- from the Tupi Guarani language family
the Argentinian side
do Iguaçú - Brasilian name
del Iguazú - Argentinian name
- older Portuguese
With an average height of 72m / 236 ft across a river's edge 2.7kms /1.6 miles
wide and with at least three names they are greater than Niagara. In some dry
seasons there are as many as three hundred separate falls and in flood times there
are as few as three. They lie within two national parks in subtropical forest
filled with countless birds and butterflies. Many mammals including jaguars, giant
otters, coatis and bush dogs live in places off the beaten track. The falls are
a UNESCO World Heritage Site and and one of South America's greatest natural spectacles.
Photos and text by Tony and Marion Morrison
remarkable falls on the border of Argentina and Brasil approximately 550 km /
340 miles inland from the Atlantic ocean and named after the river they dominate.
The name varies according to the various local languages though the same suffix
or ending azú, assú or açu is used. It is derived
from Tupi Guarani the original language family of the area and means 'big'. The
falls comprise roughly 300 falls. Below the falls the river races through a narrow
gorge before entering the River Parana the major tributary of the River Plate.
The falls were were discovered early in 1542 by a Spanish commander Álvar
Núñez Cabeza de Vaca and were declared a World Heritage Site in
1984 and 1986 The falls lie within the boundaries of two National Parks - one
Argentinian and the other Brasilian.
A LAND OF MIGHTY RIVERS
and airports connect the towns with many places in South America
river Parana running north to south is one of the world's greatest rivers. It
rises in Brasil and with a major tributary the Paranaiba has a length of about
3998 kms / 2484 miles. The Parana carries a a huge volume of water and is crossed
by a bridge between two cities in the top left. Ciudad del Este in Paraguay and
Foz de Iguaçú in Brasil, literally meaning ' mouth of the Iguaçú
massive Itaipú dam straddles the Parana jbetween Paraguay and Brasil ust
outside the top left hand corner of the map
river entering from the east in the top right is the Iguazú or Iguaçú
as it is known in Brasil. It rises close to the Brasilian city of Curitiba within
approximately 50kms / 31 miles of the Atlantic ocean and has a total length of
approximately 1198kms / 745 miles most of which is in Brasil. The falls are in
the green shaded and forested area on the right where the river narrows. A bridge
crosses the Iguazú at the Argentinian town of Puerto Iguazú close
to the confluence.
Iguaçú / Iguazú river above the falls from the Brasilian
Parana river from the Argentinian bank with the Paraguayan city of Ciudad del
Iguazú / Iguaçú river pours over the edge of an ancient basaltic
lava flow dating from Mesozoic Era of geological time over 135 million years ago
gorge of the river begins below the falls which are very slowly being cut back
upstream due to erosion
marker of The Three Frontiers - the meeting point of Brasil, Argentina and Paraguay
at the mouth of the Iguaçú river. From the Brasilian side.
DISCOVERY By 1542 Spanish and Portuguese explorers were getting to
know their way around South America. Ten years earlier over on the Pacific coast
Francisco Pizarro had found his way in to the Inca Empire. On the Atlantic coast
the mouth of the Amazon was discovered by a Spaniard in January 1500 and soon
Portuguese traders began small settlements for collecting a richly coloured 'brazil
wood' from the forests.The name comes from the Latin 'brasile' meaning
red. Meanwhile the River Plate from the Spanish word plata meaning silver
attracted explorers trying to find a way to a land they believed was rich with
the precious metal. One expedition left Seville in Spain in 1535 and headed for
the River Plate. The adventurers set up a base near the site of present day Buenos
Aires and exploratory groups were despatched inland. One commanded by a Spaniard
Juan de Salazar went up the river Parana and then to the River Paraguay where
his men built a stockade they called Asunción.
Back at base the leader of the main group fell ill and decided to return to Spain.
He died at sea and when news of his death and the isolated garrison at Asunción
reached Spain a relief expedition was sent out. The commander Álvar Núñez
Cabeza de Vaca was a travel-hardened Spaniard from the city of Jerez de la Frontera
in southwestern Spain. He had already made his name by exploring Florida, parts
of Texas and some of Mexico between 1528 / 36. Álvar Núñez
eached Santa Catalina Island [now Santa Catarina] on the coast of Brasil late
in 1541 and decided to strike boldly inland at roughly the right latitude to reach
Asunción overland. In late 1541 Álvar Núñez set out
with two hundred and fifty men and twenty six horses from close to where the city
of Florianopolis stands today.
expedition headed into an incredible wilderness of low mountains - the Serra
do Mar, dense forests and huge rivers. The Spaniards had no idea of the kind
of reception they would meet from the indigenous,Tupi Guarini native population,
Reports from friendly people along the way were good and they found the headwaters
of the Yguazú river and followed it westward downstream. Some of the explorers
used canoes and others travelled by land. In January 1542 the reached the falls.....'
The current of the Yguazú was so that the canoes were carried furiously
down river, for near this spot there is a considerable fall and the noise made
by the water leaping down some high rocks into a chasm may be heard a great distance
off and the spray rises two spears high and more over the fall....
were the first Europeans to give an account of the falls.
from written accounts and translations 1555 - 1567 - 1891
viewing platform on the Brasilian side
entry to the gorge below the falls
beside the gorge on the Argentinian side
Devil's Throat / Garganta del Diablo - Photo Danny Aeberhard
NATIONAL PARKS Bienvenido
- Bem vindo!
Parque Nacional Iguazú - Misiones Province Argentina
park was created in 1934 and covers 55,000 hectares. In 1984 it was named by UNESCO
as a World Heritage Site. The park entrance is xx kms by road from Puerto Iguazú.
From the Visitor Centre at the entrance to the park a mini-railway takes a route
into the forest with stops at a Cataratas station for many of the falls and walks
beside the river. The train continues to the Devil's Throat station where another
walk at a higher level leads above one of the most spectacular falls
Parque Nacional do Iguaçú, - State of Paraná,
park was created in 1939 and covers 185,000 hectares .In 1986 it was named by
UNESCO as a World Heritage Site . The entrance is xx kms by road from Foz do Iguacu.
From a visitor centre at the entrance to the park luxury omnibuses make the journey
to the forested edge of the falls. An observation tower stands beside the largest
fall and below and at the water's edge walkways extend over the river to even
side is best? Both can be visited easily in one day and both are wonderful.
To see much of the wildlife a longer stay is needed with arrangements to trek
deeper into the parks.
fungi grow on fallen branches above the river. This is a tropical wet forest and
the rainfall averages 1600mm per year. It is a forest of several layers including
emergent canopies. The humid air from rain and spray from the falls helps the
growth of many plants, especially bromeliads, mosses and ferns
coloured lichens on the trunk of a rainforest tree
the left- strangler plants cover the trunk of a tree. Above a Katydid or bush
cricket lays eggs at night. This insect has long antennae and is naturally camouflaged
as a leaf
the right a small Mazama or brocket deer in the forest at dusk Local name is Corzuela
giant otter, Pteronura brasiliensis is one of the rarest animals in the
park. large specimens may be as much as 1.3m . Local name is Lontra gigante
Toucan Ramphastos toco locally known as Tucán grande or Tucano
toco or tucanoaçu
are the heaviest of all South American land mammals. This is Tapirus terrestris
the species of the lowlands and known locally as the Anta - a large
specimen may be almost 2m long