The Sierra de Guara

The Sierra de Guara is a limestone massif located to the south of the Pyrenees, in Spain. The human presence dates back to the Palaeolithic period, when men took advantage of the numerous natural shelters of the cliffs. For thousands of years, a rural life developed slowly. No man until then ventures into the depths of the canyons.

For a long time unknown and dreaded territory, it is in the 1960s – that attracted by the stories and images from the explorer Lucien Briet tooked iat the beginning of the 20 century – mountaineers and speleologists discover with rudimentary material the most famous gorges of the Sierra of Guara.

These pioneers of canyoning did not suspect the following: rural exodus and desertification of entire villages, media and tourist effervescence in the 80s, creation of the Natural Park, development of associations for the protection of nature…

NATURAL PARK OF THE SIERRA AND GORGES OF GUARA

Natural park

Definition: territory having chosen a model of development based on the development and protection of natural and cultural heritages considered as rich and fragile.

In 1990, when the region is already famous for canyoning, the Sierra de Guara is classified Natural Park. This small wild island, lost between the plain of Saragossa and the high chain of the Pyrenees, then enjoys a strict protection framework.

Some geographical information:

  • Region: Province of Huesca, Haut-Aragon.
  • 6 rivers cut the plateau in the north-south axis: the Flumen – Rio Formiga – the Alcanadre – the Mascun – the Isuala – the Rio Vero.
  • Climates: Mediterranean and oceanic.
  • Altitude: between 430 and 2077 meters.
  • Highest point: the Tozal de Guara.
  • Geology: sedimentary rock, mainly limestone and conglomerate

 

Some restrictions of the Natural Park of the Sierra and Guara gorges:

-It is forbidden to bivouac.
-It is forbidden to make fire.
-The number of participants in a canyoning group is limited.
-Some canyons are prohibited from 1 January to 30 -June because of bird nesting.

The missions of the Natural Park:

  • To preserve and enhance the natural and cultural heritage,
  • To promote the economic development and quality of the living environment,
  • To develop the territory,
  • To inform and sensitize the habitants and the visitors,
  • To conduct experimental or innovative actions.

 

 

Fauna and flora of Sierra de Guara

 

Most of the southern slope is dominated by the scrubland, favored by a Mediterranean climate (hot and dry in summer, then mild and wet in winter).

A rich flora traditionally composed of thyme, rosemary, savory, oaks, boxwood …, as well as many endemic varieties including Petrocoptis guarensis.

A fauna typical of these climates also develops there, like the fox, the wild boar, the weasel, but also herds of goats become wild after the departure of the families who lived on the northern plateau of the Sierra de Guara (Otin, Nasarre…)

The Sierra de Guara Park has become a refuge for many species of birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians and insects. More than 160 species of birds are present. Among the most emblematic, the griffon vulture, the bearded vulture, the golden eagle, the Egyptian vulture…

Lovers of ornithology will not miss the spectacle of vultures, fed every Saturday mornings by the association Fondo amigos del buitre in Santa Cilia. Attention, it is necessary to register in advance to attend.

THE VILLAGES OF SIERRA DE GUARA

RODELLAR

After 18 kilometers of turns, we finally arrive at the small village of Rodellar. It is a string of old houses hanging on the mountain thats overlook the Mascun Canyon. A world class climbing spot ! It is also the starting point for famous canyons and hiking trails. To sleep and / or eat: the Kalandraka refuge, the Mascun campsite, the Valle de Rodellar aparthotel, among others …

Population : 50

Altitude : 761 m

ALQUEZAR

A classic visit to be done during your stay in Sierra de Guara! Alquézar is a medieval village restored around an ancient monastery perched on a rocky outcrop. Strolling through its narrow winding streets plunges you into a movie set. Starting point of the famous canyon Rio Vero. There are many options for dining and accommodation.

Population : 310

Altitude : 660 m

BIERGE

In the heart of the Sierra de Guara, Bierge is a quiet and authentic Spanish village. Its imposing church dominates the village spread out in the fields of wheat, olive and almond trees. It is a village that produces olive oil, almonds, artisanal ice cream … You will find there some peaceful accommodations.

Population: 260

Altitude : 600 m

NOCITO

Nestled between the northern part of the Sierra de Guara and the Pyrenees, Nocito – a small mountain village – is a real “end of the world”. There is a campsite. Be aware we do not leave from this village for canyon trips.

Population : a few

Altitude : 930 m

OTIN

Abandoned since the 70’s, this village planted on the edge of the Mascun canyon is exceptional by its location. No road leads there, except for a forest track. It is reached in an 1,5 hour walk on footpath from Rodellar (and a steep climb on the flanks of Mascun). This village is composed of about thirty ruined houses, where a real rural life cut off from the rest of the world was organized. The last inhabitant, Manolo, who ran the village bar, left the premises in the 90’s. Since then, goats have taken over the houses. This is the starting point of the canyon of the same name : Otin.

Population: 0

Altitude : 1075 m

NASARRE

On the long walk to access Gorgas Negras, we pass this village also abandoned since the rural exodus of the 70’s. Lost in the heart of the Natural Park of the Sierra de Guara, there is only twenty houses in ruin in a landscape of terraces once cultivated. The attraction of this village consist in a renovated church that can be visited freely and offers a breathtaking view of the desertic plateau.

Population : 0

Altitude : 1186 m

ECOLOGICAL THINKING

Canyons are today our place of work. Aware of the ecological disasters that our world is undergoing, we take a respectful look at the Sierra de Guara, and we know how gifted we are to be able to swim in clear, unpolluted, natural water.

However, we do know that our human activity has impacts on the ecosystem, despite the drastic rules of the Natural Park.

An obvious example is the Bierge Dam, a beautiful bathing spot but also the village’s drinking water reservoir, which becomes an open-air dump on the summer weekends.

This is why we participate in a movement bringing together inhabitants, guides of canyons and associations, called Manifesto Guara Limpia, which demands in particular a regulation of the frequentation of the zone of the dam.

 

For our team at LE SENS DE l’EAU, ecology is a way of contemplating nature, and understanding the environment in which and through which we live. It is an approach that was transmitted to us by the first lovers of the Sierra de Guara, themselves pioneers of canyoning, and of which we are the messengers.

 

Some reference of reading on the Sierra de Guara:

  • The Forgotten Sierra by Pierre Minvielle (Ed. Paperback)
  • Rio Vero by Pierre Minvielle (Ed Cairn)
  • Through the high aragon in the footsteps of Lucien Briet by Claire Dalzin (Ed Cairn)

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