Jun 092011

Peculiar, but true. There are several lakes named Laguna Encantada (Enchanted Lake) in Mexico, but this one is near Catemaco in the Tuxtlas region of the state of Veracruz. Catemaco is famous for its witches, so perhaps one of them cast a spell on the lake, making it behave perversely, its level changing in opposition to all the other lakes in the country?

Laguna Encantada

Laguna Encantada, Veracruz. Photo credit: Hector Reyes

Occupying the crater of an extinct volcano, La Laguna Encantada is a truly beautiful lake, especially near sunrise or sunset. Laguna Encantada is located 3 km northeast of San Andrés Tuxtla. The access road is unpaved. The views are ever-changing on the easy walk of about 1500 meters (slightly under one mile) around its shoreline. As you walk, try counting the butterflies. A study twenty years ago recorded a staggering total of 182 different species in this relatively small area of jungle.

The lake nestles on the southern flank of the San Martín volcano. This dormant volcano is a prominent landmark north-west of Lake Catemaco close to San Andrés Tuxtla. Its crater, 1500 meters across, is at a height of about 1400 meters above sea level, and has two small subsidiary cones inside it.

The basaltic lavas and layers of ash forming the volcano are highly permeable and porous. As a result, despite the heavy rainfall, there are no permanent streams flowing down the upper slopes.

Some distance away from the volcano, though, there are several good-sized lakes including Catemaco and Laguna Encantada. Catemaco is large enough to capture plenty of rainfall to maintain its level. The much smaller basin holding Laguna Encantada (350 meters above sea level), however, does not receive sufficient rain to keep its level high.

Instead, and this is the wonder of La Laguna Encantada, much of its water supply comes from underground. Water that falls on the slopes of the San Martín volcano during the rainy season soaks into the ground and then percolates slowly towards the lake, so slowly that it takes six months to reach it. The result? The lake is unable to sustain its level during the rainy season, but the underground water reaching it in the dry season is more than sufficient to replenish its level. Maybe the witches of Catemaco have something to do with it, but hydrology also plays a part!

Eyipantla Falls

Eyipantla Falls Photo: Tony Burton

Salto de Eyipantla

Only a few kilometers from Laguna Encantada is another wonderful natural sight: the Eyipantla Waterfall (Salto de Eyipantla). The water for the falls comes from the Comoapan river, which drains Lake Catemaco. After heavy rain, the curtain of water at Eyipantla is about 50 meters high and 20 meters wide. The sunlight playing on the water creates a dazzling display of magical colors. The Tuxtlas region has been the setting for numerous movies and commercials and the impressive Eyipantla Falls have starred in many of them. The unusual name, Eyipantla, reflects its three chutes of water, and is derived from the Nahuátl words, eyi (three), pantli (trench) and tla (water).

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  2 Responses to “An enchanted lake in Veracruz rises every dry season but falls every rainy season”

  1. Access to Laguna Encantada is now paved from San Andrès Tuxtla. There is no walk around its shoreline. The phenomena of seasonal change in water levels has disappeared, since the lake burst its boundaries in 1939.

  2. Thanks for the update of road condition. It’s a great shame if it is no longer possible to walk around the lake, as it was years ago. I’m curious to learn more about the 1939 event and subsequent changes that you refer to – can you suggest any suitable sources for more information? Thanks again, Tony

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