Iguaçu Falls: Iguaçu National Park (Brazil)

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Iguaçu Falls: Iguaçu National Park (Brazil)

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The Iguaçu National Park in Paraná State, Brazil shares with Iguazú National Park in Argentina, one of the world’s largest and most impressive waterfalls. Clouds of spray soak the surrounding area and islands in the river are consequently covered by luxuriant vegetation.

Iguaçu Falls

The Iguaçu Falls occur along a wide span where the Iguaçu (Iguazu) River, flowing westward and then northward, tumbles over the edge of the Paraná Plateau before continuing its course in a canyon. They are known as the Iguazú Falls on the Argentinian side of the border.

Also known as Cataratas do Iguaçu or Saltos do Iguaçu, are a series of cataracts on the Iguaçu River, 23 km (14 mi) above its confluence with the Upper Paraná River, at the Argentina-Brazil border. The landscape results from volcanic processes dating back 500 million years, which forged its stunning geomorphological features.

The falls resemble an elongated horseshoe that extends for 1.7 mi (2.7 km) and is nearly three times wider than Niagara Falls in North America and significantly more than the width of Victoria Falls in Africa. Numerous rocky and wooded islands on the edge of the escarpment, over which the Iguaçu River plunges, divide the falls into some 275 separate waterfalls or cataracts, varying between 60 and 82 m (200 and 269 ft) in height.

The falls occur along a wide span where the Iguaçu River, flowing westward and then northward, tumbles over the edge of the Paraná Plateau before continuing its course in a canyon. Many individual falls are broken midway by protruding ledges; the resultant deflection of the water and the spray that arises create an array of rainbows.

Iguaçu National Park

Iguaçu National Park, also a World Heritage Site, covers approximately 170,000 ha (420,000 acres) in the State of Paraná in southern Brazil, adjacent to the Iguazú National Park, a World Heritage Site in Argentina.

Both properties, together with some protected areas, are contiguous significant remnants of the interior Atlantic Forest. The Atlantic Forest was once a much larger forest area along the junction of the Iguaçu and Paraná rivers where Paraguay, Argentina and Brazil converge.

Iguaçu National Park was legally established as a national park by the Federal Government in 1939 and was twice expanded in 1944 and 1981, thus reaching its current size. Iguaçu National Park is a fully protected area restricted to the non-destructive use of natural resources.

The Chico Mendes Institute for Biodiversity Conservation (ICMBio) manages the area, a federal autarchy attached to the Brazilian Ministry of Environment and an integral part of the Brazilian Environmental National System (SISNAMA).

The Park's main attraction and a significant destination for international and domestic tourism is the impressive waterfalls system of the Iguaçu (or Iguazú) river, renowned for its visual and acoustic beauty, which spans nearly 3 km (1.8 mi), with vertical drops of up to 80 m (262 ft).

The river, named after the indigenous term for "great water," forms a semicircle in the heart of the two parks and constitutes the international border between Argentina and Brazil before flowing into the mighty Paraná River, 25 km (15.5 mi) downstream from the Park.

The National Park houses the single entirely preserved hydrographic basin of the State of Paraná, the basin of the Floriano River. It also comprises semi-deciduous subtropical rainforests with a high degree of diversity and endemism, harboring numerous rare charismatic species. Today, it is mainly surrounded by a landscape strongly altered due to heavy logging and rural settlements.