Rancho Pint - The Mexico Page

Text and Photos ©2015 by J. Pint

Photo Gallery

Ready to Jump
Enthusiastic youths prepare to slide down “Mexico's only interstate zipline” between Michoacán and Jalisco, at Río de la Pasión Ecotourism Center. The series of ziplines are two kilometers long.

Petroglyphs, Rio de la Pasion

Jorge González of  San José de Gracia in front of a high vertical wall covered with petroglyphs, located near El Río de la Pasión.

Cabin at Rio de la Pasion Ecotourism Center

Adobe cabin at Río de la Pasión Ecotourism Center. This cabin sleeps eight and costs 1200 pesos per night.

Famous men of San Jose de Gracia

Cartoon-style mural shows the most illustrious sons of San José de Gracia, Michoacán. In the center, with eye patch, stands  historian Luis González y González, founder of the Colegio de Michoacán.

Alejandro Solís and Cypress Tree

Majestic  Montezuma Cypresses, covered with Spanish Moss, line the banks of el Río de la Pasión, which runs north from San José de Gracia to Lake Chapala. Alejandro Solís takes a snapshot.

Plaza, San José de Gracia

Plaza of San José de Gracia, Michoacán.

Jorge Gonzalez

Jorge González, Director of Rural Development, Ecology and Tourism at San José de Gracia, with an ancient bone embedded in an arroyo wall near Río de la Pasión.

Caves beneath the dunes? Check out our Saudicaves page:







Mammoth Bones, Spanish Moss and Ecotourism

By John Pint

Cypress tree with Spanish Moss Do you know way to San José? Of course, I mean San José de Gracia, one of the most dynamic little towns in western Mexico, located 80 kilometers SE of Guadalajara and about 90 minutes from Jocótepec.

“You have to visit San José,” my friend Alejandro Solís insisted. “You'll love the projects they´re doing along El Río de la Pasión and you can even go hunting for dinosaur bones.”

Naturally, I accepted Alex's offer and off we drove to San José, which lies eight kilometers due north of Mazamitla, just over the Michoacán state line. We started out by visiting the town hall where we found a curious “cartoon mural” depicting San José's most illustrious sons. One of them was wearing an eye patch and I soon discovered his name was Luis González y González, a world-famous historian. He is also said to be the inventor of “Microhistory” as well as the founder of the Colegio de Michoacán, that marvelous institute which supported archaelogist Phil Weigand's discoveries when “the powers that be” were lined up against him.

In the town hall we met the local Director of Rural Development, Ecology and Tourism, Mr. Jorge González, who has found all sorts of fascinating fossils in this neck of the woods.

We jumped into Jorge's truck and drove for about two kilometers to a place called Paso Real where Jorge suddenly pulled off the road and parked. Next came what I'd call the Quintessential Mexican Hike because it began with us squeezing through a barbed-wire fence beyond which there was no path and plenty of thorn bushes. Thus began Jorge's fascinating introduction to the many fossils in the area. We saw all sorts of places where bones were literally sticking out of solid rock walls. It was obvious that long ago these walls were layers of mud or conglomerate and we were looking at the remains of some poor animal that got stuck in the muck eons ago.

The most exciting bones were mammoth and gomphothere tusks. “There was a big lake right here for a long time,” said Jorge, “but about 15,000 years ago it slowly dried up.”

Camp site at Rio de la Pasion
Our next stop caught me off guard. After passing through low, deserty scrub, the horizon was suddenly filled with gigantic trees gloriously festooned with heno (Spanish moss). I gasped. Not only did those trees resemble Montezuma Cypresses, they seemed to me the most majestic and beautifully decorated such trees I had ever seen...and I'm including those which I've seen in Louisiana's bayous as well.

Cypresses in the desert? Was I going crazy?

Not at all, we had reached the northern end of Río de la Pasión a gorgeous stream 22 kilómeters long linking San José to Tizapán, whose entire length is dotted with venerable old sabinos (in Spanish), called ahuehuetes in Náhuatl and Taxodium mucronatum in Latin.

“This river is almost straight and there's a path along its entire length,” commented Alex Solís, “but maybe its most beautiful point is right here.”

Indeed, this wide flat place shaded by such huge and stunning trees looked like every camper's dream come true. The river water, however, is not drinkable. Nevertheless, said our guides, it's much cleaner than it was a few years ago and there are projects to clean it up even further.

Our last stop was the Passion River Ecotourism Center (Ecoturismo Río de la Pasión) located on a flat mesa above the river. Here are brand new adobe cabins for rent, a huge meeting hall, a restaurant and even a museum featuring artifacts found in a nearby tomb. The center boasts two kilometers of breathtaking ziplines which take you back and forth between Michoacán and Jalisco, and a spring-fed lagoon filled with perfectly clean water for swimming and fishing.

Two of the cabins sleep eight persons each and rent for $1200 pesos a night. The other is even bigger and all three have a kitchenette, refrigerator and a fireplace. Check out their Facebook  page or call Cell 353 101 3615. Ask for Brenda, who speaks English and please note: loud music is not allowed!

How to get there
You can reach San José de Gracia by taking highway 405 for Mazamitla from the south shore of Lake Chapala. Drive 37 kilometers from the Lake and turn northeast onto highway 110 heading for Zamora. After 11 kilometers you'll reach San José. Go one block north past the plaza and turn left onto Galeana Oriente (the main road to Zamora). Follow this street to the north end of town and turn left (at N19 59.860 W103 01.185) onto Camino Agua Caliente which goes north towards Tizapan. After 3.6 kilometers look for an Ecoturismo sign (N20 01.494 W103 01.873) and turn right (Note that you can reach this point more directly from Tizapan, mostly on asphalt). Now Follow this road north five kilometers to Río de la Pasión Ecotourism Center (N20 03.414 W103 01.139). For the complete route see “Ecoturismo Pasion” on Wikiloc.com.

The campsite under the Cypresses (N20 02.874 W103 01.542) on the riverside requires a high vehicle and may be unreachable in the rainy season. This route is called “Passion River Campsite” on Wikiloc.

Driving time from Guadalajara to the Ecotourism Center: about two and a half hours.

 Sunset at Lake Chapala

Sunset at Lake Chapala, seen while returning from a visit to Río de la Pasión

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