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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Iguazu Falls

Iguazu Falls is waterfall of the Iguazu River located on the border of the Brazilian state of Parana and the Argentine province of Misprision. It is also called as Iguassu Falls, or Iguacu Falls. The falls divide the river into the upper and lower Iguazu. Their name comes from the Guarani or Tupi words and uasu. Legend has it that a god planned to marry a beautiful aborigine named Naipi, who fled with her mortal lover Taroba in a canoe. The first European to find the falls was the Spanish Conquistador Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca in 1541, after whom one of the falls in the Argentine side is named. The falls were rediscovered by Boselli at the end of the nineteenth century, and one of the Argentine falls is named after him.

Iguazu FallsIguazu Falls was short-listed as a candidate to be one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature by the New Seven Wonders of the World Foundation. As of February 2009 it was ranking fifth in Group F, the category for lake, rivers, and waterfalls. The waterfall system consists of 275 falls along 2.7 kilometers or 1.67 miles of the Iguazu River. Some of the individual falls are up to 82 meters or 269 ft in height, though the majority are about 64 metres or 210 ft. The Devil's Throat, a U-shaped, 82-meter-high, 150-meter-wide and 700-meter-long or 490 by 2300 feet cataract, and marks the border between Argentina and Brazil. Two thirds of the falls are within Argentine territory. About 900 meters of the 2.7-kilometer length does not have water flowing over it. The edge of the basalt cap recedes only 3 mm or 0.1 in per year. The water of the lower Iguazu collects in a canyon that drains into the Parana River at Argentina, shortly downstream from the Itaipu dam.

The falls can be reached from the two main towns on either side of the falls Foz do Iguacu in the Brazilian state of Parana, and Puerto Iguazu in the Argentine province of Misiones as well as from Ciudad del Este Paraguay on the other side of the Parana river from Foz do Iguacu. The falls are shared by the Iguazu National Park Argentina and Iguacu National Park. These parks were designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1984 and 1987, respectively.

On the Brazilian side there is a long walkway along the canyon with an extension to the lower base of the Devils Throat. From Foz do Iguacu airport the park can be reached by taxi R$ 15-17 or bus no 120 to entrance of the park. There is an entrance fee to the park. Free frequent buses are provided to various points within the park. The park opens at 9 am and closes at 5.30 pm. The town of Foz do Iguacu is about 20 kms away and the airport is in between the park and the town.

The Argentine access is facilitated by the Rainforest Ecological Train, which brings visitors to different walkways. The Paseo Garganta del Diablo is a one-kilometer-long trail that brings the visitor directly over the falls of the Devil's Throat. Other walkways allow access to the elongated stretch of falls on the Argentine side and to the ferry that connects to the San Martin Island. The fall area provides opportunities for water sports and rock climbing.

Upon seeing Iguazu, the United States First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt reportedly exclaimed Poor Niagara! Iguazu is also often compared with Southern Africa Victoria Falls which separates Zambia and Zimbabwe. Iguazu is wider, but because it is split into about 270 discrete falls and large islands, Victoria is the largest curtain of water in the world, at over 1,600 m or 5,249 ft wide and over 100 m or 328 ft in height. The only wider falls are extremely large rapid-like falls such as the Boyoma Falls. With the flooding of the Guaira Falls in 1982, Iguazu currently has the second greatest average annual flow of any waterfall in the world, after Niagara, with an average rate of 1746 m³/s.

The water falling over Iguazu in peak flow has a surface area of about 40 Ha or 1.3 million ft² whilst Victoria in peak flow has a surface area of over 55 ha or 1.8 million ft². By comparison, Niagara has a surface area of under 18.3 ha or 600,000 ft². Victoria's annual peak flow is also greater than Iguazus annual peak 9,100 m³/s versus 6,500 though in times of extreme flood the two have recorded very similar maximum water discharge. Niagaras average flow is about 2,400 m³/s, although an all-time peak of 8,269 has been recorded. Iguazu and Victoria fluctuate more greatly in their flow rate. Mist rises between 30 metres or 98 ft and 150 m or 492 ft from Iguazus Devils Throat, and over 300 m or 984 ft above Victoria.

Iguazu FallsIguazu FallsIguazu, however, affords better views and walkways and its shape allows for spectacular vistas. At one point a person can stand and be surrounded by 260 degrees of waterfalls. The Devils Throat has water pouring into it from three sides. Likewise, because Iguazu is split into many relatively small falls, one can view these a portion at a time. Victoria does not allow this, as it is essentially one waterfall that falls into a canyon and is too immense to appreciate at once.

As of July 24, 2006 a severe drought in South America had caused the river feeding the falls to become parched, reducing the amount of water flowing over the falls to 300 m³ or 80,000 gallons per second, down from the normal flow of 1,300 m³/s to 1,500 m³/s. By early December, the flow was spectacular again, according to visiting tourists. This was unusual, as normally dry periods last only a few weeks.

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