The Vultures Canyon
The Vultures Canyon
The Natural Monument Vultures Canyon is located in the eastern periphery of Los Alcornocales Natural Park, near Cortes de la Frontera.
The river Guadiaro leaving behind Cortes train station in Cañada del Real Tesoro, is situated within the limestone and loamy limestone, forming a deep gorge or canyon which measures up to 225 m high at its highest point. Between the entrance of the Canyon, the Puente de los Alemanes (the German Bridge) and the exit, the Charco del Moro (the moor´s pool) there is a 100m slope and in total a 2 km route.
Because it´s a nature-rich area, it was declared a natural monument in 2003 by the Junta de Andalucía (Andalusian Autonomous Government). It covers a surface of twenty two hectares and affects the municipal districts of Benalauria, Benarraba and Cortes de la Frontera. The entrance to the Canyon is located in the so called PUente de los Alemanes, the German´s Bridge), built in 1918, interesting enough it´s not a bridge, but rather a structure which hides a water pipe nearly 2 m thick and 6 km long. It feeds the forebay of the Buitreras Hydroelectric Plant. The infrastructure wasn´t built by Germans, but rather by Belgians.
The Charco del Moro (the Moors Pool) is the canyon´s exit, very close to Gaucín train station in El Colmenar, it´s a pool of standing water over 100 m wide. On the wall the the left (depending on the course of the river), and underground spring was discovered due to a sudden temperature change in that area of the pool. After various attempts, in 1994 a group of cave diving specialists slid through a narrow crevice 1,5 m high and 4 m wide until they were 62 m deep. We know that the siphon continues to descend, beyond then reack of even the most daring.
The name of the canyon originated from an important colony of Griffin Vultures (Gyps fulvus) which nest between the walls of the inaccessible rocky escarpments. However there are references dating back to the beginning of the last century in which the location is known as Las Utreras, making reference to a shady and humid place (the utriculum, the same root as the word uterus). Nowadays toponyms in the area still maintain this root, such as the Cortijo de las Utreras (the Country Estate of Utreras) next to the canyon, or the Torcal de las Utreras in Casares. Vultures are not the only inhabitants of the canyon. It is also easy to find Bonelli´s Eagles, Common Kestrel, Stock Pigeons, Alpine Swifts and varius kinds of bats. Next to the waters, highly elusive animals have been sighted such as the European Otter and, very high up amongst the clifts, the Spanish Ibex.
Amongst the varied and abundant flora which covers the highest parts of the canyon, it´s walls or throught it´s most narrow sections through which the Guadiaro jumps and twists, are some notable specimens called European Fan Palms which grow over 2 meters in height.
The Natural Monument Vultures Canyon can be accessed from starting from the Cañada del Real Tesoro or from the hamlet of El Colmenar of Cortes de la Frontera, through the area of the Hydroelectric Power Plant.