For almost 4 million years beneath the earth, hot magma melted rock creating massive
subterranean pools of intensely hot liquid slowly building up pressure far below
the earth's surface.
This pressure, along with the molten lava following it, finally exploded up through
the desert floor, mostly here, but also in other spots all along the way to the
shores of Puerto Peñasco that can still be seen today.
Soon, tall mountains were formed that continually oozed lava out from their tops,
until one day those 'tops' sealed & hardened from exposure to the air.
The hot magma pools below were still very active, and soon the tops of these local
'mountains' exploded scattering hot lava pieces & chunks, which would soon cool to
black rocks, all over the deserts floor.
The 'Pinacate Biosphere Reserve' is unique as one of the few Archaeological &
Geological areas in the entire Southwest that remains mostly untouched by human
hands, nature or development.
Created here is an area unique in all the world, with it's moon like craters over
a mile wide, lava tubes, 'moon-scapes', black pumice soil, cinder cones and sleeping volcano's.
Pinacate's Reserve currently encompasses over 600 square miles, 400 cinder cones
caused by 'exploding volcanoes', along with tunnels, ash & rock that can be
observed scattered for miles in the area.
Nine massive volcanic craters remain from this time created by these effects &
their later contact with water causing violent 'steam explosions' that sent
millions of pounds of rocks-debris into the sky.
Currently, the area is 'dormant'.
Little Known Fact: In 1970, the Apollo 14 astronauts trained for their moon landing
at Pinacate, as the rough, barren landscape was the closest 'match' they could find to the lunar surface. NASA (and others) have
some neat images of the crew trudging around and working with various instruments - while in cowboy boots, natch.
Before You Go:
There is no water available in the reserve. You must bring your own. Bare minimum of 1 gallon per
day per person is advised. Also include extra for vehicle radiator, cleaning dishes, personal hygiene, etc.
Check in at the Information Center prior to traveling out into the Reserve. There is no Entrance Fee,
but donations are always greatly appreciated.
There are some poisonous animals, snakes & insects in the reserve (rattlesnakes, scorpions, black
widow spiders, Gila monsters, etc). Do not disturb the animals, turn over rocks they might hide
underneath, or place hands-face-legs into holes or caves. Ask Reserve Staff members for more
information on visitors safety.
Don't touch cactus spines, especially Cholla varieties, they quickly attach into skin.
High vehicle clearance is advised, 4 wheel drive recommended but it is not required.
Where Is It?
The Pinacate Reserves Information Center is located just off Highway# 8,
at milepost # Km 52, just 32 miles south of Lukeville, Arizona. Between Sonoyta & Puerto
Peñasco, Mexico - Next to the Ejido's Los Nortenos & Nayarit)
Pinacate's 'address' is more or less:
Carretera Sonoyta-Peñasco km 52
Sonora CP Apartado Postal 125
U.S. Mail: Fundacion para Conservación del Pinacate, A.C.
P.O. Box 745, Ajo, Az 85321
Tel: (638) 384-9007
Registration for all camping is required at the Reserve's Information Center
The Reserve offers two campgrounds
El Tecolote-Capacity: 40 people-Location: 5 miles n/e of Elegante Crater-Best for visitors
to the volcanic craters & hiking trails
Rojo Cono -Capacity: 20 people-Location: 14 miles n/w of the info center-Great spot for
hikers up to the volcanic peaks
Backcountry Camping: Limited to 3 per party. Campsite must be 1/2 mile from any road or
With advance approval groups with scientific/academic purposes may be allowed to camp in
other areas - Contact the Reserve Director, or call the main number - 011-62-159864
Expect very extremely high temperatures in the summer-(Late April to September) Temperatures
may reach 120 degrees.
Annual daily averages range from 65 to 72 degrees, with an average maximum of 118 degrees.
Low temps at night in winter reach 24 degrees.
The reserve contains 10 Maar's Volcano's, presently dormant volcanic craters formed by explosion,
some including tuff rings, and massive caldera's. There are over 400 cinder cone volcanoes, formed
by single eruptions. Lava flows and tube formations, formed sand dunes.
Lava & Rocks: Basalt, Vesicles, Pahoehoe, AA, Blocks, Porphyry, Phenocryst, Xenolith, Scoria,
Pumice Tephra, Lapilli, Tuff.
Culture & History
The volcanic craters and surrounding mountainous areas have long been host to human habitation
dating back over 20,000 years. During this continuing link to the past, numerous Indian
tribes/bands have lived, and used the area. During that distant past the area had been
rainy & damp supporting plants and animals long since vanished from scene.
With the coming of the Holozoic Era, approximately 10,000 years ago, dynamic climatic
changes occurred turning the area into the desert we experience today.
Firearms are prohibited in the reserve, and open fires are not permitted.
Rocks, minerals, artifacts, etc. are protected items and may not be picked up, moved or removed
from the Reserve. No plants may be collected, removed or harmed in any way and are protected by law.
Take out all your trash-litter is strictly forbidden!
Vehicles must not leave the roads, and travel only on the public roads. You will be held liable
for any damages caused by your vehicles tires leaving the roadways. Wildlife can not be harmed,
or bothered in any way. Hunting, collecting or disturbing animals in any way is illegal and
protected by Law.
As you might be aware, there really isn't a whole heck of a lot of information out there about Pinacate.
I have begun this small entry to log more information as a find it: