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The Karen Mogensen Reserve

IMPORTANT!  The Karen Mogensen Reserve and Cerro Escondido Ecolodge are privately owned by ASEPALECO and run by minimal staff and volunteers.   Visitors MUST contact ASEPALECO in advance to schedule their visit, so we can arrange for your day hike, guide and/or lodging.  You can contact the reserve by calling 506-2650-0607 or emailing  All guests must be accompanied by one of our experienced guides.  Please note that to reach the ecolodge and the heart of the reserve it is about a 1 hour hike, mostly uphill.  Thank you in advance for your cooperation and understanding.

The history of our nature paradise

Karen Mogensen and her husband Nicolas Wessberg were the leading founders of the national park system in Costa Rica. The couple arrived in Montezuma in 1955, and were from Denmark and Sweden, respectively. Nicolas was murdered while spearheading the conservation of the now established Corcovado National Park in Costa Rica's Osa Peninsula. Karen then named a smaller reserve in honor of her husband, the “Nicolas Wessberg Reserve”. To honor Karen, our reserve was created and named after her in recognition of her dedicated conservation efforts the “Karen Mogensen Reserve”. She died in 1996, soon after the reserve was established.

During the cattle boom of the 1960’s and 70’s, Costa Rican farmers deforested thousands of acres on the Nicoya Peninsula and beyond in order to feed the international demand for beef. Deforesting the highlands and burning the remaining vegetation repetitively caused the soil erosion, loss of soil fertility and decimated wildlife populations, including many rare and endemic species. As the cattle industry became less profitable, many families migrated to towns, following a period of the abandonment of properties. Soon after that, secondary forests started to grow again in the south of  the Nicoya Peninsula, adding up to 12,000 hectares.

Recognizing the problem–and a potential solution–a group of dedicated Costa Ricans created a non profit in 1991 called ASEPALECO. Named after three prominent coastal towns (and political districts), the “Ecological Association of Paquera, Lepanto, and Cobano” would help protect watersheds and wildlife by purchasing contiguous properties in the highlands and protecting them as a nature reserve. The timing was perfect. By early 1990s the international beef market plunged, leading local farmers to abandon their highland cattle properties. Over the ensuing years, ASEPALECO scooped up many of these properties for low prices and encouraged conservation-minded landowners to do the same. Today the reserve spans 960 hectares of protected land in the Nicoya Peninsula, and an additional 12,000 hectares of secondary forest surrounds the reserve. In this tropical forest, many rare and endangered species coexist. The reserve is a vital sanctuary not only for the species that live there but also protects the essential springs and water source for the entire Nicoya region. Five local communities receive their water from this reserve and the main rivers start here.

The protection of this land is vital for conservation against cattle ranching, hunting and logging, which are pertinent threats to the region.    

Please help support our continued efforts to preserve, educate, and conserve by planning a visit or donating today!

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