Waterfall in Argentina
The Iguazu Falls, Iguazú Falls, Iguassu Falls, or Iguaçu Falls are waterfalls of the Iguazu River on the border of the Argentine province of Misiones and the Brazilian state of Paraná. They are the largest waterfalls system in the world.
Address: Iguazu National Park, Misiónes, Argentina
Width: 8,858′ 0″
Number of drops: 275
The area surrounding Iguazu Falls was inhabited 10,000 years ago by the hunter-gatherers of the Eldoradense culture. They were displaced around 1,000 C.E. by the Guaraní, who brought new agricultural technologies, and were displaced in turn by the Spanish and Portuguese conquistadores in the sixteenth century.
The first European to find the Falls was the Spanish Conquistador Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca in 1541, after whom one of the falls on the Argentine side is named. Jesuit missions followed in 1609.
A Brazilian army officer, Edmundo de Barros, proposed the creation of a national park near the Falls in 1897. As the Falls form a part of the border between Brazil and Argentina, once those boundaries were clearly defined, two separate national parks were established, one in each nation. Iguazú National Park in Argentina was established in 1934 and Iguaçu National Park of Brazil was established in 1939.
The great power of the Falls was not utilized until the construction of the huge Itaipu hydroelectric power plant built jointly by Paraguay and Brazil, which was completed in 1991. The dam, touted as a masterpiece of technology, is one of the largest in the world, providing nearly forty percent of the power to Brazil and Argentina
About the Iguazu Waterfalls
Ranked as the world’s second largest, Iguazu Falls are located in South America, close to the point where Paraguay, Brazil, and Argentina join borders. The Iguazu River forms a border between Argentina and Brazil. The majority of the falls actually lie in Argentina (Cataratas del Iguazú ) and the rest in Brazil (Foz do Iguaçu ).
Depending on the time of year, there can be several hundred individual falls situated on a two mile stretch along a crescent shaped cliff. The height of the highest falls is equal to that of a twenty-four story building, about 265 feet tall. The thunderous roar can be heard from miles away.
A major highlight of Iguazu are the fourteen waterfalls that make up Devil’s Throat .The force of the water causes spray to rise one hundred feet and results in ever-present giant rainbows.
Iguazu Falls are a UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site. The word Iguazu come from the Native American Guarnai word for “great water.” The falls were forms by volcanic activity approximately 100 million years ago.
The Iguazu falls are part of a semi-tropical jungle ecosystem. Both Argentina and Brazil have created national parks surrounding the Falls. On the Argentinean side, there are jungle trails and bird hikes. There are 500 species of birds, 80 species of mammals, and an immense variety of reptiles, fish, and insects. The butterfly population is amazing. Park wild animals include tigers, jaguars, monkeys, coatis, alligators, and crocodiles.
The climate of Puerto Iguazú is classified as “Humid Subtropical” meaning that there are no particularly “dry” or “wet” seasons. The city is usually hot and sunny throughout the year due to the low altitude although this can change quickly: rainfall is present all year round as well. November is the wettest month receiving over 200mm of rainfall which is sometimes concentrated in thunder storms. This abundant rain of course gives growth to the rainforests that surround the falls, and, indeed, fuel the falls themselves.
Perhaps the best times to visit the Iguazu falls are during spring (September-November) or Autumn (March-May) when there is a good balance between the temperature and the level and pressure of the water, which can drop in winter. Nevertheless, the Iguazu Falls can be visited year round in amiable temperatures; the average annual temperature is around 75º F. In the winter, it rarely gets colder than 60 F and in the summer, the average temperature is around 79º F, though this can reach as high as 95º F on the hottest of days.
When to go to Iguazu Falls
Visitors will report that the better time to visit the falls depends on your focus. Some travelers like to go when water levels are higher. People that enjoy the outdoors often like to go during the shoulder season when water levels are a little lower and they have more access to trails, the island and activities.
My recommendation for visiting the falls is when you will have a greater chance for blue skies and comfortable weather. Although the falls are not at their peak, you will still find them impressive. The rock faces peeking through the falls create more photographic scenes. These months would include March, parts of April, and August or September.
The waterfall system consists of 275 falls along three kilometers (1.8 miles) of the Iguazu River. Position is at Latitude (DMS): 25° 40′ 60 S, Longitude (DMS): 54° 25′ 60 W. Some of the individual falls are up to 82 meters (269 ft) in height, though the majority are about 64 meters (210 ft). The Falls average volume is 61,660 cubic feet / second (1,746 cubic meters / sec).
The Devil’s Throat (Garganta del Diablo in Spanish and Garganta do Diabo in Portuguese), a U-shaped 150-meter-wide and 700-meter-long (490 by 2,300 feet) cliff, is the most impressive of all, and marks the border between Argentina and Brazil. Possibly half of the river is directed to Devil’s Throat. Two thirds of the Falls are within Argentine territory, while primary access to the falls is from Brazil. Mist rises between 100 and 500 feet (30 and 150 m) above Devil’s Throat.
About 900 meters (2,953 ft) of the three-kilometer length does not have water flowing over it. The edge of the basalt cap recedes only three mm per year. The water of the lower Iguazu collects in a canyon that drains into the Paraná River in Argentina.
Vastly larger than North America’s Niagara Falls, Iguazu is rivaled only by Africa’s Victoria Falls which separates Zambia and Zimbabwe. While Iguazu is wider because it is split into about 275 discrete falls and large islands, Victoria is the largest curtain of water in the world, at over a 1600 m wide and over 100 m (350 ft) in height.
Plants and Flowers of Iguazú Falls
The main characteristic of the flora is that there are multiple layers of it, one on top of another, from the forest floor to the canopy of the highest trees. Not only do the tops of the trees touch, but more plants hang from their branches, making it impossible to see the blue of the sky in some places.
One of the more typical species of the Park is “Palo Rosa” (pink stick) which grows more than 40 meters high, dwarfing even the trees. It is named for the color of its wood, which is even more pronounced when it is recently cut. Due to its declining numbers it has been proclaimed National Monument.
This giants live side-by-side with another more common species, the palm tree, which grows in groups. The internal trunk of this plant is edible and very tasty, but its extraction causes the tree to die, which is putting the species in danger of extinction.
Other common plants are orchids, the “guatambú”, the “pindó” and other hanging species. And don’t forget about the ceibo, a tree whose red blossoms are the national flower of Argentina.
Facts About Iguazu Falls
- The waterfall system is made of 275 separate falls spanning for 1.5 miles.
- Some of the waterfalls reach up to 269 feet, although most are around 210 feet tall.
- With a surface area of 1.3 million feet squared, Iguazu Falls have the greatest average annual flow of any waterfall.
- Two-thirds of the Iguazu Falls lies within Argentina; however, theIguazu River flows through Brazil for the majority of its course.
- Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca was the first European to discover the falls in 1541. One of the waterfalls on the Argentine side is named after this Spanish conquistador.
- The name of the waterfall is derived from the Tupi or Guarani words “y,” which means water, and “ûsaú” which means “big.”
- Surrounding the waterfall is a subtropical rainforest home to more than 2,000 species of plants along with wildlife including tapirs, howler monkeys, jaguars, ocelots, caymans, and giant anteaters.
Read about other falls