About the Reserve
The dramatic landscape of the Northern Jaguar Reserve is one of the last truly wild refuges for the jaguar. Deep canyons descend from upland peaks and mountain valleys. Sheer cliffs and volcanic rock outcrops soar above. Perennial streams abound, and water seems plentiful as summer rainstorms create spectacular waterfalls that trickle down steep mountain drainages and travel east toward the free-flowing Río Aros.
Part of the basin-and-range geological province, the majority of the reserve is situated along the backbone of the Sierra Zetasora, a small foothills range with elevations up to 4,000 feet. The vegetation is as varied as the topography: well-preserved oak forests mix with native fan palms; lone palm trees that might be expected along the canyon bottoms sit perched on the tops of small mountains; and the vast slopes and hills are covered with dense thornscrub that transitions into sub-tropical vegetation.
The main access is by four-wheel drive vehicle along a single-track dirt road that dead ends upon reaching the outer limits of the reserve. This infrequently used road is extremely rugged and often in disrepair; it regularly gets washed away during the rainy season, and in some places it barely passes for a road no matter the time of year. We believe the road is the perfect filter, and its sorry state helped keep people out and wildlife unharmed in the decades before this land was protected.
The Northern Jaguar Reserve currently combines two former cattle ranches: Rancho Los Pavos and Rancho Zetasora. Los Pavos is in some ways the more celebrated portion of the reserve. It is better isolated since it is located at road’s end, and having been purchased first and protected longer, it may feel a little bit more wild.
Rancho Zetasora consists of four divisions, each with its own ranch infrastructure. At the reserve’s entrance is La Ventana in a mesquite-filled valley with a small shaded creek that has year-round flow. The ranch house is situated directly beneath an immense series of rock monoliths that form la ventana, or the “window to the sierra.” Then comes El Babisal de Arriba lying at the confluence of two deep and lush canyons featuring a perennial stream lined with towering sycamore trees. Babisal has the greatest number of buildings, including a concrete-block house and traditional palm-roofed palapas. Further downstream is El Babisal de Abajo, which is the smallest ranch with few improvements and a minimal human footprint. The last Zetasora ranch before reaching Los Pavos is Dubaral, boasting lengthy frontage along the Río Aros. The center of Dubaral is situated in a mesquite bosque at the bottom of an extensive valley surrounded by picturesque mountains and seemingly endless canyons.