The Day They Opened the Laguna in La Manzanilla

In La Manzanilla, every year around this time, a trench is dug between the laguna that houses the crocodile and bird sanctuary and the ocean.  This allows the somewhat stagnant swamp water to run freely into the ocean, clearing out the still water and freshening the laguna.  For those of us on the beach, however, it creates a few days of foul odor and tides we have no desire to swim or fish in. It is a small price to pay for the freshening of the mangrove swamp, but still, a yearly process no one looks forward to.  Yesterday was the first day I witnessed the water running free this year.  I took a walk down the beach, and this is what I saw:

(Please click on first picture and subsequent arrows to see enlargements of photos and commentary.)

12 thoughts on “The Day They Opened the Laguna in La Manzanilla

    1. lifelessons Post author

      Generally they stay in the lagoon, but sometimes when the channel is open they do venture out onto the beach and even into the ocean. One somehow managed to make its way up to the river on the south side of town and has resided there in the proximity of the bridge for the month I’ve been here. No one knows how he managed it, but that river does not run into the ocean but seems to just end 100 feet or so before the beach.

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      1. calensariel

        I say that because the alligators in Florida where my d-i-l is from kind of roam free near the waters. They’re very dangerous. Tend to attach people and eat small animals like dogs. Yet they make no attempt to corral them in certain places. Reminds me of the Brahma bulls in India!

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        1. lifelessons Post author

          They do attempt to keep them in the lagoon here and the walkways are well above the water and lagoon banks. When they do go onto the beach or into the ocean when the channel is opened once a year, they seem to make their way back to the lagoon, where they are fed daily.

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    1. lifelessons Post author

      Strangely enough, the mangrove lagoon doesn’t smell when it is cut off from the ocean. I’ve taken boat rides up the river to see the birds in the preserve every time I’ve been here and never noticed an odor. It’s only when a trench is opened up to let it drain into the ocean that is smells. The mangroves act as a filtration system and form a little ecosystem of their own. In the past, the laguna was connected to the ocean, but this made it impossible for people further up the beach to drive into town without driving far north and connecting with the hiway and then coming back south. So, they filled in the exit channel with rocks and sand to enable vehicles to get from town to the road that runs along the back side of beach homes. Once a year they open up the channel and let the water of the lagoon run into the ocean. Undoubtedly, there is some human sewage from homes that drains into the lagoon and the fact that everything thrives there is testament to the fact that the mangroves and other plants are dealing with it, but no one seems to know why when it is opened up to meet the ocean there is this yellow scum and terrible odor for a few days. I am a block or two distant from the lagoon and I can’t smell it at all from my house, but I’m certainly not going to go swimming for few more days unless I go in far north of the lagoon.

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  1. susansperspective

    This was a really interesting post! I never knew about lagoons or how they freshen them. I liked going through the photos and reading the captions because it helped me see what you were talking about. I don’t think just reading it would have made the condition clearer. =)

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