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Backpacking around South America - Iguazu Falls are the result of a volcanic eruption, spread in a horseshoe shape over almost two miles of the Iguazu River with 275 cascades! The rate of water flow going over the falls may reach 450,000 cubic feet (12,750 cubic m) per second, during the rainy season of November through March.
The sheer beauty and the tropical location that led Eleanor Roosevelt to say Poor Niagara, the tremendous amount of water (553 cubic feet per second) thundering down 269 feet, these matter of fact details do nothing to describe the grandeur of the falls!
Iguazu Falls are divided by various islands into separate waterfalls, four times the width of Niagara Falls. Gargantua del Diablo or Devil's Throat with its perpetual spray high over the falls, is one of the best known. Bernabe Mendez, Bossetti, and the San Martin are other notable falls.
Gargantua del Diablo or Devil's Throat
Called Cataratas del Iguazu in Spanish, Iguazu Falls, are a UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site and lie on the Brazil, Argentina border.
Cataratas del Iguazu
For connections to the falls, check flights from your location to either Argentina or Brazil. Also, you can browse for car rentals and hotels.
Protected by Brazilian and Argentine national parks on either side of the cascades, the falls are part of a jungle ecosystem. You can also tour Iguazu National Park where there are bird hikes and jungle trails, and where two thirds of the falls are on the Argentinian side of the river. To fully enjoy the wildlife fauna and flora, plan a full day in the park.
Iguazu National Park
It is better to plan at least two days but it is possible to see the surrounding region and falls in a fast trip backpacking around South America. There are helicopter rides out over the falls and the view from the Brazilian side is the most panoramic. Also, you can take boat rides out to the falls. For photographs or video, the light is best in the morning.
Brazil - Foz de Iguacu Park
Where 14 falls drop 350 feet with such force that there is always a 100 foot cloud of spray overhead, seen from the Brazilian side is the spectacular Devil's Throat, garganta del diablo. See the rainbow! Walk out over the falls at Salto Union, or walk through the subtropical forest of the National Park to the base of Salto Floriano and take the elevator to the top of the falls for a close up view.
You can take a series of catwalks over the water rushing into Devil's Gorge from the Argentine side. Protective rain suits are provided. It is possible to swim in the spray of the cascades in some areas. Be aware that you might have a resulting problem with cuticle parasites but ask locally for instructions and more information.
In the spring and fall are the best times to see Iguazu Falls. In winter the water level is considerably lower, and summer is intensely humid and hot. Many tour operators provide sightseeing opportunities around the area and there are hotels on both sides of the river.
The borders of Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina, are downstream from the falls where the Iguazu and Parana rivers meet. In each of their countries where you can see all three, each country has created a landmark in their national colors on a spot.
The Iguazu and Parana Rivers
The first Spanish explorer to see the falls was in 1541. The falls name comes from the word for great water. The vast power of the falls was not fully utilized until the construction of the huge Itaipu hydroelectric power plant built jointly by Brazil and Paraguay.
Itaipu Hydroelectric Power Plant
Satisfying nearly forty percent of Argentine and Brazil power needs, completed in 1991, the dam provides 12,600,000 KW of power and is open to tours. Touted by both countries as a masterpiece of technology, the dam, is one of the largest in the world.
Enjoy your backpacking around South America and try to stay dry!
Backpacking Around South America
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