Iguazu Falls, also known as Iguassu Falls or Iguaçu Falls, are waterfalls of the Iguazu River located on the border of the Brazilian state of Paraná and the Argentine province of Misiones. The name for the falls comes from the Guarani word for, “great water”. The falls divide the river into the upper and lower Iguazu. The falls are taller than the Niagara Falls, and twice as wide with 275 cascades spread in a horseshoe shape over nearly two miles of the Iguazu River. Iguazu Falls are the result of a volcanic eruption, which left yet another large crack in the earth. Many people have referred to the falls as, “the most beautiful site they have ever seen”. You can only access the falls through one of two cities. The first, Foz do Iguacu, is on the Brazilian side, and Puerto Iguazu is on the Argentine side. One of the falls on the Argentinean side is named for Spanish Conquistador Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca who in 1541 became the first European to discover them. The falls are part of a jungle ecosystem protected by Argentine and Brazilian national parks on either side of the cascades.
Two-thirds of the falls are on the Argentinian side of the river where you can also tour Iguazu National Park where there are jungle trails and bird hikes. The better view of the two is from the Brazilian side, where you can see the Devil’s Throat, which is where fourteen falls drop 350 feet with such force that there is always a one hundred foot cloud of spray overhead. Iguazu has the greatest average annual flow of any waterfall in the world. During the rainy season of November through March, the rate of flow of water going over the falls may reach 450,000 cubic feet per second. During the other months, the amount of water averages 553 cubic feet per second, and it drops down an average of 269 feet below. This tropical location and the sheer beauty led Eleanor Roosevelt to call it, “Poor Niagara”. The best times to see the falls are in the spring and in the fall. Summer is intensely tropically hot and humid, and in winter the water level is considerably lower. (Amant, 2012)
Iguazu Falls experiences a subtropical climate with abundant precipitation and high temperatures year round. As you can see from my attached graph, the average high temperature throughout the year ranges between 73 and 98 degrees Fahrenheit, which are quite warm. Along with the warm temperatures is plenty of humidity.
Together with Nahuel Huapi National Park in Patagonia, Iguazu is one of the most frequently visited tourist sites. There are two international airports close to Iguazu Falls; the Argentine Cataratas del Iguazu International Airport (IGR) and the Brazilian Foz do Iguaçu International Airport (IGU). Argentina’s airport is 16 miles from the city of Iguazu but closer to the fall’s hotels than its Brazilian counterpart. There is bus and taxi service from and to the Airport-Falls. Brazil’s airport is between Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil and the falls. LAN Airlines and Aerolíneas Argentinas have direct flights from Buenos Aires to Iguazu International Airport Krause. Several Brazilian airlines, such as TAM Airlines, GOL, Azul, WebJet, offer service from the main Brazilian cities to Foz do Iguazu. (Hamre, 2008) The Drought-
During the summer of 2006, a severe drought caused the Iguazu River to become diminished, reducing the amount of water flowing over the falls to 300 cubic meters per second until early December. This was very unusual because most of the dry periods only last a few weeks at most. Wildlife-
The vegetation is mostly subtropical wet forest that is rich in lianas and epiphytes. The forests have less species diversity when compared with others in Brazil and parts of Paraguay. Regardless, over 2,000 species of vascular plant have been identified. Vegetation around the falls is exceptionally lush due to the constant spray. The fauna are typical of the region and include tapir, coati, tamandua, and raccoon. The site is particularly rich in bird species with almost half of Argentina’s bird species found there. Threatened mammals such as the jaguar, ocelot and tiger number among the carnivores, and the giant anteater and Brazilian otter are also found. Primates include the black-capped capuchin and black howler monkey. There are also small populations of the endangered broad-nosed caiman and the threatened Brazilian merganser (saw-bill duck). (UNESCO, 2006) The Power Plant-
The Itaipu hydroelectric power plant was built by Paraguay and Brazil and was completed in 1991. The dam is open for tours, and produces 12,600,000 KW of power and satisfies about 40% of all of Brazil and Argentine power needs. The dam is one of the biggest in the world, measuring 7,919 meters long and 196 meters in height. While building the dam, 12.3 million cubic meters of concrete were used and enough iron and steel to build the Eiffel tower 380 times over again. Activities-
When visiting Iguazu falls, there are many activities you can participate in while you are there. They have many catwalks across the rivers that you can walk over and view the falls on. Also, for a fee, you can take a thrill boat ride that will bring you near the falls bottom and will get you wet from their splashing and mist. To get a bird’s eye view of the falls, one can pay for a helicopter ride. The Brazilian side is the only one to offer the helicopter ride tour, the Argentinian side won’t because they feel the noise disrupts the native wildlife. One last thing you can do while visiting is take a jungle safari. This tour is educational as they take you through the subtropical rainforest of the National Park in a vehicle. A park ranger will discuss various aspects of the ecosystem. (Epifanio, 2012) Visa-
Border crossing between these countries is fairly relaxed, authorities assume most people are on a day trip across the border. U.S. passport holders require a visa, which is about $130, to visit the Brazilian side, which is not issued at the border. European Union passport holders do not normally need a visa to enter Brazil for tourism. They also have immunization requirements. Australian residents, for example, require yellow fever shots if returning to Australia within 6 days following a visit to Brazil. Brazil also requires a yellow fever immunization prior to entering if your passport shows that you have visited some specific South American countries such as Guyana. Iguazu National Park-
The falls lie within Iguazu National Park, which was created in 1934 and spreads out 212 square miles. The park is on the Argentina side of the falls and is a very popular tourist destination, much like the falls themselves. The park consists of many of the tourist activities I described earlier, but only .3% of the parks total area is accessible by the tourists. The Myth-
According to local legend, a god planned to marry a beautiful aborigine girl named Naipí against her will. She escaped from him by fleeing with her mortal lover, Tarobá, in a hand-carved canoe on the river. The god flew into such a wild rage when he found out that he split the river into two and created all the waterfalls so that the two lovers would be condemned to an eternal fall. Film Career-
Iguazu Falls was featured in the following movies: Moonraker (1979), The Mission (1986), Mr. Magoo (1997), Miami Vice (2006), and Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull (2008). On top of all of that fame and exposure, many people do not know that the Iguazu falls were actually one of the runners up to be one of the Seven Wonders of the World.
Amant, M. (2012, March 8). Iguazu Falls: 15 Amazing pictures and 10 Incredible Facts. Retrieved December 16, 2012, from Twisted Sifter: http://twistedsifter.com/2010/03/iguazu-falls-10-incredible-facts/
Epifanio, E. (2012). Tours and Activities: Iguazu Falls. Retrieved December 16, 2012, from Welcome Argentina: http://www.welcomeargentina.com/puertoiguazu/iguazu-falls.html
Hamre, B. (2008, April 24). Iguazu Falls. Retrieved December 16, 2012, from About.com South America Travel: http://gosouthamerica.about.com/cs/southamerica/a/IguazuFalls.htm
UNESCO. (2006, October 7). Iguazu National Park. Retrieved December 16, 2012, from United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization: http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/303/