady brew or gravy of processed fish guts. This was made here as the manufacturing process was too heady a stink for the delicate noses of Roman countrymen. Gold was also mined from Roman times and continued up to as recently as 1966.
Most hill tops are covered in the limestone remains of the coral reefs which flourished in the mineral rich waters once the volcanoes had finished. The highest extinct volcano is near
As sea levels rose and fell, the tectonic plate of Carboneras pushed and pulled the surrounding rock so lifting it from the sea. Sand, mud and gravel was deposited in the valleys that were once bays and shallow sea inlets. At the western end of the park are salt pans and marshes with a colony of flamingos living there. This is part of the
The Cabo de Gata is the most arid place in
The Cabo de Gata contains over a thousand species of plants many of which can be seen at the Jardin Botanico in Rodalquilar. It is open mornings and evenings Tuesdays to Sundays throughout the year. The gardens are well worth a visit as they are laid out to display all the various types of environments to be found not only the park but throughout
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By Stephen Amore