A Visit to Isla del Presidio

Lake Chapala is simply gorgeous. A mile above sea level, surrounded by high, steep and severe mountains towering up to almost 8,000 feet, the Lake sits in a deep bowl. As noted in an earlier post on the condition of the Lake, the water is shallow, with an average depth of 14 feet.

The Lake is also dotted with islands, some close to shore; others more distant, the Isla del Presidio among them. Several are readily visible from either the Chapala or the Ajijic malecon.  Isla del Presidio is not. It, like others, requires travel to observe.

Isla del Presidio is a worthy day trip from Chapala. It’s accessible one of two ways. Either by hiring a boat on the Chapala malecon (about 500 pesos–$20 U.S. per person with a minimum of four) or by driving to the town closest to the Isla, Mezcala.

Driving to Mezcala, although only some 13 miles from Chapala, is an adventure. The quality of the road deteriorates the further away you get from Chapala. Entering Mezcala is deep Mexico, almost a different world from the expat-laden parts of the lakeside. We didn’t encounter anyone in Mezcala that spoke English; we were very glad to have been accompanied by a Mexican friend who is fluent in both languages.

Mezcala has its own beauty and its own malecon where a few boats are moored awaiting travelers who have made the trek to visit the Isla del Presidio.

Our friend negotiated our trip and off we went. It’s about a 20 minute boat ride out to the island.

Isla del Presidio played a significant role in the Mexican War of Independence with embattled forces literally holding the fort on the island. This isn’t a history lesson though and if the history interests you (as it did me), you can read about it here.

The boatman dropped us off at a little inlet close to some ruins in various states of disrepair and a relatively modern structure that appeared to be a visitors’ center unoccupied, un-staffed, forlorn and lonely. We had an hour and a half to explore.

The Island is rugged. By that I mean that the shoreline, where the island meets the water, is stuffed with vegetation and trees and cliffs. It was easy to imagine how it was chosen as a location for a fort.

After a short, steep climb, we arrived at a sloping more open area of the island where the clear ruins of the old military installations dot the landscape. The structures seem to have obviously been built at different times in history; some are close to ruin; others appear to have simply been abandoned and await a hoped-for but highly unlikely resurrection.

There’s a church, of course, a hollow shell now.

And an old-fashioned fort, like in many of the old westerns that so entranced me as a child.

Clearly one problem here though. Food and water. Not enough surface land to grow food to feed an army and drilling for water through what is obviously solid rock and one can understand why the battles fought here ultimately went to the assailants rather than the defenders.

We regretted that we only had an hour and a half. Way too little time for a thorough exploration.

At the requisite time we made our way back to the inlet, knowing that we would return for more adventure.


6 thoughts on “A Visit to Isla del Presidio”

  1. I would like to compensate you for your time. Can you tell me how to send the crypto currency to you? Is it readily available to you? While on Isla Del Presidio did you notice if there were plants growing such as berry or grape vines? There seemed to be big trees, do you know what kind? Does this island belong to the state or federal government? Can you determine how much rainfall it has out there? Do you recall how long it took to get out there? Thank you so much for sharing your experience. Bendecir o bendiciones whichever wishes you good health and happiness from Leakey, TX, Estados Unidos de America

    1. Hi, Jim,
      That would be much appreciated. Here’s our public keys: BTC Public Address: 1C6WdbWFnwksRVWuwPUGxrzTePZ7z1yK8j
      ETH Public Address: 0x162A46145b88CEb91Ac1B4F44a10176f2A311889
      We did not notice any berry or grape vines on Presidio. That said, they could have been there, with the time we had and have yet to re-visit, there was a lot we didn’t really get to observe. Nor do I know what kind of trees are on the island. They were totally impressive. The island is part of Mezcala and under the jurisdiction of the State of Jalisco. From what I’ve been able to gather, efforts have been made by the State to bring the island up to speed as a tourist destination. Unfortunately, funds were limited and apparently the effort has ended. I have not found any specific data on the rainfall on the island; lakeside receives 35 inches of rain annually, with the vast majority of it occurring between June and August (almost all at night, interestingly enough). Here is an excellent link about the weather here: http://www.weatherbase.com/weather/weather.php3?s=766121&cityname=Chapala-Jalisco-Mexico&units=us It took about 20 minutes to boat from Mezcala to the island. From Chapala I would estimate about a one hour boat ride. Thank you much for the best wishes and right back at you! All the best, Bob

  2. Thanks so much for your blogs. Am seriously considering leaving California and moving to Lake Chapala. Plan on a visit in January. Your info is very helpful. Thanks, Jeanne

    1. Thank you. We’re trying to blog on what everyday life is like here, material that we would find useful in considering a move here. Or just what it’s like to be here. Glad it is helpful.

  3. Definitely glad this is on my hometown. I have been in the USA for a while and the first thing i want to do when go back in October is visit the island. Thanks for sharing. I will be there feom October on, just in case you’ll need translating.

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