Bahia de Cadiz Natural Park
Bahia de Cadiz Natural Park
The Bahia de Cadiz Natural Park is located over a large estuary the action of the sea, wind and river sediments deposited over the centuries have drawn a mosaic of landscapes from beaches, mud flats and marshes that make up the Bay of Cádiz.
In recent decades the high population concentrated in its environment has dramatically changed its original appearance, disappearing forever much of its natural wetlands. Also there are few still operating salt marshes since this action began to be exploited by the early inhabitants of the Bay for thousands of years.
Declared Natural Park in 1989, its approximately 10,522 hectares of land belonging to surface include the municipalities of San Fernando, Chiclana de la Frontera, Puerto Real, Puerto de Santa María y Cádiz.
The influence of the sea and Mediterranean mild climate are the keys that establish the special ecological characteristics of this wetland. Contact area between marine and terrestrial means and thanks to the easy flow of water, with good lighting and plenty of nutrients, it provides a wide variety of species such as molluscs, crustaceans, fish and waterfowl.
In muddy coastal areas abound the cockles, Murex brandanis, clams, shrimps and crabs are also present in the salt marshes where also it is caught the so-called “fish creek”: soles, sea bass, giltheads, loaches … Salt mining has been, together with coastal fishing, the traditional use of the Bay. The technique of salt production has remained almost intact for centuries: the sea water driven by the tide enters through a system of pipes supply and sluicegates by successive ponds until the East warm winds and heavy sunshine cause an intense evaporation and crystallization of salt.
The severe crisis of the salt industry resulted in the progressive filling and draining of thousands of acres of marsh to urban, industrial and agricultural uses. Nowadays most of the salt marshes are dedicated to the cultivation of marine species such as clams, oysters, sea basses, soles, mullets and prawns. However, there are still small enclaves of almost intact natural marshes. This is the case of the Marismas de los Toruños Marismas de Sancti Petri and the ones located in the Isla del Trocadero. The latter two areas were declared Natural Places.
Its location between the nearby Parque Nacional de Doñana and the Strait of Gibraltar makes the Bay of Cádiz on a key part of the migratory system for many migratory waterfowls. Sedentary, summer, winter or migratory species compose the bird life of this coastal wetland.
Gannets, grebes, cormorants, gulls and waders species (called in this way because they are adapted to eat in the mud) are common on beaches. In areas of marshes we can find nesting storks, egrets and avocets. After its transformation to aquatic crops we can also find species like the flamenco or the osprey.
The natural vegetation of the Bay of Cádiz is composed of adapted species, in some cases to the saline substratum and to the tidal flooding and a sandy soil. As remnants of an ancient and dense pine forest that once stretched from the port of Santa María and Puerto Real and that was burned by the armies of occupation during the past century, there are still some enclaves of nut pine as the Pinar de la Algaida. It is also located another small forest of about 6 hectares in Sancti Petri.
The ancient presence of human settlements in La Bahía, dating back more than 3,000 years, is the result of important strategic and defensive value of these lands.
Opposite the coast, on the island of Sancti Petri, you can observe Phoenician and Roman remains of the Temple of Hércules. With great historical value are also the remains of the ancient port in the Caño de Trocadero connected to the Indian trade. Already in the sixteenth century it was an ideal place to stay and repair the boats for its safety, both from a defensive standpoint as shelter from storms and winds from the east.
Even as years go by, the Bay of Cádiz preserves an exceptional heritage of ancient fortifications of great historical and architectural value. These played an important role during the War of Independence, with San Fernando and Cádiz the only cities that resisted the siege.
You can taste the excellent local wines from the cellars of El Puerto de Santa María and Chiclana. In addition to the marsh fishes, famous for its quality and highly valued for consumption, are also typical shrimps, clams and prawns.