The Quiet Birthplace of an Untamed River

We reached the high lands of the Sierra Madre Occidental, where the San Pedro Mezquital River begins its journey in search of the ocean. This River is formed by three main freshwater flows: la Sauceda, a stream that comes from the North, plus the Tunal and Santiago Bayacora, two torrents that come from the Sierra’s East side.

It was still dark when we arrived at the top of the mountains. The mist was covering the entire valley, but we could still make out the silhouettes of  the pine trees covering the canyons and growing along the path that the River has carved in the Sierra. The sun started illuminating the back cliffs and almost two hours later it finally reached the River. We walked for a long time through one of the canyons until we reached the most internal, pristine part of this incredible place.

It was noon when we arrived to our destination. The sun was warming the entire place, but the shadows from the canopies of several conifer trees such as firs, pines, and oaks kept us cool as we explored this ecosystem. We flew the quadcopter, looked for underwater life, and photographed birds. We searched caves and took video of the water flows and were also able to capture how the light illuminated the cliffs as the day went by.

It wasn’t easy to reach the most intimate part of the San Pedro Mezquital River. However,if we don’t know this part of the story, we cannot understand how this River connects the different ecosystems in the Sierra with those along coast: although they are two worlds apart, they share one soul.

Photo by Octavio Aburto


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Octavio Aburto is a National Geographic WAITT grantee embarking upon an expedition to document and preserve the last untamed Mexican River: The San Pedro Mezquital.



Meet the Author
As a research scientist at Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO), and a professional photographer associated with the International League of Conservation Photographers, Octavio has been photographing marine ecosystems off the coastal waters of Mexico since 1994. His photographs have been used to illustrate outreach publications about the conservation of marine habitats, Marine Protected Areas, and commercially important species and their fisheries. As a scientist Octavio's research has focused on mangrove ecosystem services, marine reserves, and commercially exploited marine species and their fisheries off the shores of Mexico, Belize, Costa Rica and the U.S. Octavio obtained his PhD at the Center of Marine Biodiversity and Conservation at SIO, and was awarded the Jean Fort Award by the University of California, San Diego, for his significant contribution on an issue of public concern through his doctoral research.