The Two Faces of the Sierpe River
The Sierpe-Terraba River Preserve encompasses over 68,000 acres of wildlife rich wetlands. As it flows from its headwaters in the Sierpe Lagoon towards the Pacific it undergoes a complete transformation in look and charachter. The town of Sierpe is the unofficial border between what I consider the upper and lower river.
The lower river is characterized by wide channels, sandbars, and shallow banks covered with large, mature mangrove trees. The vegetation tends to be a bit monochromatic, but is grand and inspiring none the less. The river here "snakes" quite severely - hence it's name "Sierpe" which means "to move in a serpentine fashion" in Spanish. The water - because it is closer to the ocean - is high in salinity. Because of the higher sediment load it carries, the water is often more turbid as well. The river that is most often shown in photographs and is used for tourist activities is the lower river. It is the gateway to the ocean and has lots of recreational value. This a is a great spot to catch truly large fish in the river. It is ideal for water skiing or wakeboarding, and is also nice and close to the river mouth beaches.
The upper river is a very different animal. The mangroves are gone; in their place are large hardwood and palm trees. The channels are deep, the banks are steeper, and the river flows in a much more direct path. The water has little or no salinity. The water also tends to be much cleaner, and in certain areas can have up to 2.5 meters of visibility. In many places it can also have a deep tannin stain to it, giving it a coffee like tint. The vegetation and bird and animal species present are much more diverse. Brightly colored birds can be seen feeding atop large mats of bright green water hyacinth that lines the banks. The overall feeling one gets when visiting the upper river is much more intimate and wild. Rare is the occasion that you see other boats or hear a man made noise in this part of the river. When you spend a day in these upper reaches it feels like you've gone back in time. Light tackle river fishing and kayaking are exceptional in this part of the river.
For a real adventure one can travel all the way up the Sierpe River to it's headwaters in the Sierpe lagoon. This 230 acre lake is secluded, wild, and absolutely pristine. It also holds some of the biggest and most aggressive snook in the entire river system. It is a rare occasion that a trip up to the lagoon doesn't reward it's guests with some great fishing. For wildlife enthusiasts, both the lagoon and upper reaches of the river offer an opportunity to spot extremely rare river otters.