Ría Lagartos, also called Ría Lagartos Reserve Natural Park, is the name of the estuary within a protected environmental reserve, located on the northern coast of the Yucatan peninsula, within the state of the same name in Mexico.
The Ría Lagartos reserve is under category VI of the UINC, which is why it is considered a protected area of managed resources. It is a body of semi-closed water, connected to the Gulf of Mexico in its western part, which has fresh water coming from springs and outcrops of the peninsular water table. Its biodiversity is characterized by abundant mangroves and a very wide marine fauna (birds, reptiles and fish), which is considered of extraordinary richness.
According to testimonies of old inhabitants of El Cuyo, a town located at the eastern end of the estuary, there was another connection with the sea, although not permanent. At present, this eastern end of the estuary is closed. The estuary is located on the coast of three municipalities of Yucatán: Río Lagartos, San Felipe and Tizimín. Its extension is approximately 80 km, covering an area of 12,850 hectares.
The estuary, due to its size, configuration and uniqueness, is possibly the most conspicuous and documented of the Yucatan coast, mentioned since the first chronicles and accounts of the 16th century European conquerors and explorers.
The estuary is the natural habitat of Mexican flamenco of extraordinary beauty. Until the passage of Hurricane Gilberto in 1988, a population of 20,000 individuals was estimated with an extensive nesting area that goes from the bridge to El Cuyo to the easternmost point of the estuary. Throughout the entire estuary, on both banks, the mangrove covers a continuous strip of variable width. In the northern portion, this mangrove is associated with savanna vegetation, while
that in the southern portion, that is to say on the right margin, from the mouth towards the eastern end, serious disturbances can be seen as a result of the regional salt activity.
The area that was declared a Biosphere Reserve in the year of 1979 is more extensive than the river itself and has 60,348 hectares in which more than 250 species of waterfowl breed.
With the barrels of water for human consumption almost exhausted-for the journey undertaken from the island
of Cuba, the Spaniards ventured into the flow, which, although it did not turn out to be freshwater, had a lower level of salinity than that of the open sea. During the tour of that area of the Mayab the conquistadors noticed the presence of large reptiles of enormous jaws and long tails that they identified as lizards. In reality they were crocodiles, but in Europe this species was not known; the most similar were the lizards, just as feared as the first ones.
For that reason, the Spaniards called the place Lagartos River. Five centuries after that fact, today we know that it was not a river but a “river”, that is, a flow of seawater that enters the mainland and a narrow strip of beach and a vast wetland of international importance: there is the main nesting area, in the country, of the pink flamingo (Phoenicopterus ruber ruber). It is located at the eastern end of the coastal strip of the State of
e Yucatan, Mexico; to the north it borders the Gulf of Mexico, to the south with the municipalities of Tizimín, Río Lagartos and San Felipe, to the east with the State of San Felipe.
The Ecological Reserve of Río Lagartos is 2 hours from Mérida, Yucatán and 2:30 hours. from Cancún Quintana Roo by car. It can be reached by the road to Valladolid and from there take the detour to the city of Tizimín that passes through the new archaeological zone of Ek Balam. Rio Lagartos is the sanctuary for the procreation and nesting of the American Pink Flamingo which together with 320 other species of birds make the reserve their home. When a wetland and subtropical forest area is combined, the Lizard of the river and the crocodile are also developed, as well as different species of turtles as well as armadillos, raccoons, spider monkeys, ocelots, white-tailed deers, panthers and jaguars.