The Iguazù National Park, officially
established in 1934 and inscribed on the World Heritage List in
1984, covers an area of more than 65.000 hectares.
The site consists of the national park and national reserve. The
park is located less than 5km from the Paraguay border in Misiones
Province, northeastern Argentina, with the reserve contiguous to
the west. The Iguazú River forms the northern boundary of
both the reserve and park, and also the southern boundary of Iguaçu
National Park in Brazil.
The Iguazú River has its source in the Serra do Mar mountains
at an elevation of 1,300m, a short distance from the Atlantic Coast,
and flows west for over 500km into the Parana River, immediately
to the west of Puerto Iguazú.
The Iguazú Falls (a Guarani name meaning 'Great Waters'),
located in the west of the park, are made up of 150-270 subsidiary
falls depending on the flow rate, which seasonally varies between
300 cu.m/sec. and 6,500 cu.m/sec.. The falls form a semi-circular
front of 2,700m, of which 800m is under Brazilian jurisdiction.
A proliferation of elongated islands, islets and rocks create numerous
waterfalls which together form the large fan of the Iguazú
Waterfalls. The falls drop an average of 72m and the river immediately
turns into anarrow, 80m deep canyon, which has been enlarged by
erosion of the basalt bedrock. The falls were probably initially
located at the confluence of the Iguazú and Parana Rivers
some 20,000 years ago, but erosion has caused them to recede 28km
upstream to their present location.
Of all the sights on earth, the Garganta del Diablo must
come closest to the experience of sailing off the edge of a flat
earth imagined by early European sailors. On three sides, the deafening
cascade plunges to a murky destination; the vapors soaking the viewer
blur the base of the falls. It is difficult to abandon a site of
such menacing attraction, where you can still sense the awe that
the region's native peoples must have felt.