Home Fun Historical Sites Bocas de Ceniza – Where the River Meets the Sea

Bocas de Ceniza – Where the River Meets the Sea

A load of tourists on the train to bocas de ceniza.
A load of tourists on the train to Bocas de Ceniza. Image: Mike Chartrand

Bocas de Ceniza – Ash Mouths

Based at the mouth of the great Magdalena River where it meets the Caribbean Sea, Barranquilla has become one of the most important ports in the region, and one of the most important cities in Colombia.

In the 1930s, soon after the announcement came of the decision to build a navigable port at Barranquilla, engineers realized they would need to find a solution to a monstrous problem. The issue was that the river, which is the biggest in Colombia, and which flows from deep within the country, deposits thousands of tons of silt and debris where it enters the Caribbean. To maintain sufficient depth for ocean freighters, the channel would need to be constantly dredged – an expensive situation.

Bocas de Ceniza - The Caribbean on the left, and the murky Magdalena on the right.
On the train, heading out along Bocas de Ceniza – Image: Mike Chartrand

In response, the engineers came up with an ingenious idea to build long, rock breakwaters on either side of the river, narrowing it into a long channel out into the sea. This had the effect of speeding up the water, causing the silt and debris to be dumped much further out offshore. This is turn caused the Bocas de Ceniza (Mouths of Ash) – the long brown channel into the blue waters of the Caribbean along which you can walk or drive. Now, with just one photo, you can capture the grandeur of the Magdalena River and the majesty of the Caribbean Sea. 

Culinary Delight in a Traditional Setting

To access this magical place, you need need to pass through the neighborhood ‘Las Flórez de Barranquilla‘, which is located on the Via Cuarenta at the height of 79th Street, very close to the Santa María del Mar church. 

The old train track in Las Flores..
The old train track in Las Flores.. Image: Mike Chartrand

On the left bank of the Magdalena River in Las Flores, you will find several small restaurants where you can all at once appreciate the river, a fresh breeze, and, above all, taste some culinary delights prepared on-site with fresh fruits of both the sea and the river alongside. I highly recommend ordering fried Mojarra with coconut rice and patacones (flattened and fried plantain). 

A Different Kind of Transportation

To reach the most extreme point of Bocas de Ceniza, you’ll need to travel approximately seven kilometers. The route can be travelled by motorcycle, on foot, or with the help of the artisanal train (a carriage adapted to move on the rails of what was formerly a railway). This so-called train is essentially a set of benches on wheels powered by a tiny, very noisy engine, and every year the contraption becomes just a bit scarier to ride. The return trip costs around $20,000 COP per person.

The train station
The ‘train’ sitting at the station in Las Flores. Image: Mike Chartrand

During the first three kilometers of travel you can only see the Magdalena River, and once you pass this point, you can see La Ciénaga de Mallorquín and the beaches of Puerto Mocho on the left. From here you will continue on for what seems like forever, as the “train” travels no quicker than a fast walker. When you do finally reach the end of the track, you’ll be at a point exactly one and a half kilometers from the extreme tip of Bocas de Ceniza. To get there, you’ll need to walk along what is affectionately known as ‘The Plank’. 

The end of the train line at Bocas de Ceniza.
The end of the train line and the beginning of The Plank. Image: Mike Chartrand

I highly recommend tourists bring good sunscreen, sunglasses to protect your eyes, and lots of bottled water to avoid dehydration. Above all, make sure to bring a camera as you’ll have ample opportunity to take plenty of great photos. 

A great way to spend a lazy afternoon

If you are an amateur or lover of wild bird watching this is also a good place for you to practice and take great pictures.

bocas de ceniza
Bocas de Ceniza – The Caribbean on the left, and the murky Magdalena on the right. Image: Arnaldo Viloria

Looking for some more ways to spend time in Barranquilla?  Click here for a list of options.

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