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The gem of the Loreto Marine Park
The Loreto National Marine Park encompasses 5 major islands. Isla del Carmen is the largest, at about 60nm around, and has the most variety.
From white sand beaches and marine fossil deposits to volcanic cliffs of startling colors; from protected coves to ruggedly exposed points, the scenery keeps changing. Rock hopping and sea caves number among the paddling delights. The eastern side faces the open sea, the distant islands of Santa Catalina and Monserrate, and of course the brilliant Baja sunrise. The western shore faces the Sierra la Giganta, a sheer mountain range rising from the sea nearly a mile high.
Isla del Carmen has the only ghost town in the park. Salinas once employed the majority of Loreto’s work force in harvesting sea salt from a vast inland lagoon. The book Loreto, Baja California: First Mission and Capitol of Spanish California includes some delightful oral histories from folks who grew up in Salinas. the book Salt: A World History highlights the Isla del Carmen salt works as significant in the global salt trade at one time.
Isla del Carmen also has a fresh water spring, refreshing for rinsing off the salt halfway through your trip. It’s an essential resource for a self-supported circumnavigation, and for the bighorn sheep that live on this island. Daily paddling distances vary, but average about 10nm on this trip. One to two layover days are built into the itinerary in case of wind, and to explore special areas in more detail.
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