May 072010

The geysers of Ixtlán de los Hervores have long attracted the attention of travelers. They are located north-west of the city of Zamora in the state of Michoacán. The temperature of the water emerging from underground varies between about 90 and 100 degrees Centigrade.

Here is how English explorer Captain George Lyon described them following his visit in 1826:

Photo: Tony Burton. All rights reserved.

”The plain is interesting, as being in some places covered by an efflorescence of muriate of soda, which forms a considerable article of commerce. The saline earth is collected into large vats, through which water is filtered, and then placed to evaporate in small well-cemented beds of about twelve feet by six. All this, however, interested me but little in comparison with the wells of boiling water, which to the amount of many hundreds are dispersed in a space of one mile and a half by a quarter of a mile in width, east and west along the plain, and sending up at intervals clouds of steam. In fact the whole surface of this place is nothing more than the crust of a volcano; and seven years back an earthquake opened a large rent in the plain,whence issued  fountains of the purest water, and of mud also, both of a boiling heat.

In the evening I rambled amongst the springs, which are of all forms and sizes, from holes not larger than an inch, through which the water is seen and heard boiling beneath, to large spaces of several yards in diameter; some as transparent as though distilled. Others, within a foot of them are turbid, or of boiling mud; and there is one called “El Pozo Verde,” in which, although perfectly clear, the water is of a fine deep green. The springs are in some places constantly tranquil, and varying in temperature  from 110̊ to 130̊; but in far the greater number the water boils up with amazing force and in one well, chosen at random, I cooked a piece of mutton of the size of an egg in four minutes and fifty seconds. All the fountains which have been sufficiently small to admit of it, have been choked up with stones and bushes, to prevent cattle from falling into them; yet a number of poor beasts are frequently thus destroyed.”

Lyon, G.F. 1828 Journal of a residence and tour in the Republic of Mexico in the year 1826, with some account of the mines of that country. London: John Murray.

Mexico’s volcanic landscapes are discussed in chapters 2 and 3 of Geo-Mexico: the geography and dynamics of modern Mexico.


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