Tuesday, 13 March 2012
Iguazu Falls, taller and far wider than Niagara Falls
Taller and far wider than Niagara Falls, twice as wide with 275 cascades spread in a horsehoe shape over nearly two miles of the Iguazu River, Iguazú Falls are the result of a volcanic eruption which left yet another large crack in the earth. During the rainy season of November - March, the rate of flow of water going over the falls may reach 450,000 cubic feet (12,750 cubic m) per second.
The name of the falls comes from the Guarani word for "great water". Legend has it that a god planned to marry a beautiful aborigine named Naipi, who fled with her mortal lover Taroba in a canoe. In rage, the god sliced the river creating the waterfalls, condemning the lovers to an eternal fall. The first European to find the falls was the Spanish Conquistador Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca in 1541, after whom one of the falls in the Argentine side is named. The falls were rediscovered by Boselli at the end of the nineteenth century, and one of the Argentinian falls is named after him.
The waterfall system consists of 275 falls along 2.7 kilometers (1.67 miles) of the Iguazu River. Some of the individual falls are up to 82 meters (269 ft) in height, though the majority are about 64 metres (210 ft). The Garganta del Diablo (Devil's Throat in English; Garganta do Diabo in Portuguese), a U-shaped 82-metre-high, 150-metre-wide and 700-metre-long (490 by 2300 feet) cliff, is the most impressive of all, and marks the border between Argentina and Brazil.
Two thirds of the falls are within Argentine territory. About 900 metres of the 2.7-kilometer length does not have water flowing over it. The edge of the basalt cap recedes only 3 mm per year. The water of the lower Iguazu collects in a canyon that drains into the Rio Parana in Argentina, shortly downstream from the Itaipu dam.
The falls are part of a singular practically virgin 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 Iguazú National Park where there are jungle trails and bird hikes. Plan a full day in the park to fully enjoy the wildlife flora and fauna. These parks were designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1984 and 1986, respectively.
It is possible to see the falls and surrounding area in a lightning trip but it is better to plan at least two days. The view from the Brazilian side is the most panoramic and there are helicopter rides out over the falls from Foz do Iguaçu. You may also take boat rides out to the falls. The light is best in the morning for photographs.