Marismas de Odiel

A mineral, saltpan and fishing heritage on one side, and, on the other, a strategic position by the Atlantic have for centuries attracted successive civilizations to the area formed by and around the estuary and mouth of the rio Odiel river. So much so that the archeological remains found in Huelva are actually older than Spain itself. Tartessians, firstly, then Phoenicians and Greeks afterwards, and Romans especially, turned the ancient province of Onuba, as Huelva was known, into the richest and most populous settlement in what the Romans named Hispania.

In the history of the zone, there are two milestones that outweigh most other events; the region’s close involvement in the discovery of the Americas at the end of the 15th century and, much more recently, the use of its coast as the ‘franja píratica’, pirate fringe, at the institution of English marauders in the 19th century. Nearly as lengthy as before, stressing its idiosyncracy, was the introduction of a focus for economic development, known as the Polo Quimico, chemical pole, for its mineral and other industrial processes, during the 1970s.

LANDSCAPE

Marismas del Odiel. Tarro BlancoFor thousands of years a great flood would inundate the river valleys of the Huelva coastline on a sometimes annual basis.

The drop in the sea level, afterwards, suggests the initiation of a littoral geographical dynamic system that would have affected the marshes, sea currents and winds. Its actions have created a coastal profile of distinct and different ecoystems; beaches and dunes, which interact with the lakes and ponds, and a feature of the Atlantic coast and especially characteristic of the Huelva province, extensive marshlands, or marismas. The landscape alters its behaviour as much as at different times of the year as at different hours of the day. At dusk and when the tide is low – ‘bajamar’, lowtide – it is a beautiful sight to contemplate.

Then, as well, is the perfect time to observe the submergible meadows of marine plants, and the seas of esparto grass. The abundance of nutrition in the foodchain attracts an important number of aquatic birds, either in migration or to breed, among which the most prevalent are the little tern, roseate spoonbill, and the flamingos. Likewise, man’s presence here is ancestral, giving the region and given its strategic position and its uses; mineral resources, fish, and salt.

Marisma del Odiel, one of the rivers that join and form the estuary of Huelva, is for all of these a singular space, which owns its declaration, among others, to Anastasio Senra, ecologist and founder of the association Andalus and to whom the Centro de Visitantes was dedicated in tribute.

GASTRONOMY

The excellent fish and seafood are the protagonists of any meal here. But as well as the white prawns, the coquita clams and the renowned chocos, cuttlefish, you can also enjoy habas enzapatadas (broad beans in mint and lemon juice), raya en pimentón (skate in paprika or cayenne pepper), and tuna in the classic tomato sauce. For dessert, try a hornazo, a traditional cake, often associated with Easter, made with eggs and bread, and stuffed and drizzled with a sweet confection known as cabello de ángel, angel’s hair.

ARTISAN CULTURE

The region maintains a tradition of cane basketwork, leather goods, cane panelling, woodwork and harness making.

SITUATION

East of the city of Huelva, on the outskirts of the urban zone. Area: 7,185 hectares. Altitude: Between zero and 3 metres above sea level. Average monthly temperatures: 11ºC (January) and 25ºC (August). Average annual rainfall: 520 mm. Municipalities: Huelva, Gibraleón, Aljaraque and Punta Umbría.

ACTIVITIES

4×4 vehicle routes
Boat excursions
Horse riding
Aquatic sports
Bike touring
Sport fishing
Birdwatching, especially indicated in the network of hides/observatories

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