Punta Estrella

Kayaking the Sea of Cortez
By Andromeda Romano-Lax
  |  Gorp.com

At Punta Estrella, a low, marginal point at mile 10, the coastline turns south and most development peters out to intermittent American camps. About a mile inland, the Cerro Punta Estrella, a prominent ridge, extends for four miles south. The road heads inland as well, making access by car more difficult. Dunebuggies have their heyday here; tents and kayaks may be directly in the traffic path. This becomes less of a problem as one gets farther south.

A marvelous sight on the beaches south of Punta Estrella is the spawning of the grunion. This silvery, smeltlike fish comes ashore several evenings following the full moons of March, April, May, and June. Just before dusk, during the high spring tide, the female grunion burrows into the sand and deposits her eggs. The male follows suit, fertilizing them as he wriggles into the sand. Chasing the grunion is a slippery, fun pastime and can yield a fried fish dinner.

When the tide recedes, a band of rocky shore is revealed, and brittle stars and other tidepool residents are plentiful. Fishing in this region yields the corvina and the croaker, the latter living up to its name by making a distinct froglike noise when caught. The most common fish the nonfisherman will see is the mullet. Especially active just before dusk, the silvery fish leaps out of the water ahead of one's kayak, perhaps mistaking it for a predator.

A marginal point, Punta Diggs, is at mile 14.5. At mile 18, a camp lies at the entrance of a narrow tidal estuary, the Estero Pircebu. When the tide is out, the estuary is dry and difficult to distinguish. When flooded, a narrow finger of saltwater extends up to two miles south, hidden behind the dunes. Sand dollars abound here.

At mile 22.5, the Laguna Pircebu forms a small pocket in the shore. This entire area, between Estero and Laguna Pircebu, is one of periodic inundation. There is still sandy beachfront most of the way, but a short hike over the dunes reveals inlets of salt water, small lagoons, and generally briny, scrub-pocked muck. In at least one area, safely away from the beach, fist-sized holes appear in the prehistoric-looking muck, and at least a few of these holes harbor furry tarantulas. The area also looks to be appealing to snakes.

Bahma Santa Marma is a beautiful, shallow, crescent-shaped bay flanked by sandbars at mile 23.5. When the tide races out, most of the bay is dry, and the coastline appears straight. A camp is on the south side of the bay. My longest encounter with dolphins occurred here, at flood tide, as two bottlenoses chased small fish in and around the bay for over an hour.



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