Last updateFri, 29 May 2015 4pm

The Ghostly River’s ‘Fattest Fossil Fumarole’

Our mission last Sunday was nothing less than to locate and measure the biggest natural fossil fumarole pipe in the Primavera Forest – and (for all I know) in the entire world. Mr. Guinness, be advised: we found it!

So what’s this pipe?  It’s a long round column of rhyolite rock formed long ago by a stream of water vapor bubbles rising through a pyroclastic flow, cooling the hot tephra and causing it to crystalize. Thousands of these natural cylinders – also known as fairy footstools – abound in the Primavera Forest, but most are less than half a meter in diameter. 

Years ago I had spotted what looked like a big fossil fumarole above the River of Ghosts (Rio de las Animas) near the town of Tala, which lies about 30 kilometers due west of Guadalajara. Now, with the help of rugged outdoor enthusiasts Mario Guerrero and Maruca Gonzalez, I hoped to relocate and measure that fat formation.

We drove through Tala and into Villa Felicidad, famous for its wild and crazy Toba Tala rocks. Halfway through Villa Felicidad, we came to a spot where it looked like a tornado had cut across the dirt road. Our eyes popped and our jaws dropped. We jumped out of the truck. As far as the eye could see to the left and to the right, a long strip of the natural landscape had been ripped up, destroyed by countless bulldozers. The Macrolibramiento (outer Guadalajara ring road) has arrived!

Sad to say, it’s now only a matter of time before the chirping of birds in Villa Felicidad will be replaced by the roar of heavy traffic on its way to and from Mexico City and all points east and west. Goodbye felicidad!

We continued on to a parking spot above the River of Ghosts, walked down the trail to La Lobera Spring, a magical spot where cool, perfectly clean water gushes out of the ground and splashes into the river. 

“This is a perfect place to camp,” said Mario, pointing to a flat area just above the river.

We proceeded upstream to a natural bathing pool, again right next to a flat area great for camping. 

“Now, John, where is that giant fumarole you want us to measure?” my companions asked.

It took a while for us to spot the tips of two big cylinders halfway up the steep hillside on the other side of the river. 

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