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At the end of the dirt road, you look across Scammon's Lagoon—past the rusting remains of an old salt compound, where pelicans land and take off ad infinitum—to the geometrically perfect sand dunes. The juxtaposition of the dunes with the lagoon seems like something out of a science fiction film.
Situated just south of the 28th parallel, which separates Baja California Norte from Baja California Sur, Guerrero Negro is a town of 12,000 whose population grew out of the success of Exportadora de Sal, a salt exportation company that is now the largest business of its kind in the world. Guerrero Negro itself is a working-class town without much in the way of restaurants or nightlife, but it attracts thousands of tourists every winter for its proximity to Scammon's Lagoon, to which gray whales migrate year after year.
Notably, the town and the lagoon sit on El Vizcaíno, the largest nature preserve in all of Latin America. A visit to this region promises exposure not only to the 39 regionally endemic species of flora, but also to diverse man-made treasures like the salt flats and the UNESCO-recognized cave paintings, the latter of which date to prehistoric times. The salt company's chemically tinted "pools" are bordered by crystallized salt, which looks strangely like snow in the middle of the desert, and it's difficult not to ogle the giant, futuristic machines that navigate the compound harvesting the crystals. The company's relationship with its employees is one of the best in Baja, providing quality housing for them and their families and even paying their utilities. According to many locals, the company won't even consider a new applicant unless his father or mother worked there, a fact that helps to explain the close-knit, even cliquey, feel of the community.
Gray-whale season in Guerrero Negro begins around December and typically runs through April. Laguna Ojo de Liebre, also known as Scammon's Lagoon (after the America whaler Captain Charles Melville Scammon who frequented the lagoon in the 1800s), is just on the edge of town. The whales, having begun their migration in the arctic waters of Alaska, typically arrive at Laguna in the early weeks of winter, at which time some will give birth and others will commence their mating ritual. Come January, many local fishermen transition into second careers as tour boat captains, treating their passengers to up-close encounters with the marine mammals, an experience that can be had in very few places around the world.
Guerrero Negro at a Glance
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