Iguazú Falls

Facts about Iguazú Falls

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Guarani Indian waterfall

Iguazu Falls lies on the border of Brazil and Argentina. As late as the end of the 16th century, the Guarani Indians lived there, who lost their territory after Europeans arrived in the area. The Indians called their waterfall Great Water-it was the backdrop of their tragic story depicted in Roland Joffe’s famous 1986 film, titled “The Mission.”

The waterfall is a breathtaking natural wonder, at the sight of which Eleanor Roosevelt said “Poor Niagara.”

Iguazú Falls
Iguazu Falls is a waterfall of the Iguazu River on the border of the Argentine province of Misiones and the Brazilian State of Parana.

It is a number of waterfalls that together form the largest waterfall system in the world.

The Iguazu River, a left tributary of the Parana River, flows in southern Brazil and northern Argentina.

It is 1320 kilometers long and has 62.000 square kilometers of basin area. It flows from the coastal Serra do Mar mountains in the Brazilian state of Paraná, near Curitiba (the capital and largest city of the state of Paraná). The river flows westward through the Brazilian Highlands, descending over nearly 70 rocky thresholds that break up its current.

Downstream from the mouth, the Iguazu forms the border between Brazil and Argentina. As it continues flowing, it descends from the plateau to form Iguazu Falls.

The Iguazu River flows into the Parana River at the point where the borders of Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay merge-an area known as the Triple Border. In July 2000, more than 4.000.000 liters of crude oil leaked into the Iguazu River from a state-owned oil refinery in the municipality of Araucaria, near Curitiba.

The system of waterfalls that make up Iguazu Falls is located in Iguazu National Park, divided between Brazil and Argentina.

Together, the Brazilian and Argentine parts of the park cover an area of about 260.000 hectares. One of the world’s largest waterfalls, Iguazu Falls is the biggest attraction of both national parks, although the Brazilian side has only 20 percent of the waterfall’s area, the remaining 80 percent on the Argentine side. The park is managed by the Chico Mendes Biodiversity Conservation Institute (ICMBio).

On 17th November 1986, at a conference in Paris, Iguazu National Park was declared a Natural Heritage of Humanity and is one of the largest forest conservation areas in South America.

The name of the waterfall-Iguazu-comes from words from the Guarani language spoken by the Guarani Indians.

In that language, the “y” word is “water” and “uasu”-“big”, “Yguasu”-“big water.”

There are legends about the origin of Iguazu Falls.

One of them tells of a deity who intended to marry a beautiful woman named Naipi. However, the woman did not intend to become the deity’s wife, as she had another chosen heart, Taroba, a brave warrior. So she fled with her earthly sweetheart, sailing a canoe down the Iguazu River. The deity, in a great rage, split the river in two, creating a waterfall into which the fugitives fell. They were doomed to an endless fall while sitting in the canoe.

The first European to see Iguazu Falls was Spanish conquistador Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca.

It is believed to have been in 1541 when Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca trekked inland from the island of Santa Catarina. A plaque was erected near the waterfall commemorating the explorer as the first European to see Iguazu.

The area where the waterfall was formed was the result of a volcanic eruption that took place about 130 million years ago.

This was probably the largest volcanic eruption in the last several hundred million years. The substrate over which Iguazu flows is basalt.

The waterfall is 2.7 kilometers wide and consists of 275 separate rocky thresholds.

Its height varies from 60 to 82 meters. The water flow is estimated at two to four thousand cubic meters of water per second.

The largest cascade of the waterfall is the so-called Devil’s Throat - this is where the border between Brazil and Argentina runs. This is the highest level of the waterfall, the water falling here from a height of 82 meters.

Iguazu Falls is located in a humid subtropical climate zone, with abundant rainfall and high temperatures throughout the year.

In the summer of 2006, a severe drought reduced the amount of water in the Iguazu River, reducing the amount of water flowing through the falls to 300 cubic meters per second by early December. This was unusual, as dry periods there usually last for several weeks.

There have already been cases of the waterfall “drying up.” This happened in 1934 and again in 1978, when during a persistent drought the current of the river dropped so much that not a single drop of water flowed over the edge of the cliff for 28 days.

The greatest amount of water flows over the waterfall between December and February. And in sunny weather, rainbows often form over the waterfall.

In the national parks surrounding Iguazu Falls: Iguazu National Park in Argentina and Iguaçu National Park in Brazil, the rich flora and fauna of the area are protected.

On the rocky outcrops between the rocky thresholds grow dense clumps of trees and sundry plants, including palms, bamboo and tree ferns, which provide a foretaste of the jungle surrounding the river. Begonias, pineapples, and orchids flourish under the trees.

The avifauna is also rich, with some 400 species of birds (including parrots, and toucans), as well as monkeys, jaguars, tapirs, ocelots, anteaters, and others.

Iguazu Falls is a great attraction for both Brazilian and Argentine tourists.

Both countries take great care to make tourist access to the waterfall easy, if only through specially organized direct transportation (including commercial airports).

A special 80-meter-long footbridge has been built to meet the needs of tourists, and it is possible to walk near the highest waterfall (Devil’s Throat).  Below the waterfall, it is possible to walk along a narrow platform over the river, which sometimes in the rainy season is unfortunately washed away by the rising water.

Due to its picturesque nature, Iguazu Falls has appeared in several TV shows and movies.

These included the films: Tarzan (1966-69), Mr. Magoo (1997), Miami Vice (2006), Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008), Captain America: Civil War (2016), and Black Panther (2018).

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