Hidden Treasures: Hidalgo Salt Lakes

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Wednesday, October 31, 2012 - 10:17am

HIDALGO COUNTY - The salt lakes are rare geological phenomena. And believe it or not, there are three salt lakes in Hidalgo county.

A sight you would think might attract some visitors, but most days the lakes look bare and the only sound is wind whipping across the flat plane.

"So few people have actually come out here and seen the salt lakes. I think back in the day, they were more so visited," said Martin Hagne, Valley Nature Center Executive Director.

Martin Hagne and Marissa Latigo are the only two visitors in sight. The pair are actually regulars at the salt lakes.

Hagne and Latigo work at the Valley Nature Center and are the local experts on the salt lakes. It's a place that keeps drawing them in.

"I was just amazed that this was actually here. I had never heard of it until I had started working at the Valley Nature Center, and I was just surprised about it," said Marissa Latigo, Valley Nature Center Nature Director.

La Sal Del Rey is a dome of salt that originates from below the ground's surface. The true depth of the salt is actually unknown. But Hagne said not to worry, the salt lake is by no means disappearing.

"There will always be salt here. There has always be people collecting salt here and harvesting salt, from the first native Americans that were here and then the Spaniards to the Civil War were there were actually battles here over the salt, and so there is a lot of history here," said Hagne.

And the salt is 99 percent pure sodium chloride.

"This water here is saltier than the dead sea," said Hagne.

People can even take a taste if they want. The salt is the same as the salt on the dining room table.

But while the salt might taste good to people, it actually can be detrimental to some of the wildlife if they choose to take a taste.

 "It's because it's a little too salty. Especially when you have smaller, like small insects. The salt does suck out the water of them, so they eventually do dry. And it actually preserves them pretty well," said Latigo.

In the salt, a Texas horn lizard sits perfectly preserved. There is no knowing how long he has been dead, even though he looks alive.

The salt lakes are actually part of a protected reserve, under the U.S.. Fish and Wildlife.

"There is a small parking lot you would have to park in, of course you would have to walk in. We do ask that if you do bring water bottles, we do ask that you don't dispose of them out here in the refuge. Do take them back out with you, and remember that this is a refuge. This is here for the wildlife, not to take anything, you can't take any salt, even a stick, not so much as a rock," said Latigo.

The Valley Nature Center organizes trips out to the salt lakes starting November 17th. To learn more and to sign up for a trip visit, http://valleynaturecenter.org/natural_history.html

Or you can call the Valley Nature Center at (956) 969-2475.

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