Tourism in Comarca del Jiloca (Teruel)

The Gallocanta Lagoon

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Cranes at sunrise. Picture: J.Mañas

Thousands of flying cranes at a magical sunset offering an incredible natural show worldwide that you can only enjoy at Gallocanta lagoon.  

Its basin is located 1000 metres above sea level and it is a landlocked pond. Its surface area is about 54.000 hectares and it´s limited by a group of mountain formations best known as Mounts of Gallocanta basin which regulate its natural hydrologic regime and they are recognized as a Site of Community Importance (SCI). All this complex is composed all around by smaller ponds and wetlands among which the Gallocanta lagoon stands out.

It has been catalogued as Natural Reserve by the Aragon Government, also designated a RAMSAR Wetland of International Importance and considered part of the NATURA 2000 Network.

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The lagoon was formed by a karstification process which consists on the dissolution of the limestone substrate until it formes the basin, home to the Gallocanta lagoon and some other ponds around.

The water level changes every year during all seasons. At rainy seasons it has reached a depth of 2 meters, 8 kilometers long and 2.7 width, although it may run dry in summer.

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Great bustard. Picture: R. Pérez

One of the most surprising characteristics about the lagoon consists on its water salinity, which reaches even more concentrations of salts than sea water. The explanation of this phenomenon lies on the materials that compose the substratum; limestones, sandstones and gypsums that once those become dissolved, they provide salt to the water. When the lagoon dries up by evaporation, the concentrations of salt remain on a crust form over the land.

The best way to visit the Gallocanta lagoon is going to the Interpretation Centre which is located between two towns called Bello and Tornos, and once there, go all over a circular track around the lagoon and other ponds.

The “Cranes Festival” takes place twice a year, in November and February and both editions offer a good opportunity to visit the lagoon.


A PARADISE FOR BIRDS

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Cranes seen from a hide. Picture: J.Mañas         

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Black-winged stilts (Himantopus himantopus). Picture. J.Mañas

One of the reasons why the Gallocanta lagoon is well known is because of the vast number of either resident birds and migratory ones.

It has been seen more than 250 different bird species in this area and walking along the circular track that connects all the observatories around, you will see a large number of aquatic birds, raptors like the Marsh harrier, Montagu´s harrier and the Hen harrier, also a variety of steppe birds with an important concentrations of bustards, and of course, spectacular concentrations of cranes during the months from October to March every year, since the 90 per cent of the Occidental Europe cranes use Gallocanta as a resting-place on their migrations or just to spend the winter period.

In addition, in the surroundings of the lagoon there are some photographic hide wooden observatories which are good sightings of birdlife in order to take closer photos and they can be booked in advance.

GALLOCANTA´S FLORA

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With ongoing changes rising and dropping water levels, salt content, etc… the growth of an special scientific interest vegetable species is an evidence. In the fresh water input areas, where the salinity is lower, grasslands and reedbeds are grown as they mainly grow in the swampy or flooded regions. 

Many species are developed on the saline lagoon margins, such as the salicornia which is adapted to live in salty ground and perfectly recognized by its red color surrounding the lagoon. Immediately after the perimeter of those plants and moving further away from them, can be found wet meadows with rarely seen plants, some of them classified as threatened, such as the puccinellia, the lytrium and the scorzonera.

 

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Gallocanta lagoon