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Forest of Driftwood in Celestún – Gulf of Mexico Coast Art

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When I visited this forest of future driftwood several years ago, the boat guide told us this was a petrified forest. In fact, that was the only word I actually got from his Spanish explanation of this intriguing little bleached woodland. Fortunately for me, there was a Scandinavian family on the same boat tour and the daughter spoke Spanish and the father spoke English. On this particular subject, however, they seemed unable to do the double translation necessary to explain what we were seeing. But it was such a visually striking sight that I had to search further once I was home.

It turns out that the ecology behind this little stretch of the Yucatan coast near Celestún is not in fact petrification although it does look similar. In a nutshell, land near the ocean is not a static place. It’s a dynamic landscape and the coastline of the Gulf of Mexico like oceans around the world is ever-changing. Where land is being built up in one place, just down the coast, you may find the shore is retreating. The water table here had been invaded by saltwater and the forest above became the twisted land of driftwood you see here.

Of course, it’s not true driftwood yet but I have a feeling that’s where these former trees will end up some day, washed up on a gulf beach somewhere. They already have the same texture, don’t they? I’ve alternated between calling this a driftwood forest and a ghost forest over the years. But whatever terminology you choose, there’s a ghostly beauty to the bones of those old trees that I still find so striking.

Have you perchance been on a similar boat tour that stopped in this driftwood forest on the coast near Celestún? Or perhaps you simply find the ghostly landscape as striking as I do? I do hope you might pause long enough to share what you find most eye-catching in this particular coastal print?


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