How can one describe Iguazú Falls (photos)? We can begin with the facts and figures:
1.7 miles/2.7 kilometers long series of waterfalls
Average water flow of 61,660 cubic feet per second
Maximum recorded water flow of 452,000 cubic feet per second
275 discreet waterfalls (varies between 150 and 300 depending upon water flow)
Height of falls from 197 to 269 feet
Voted in 2011 as one of the New Seven Wonders of Nature
There are various ways to compare waterfalls but any way you slice it, Iguazú Falls ranks among the worlds biggest and most amazing. Niagara Falls has a greater average water flow but Iguazú has the highest recorded flow. Victoria Falls in Southern Africa is taller and presents a single massive curtain of water. Most people consider Iguazú to provide the best experience since it is very accessible and provides the visitor many different ways to view it.
Iguazú Falls are on the Iguazú River which runs through Brazil. The falls occur when the river tumbles over the Paraná Plateau. Numerous islands cause the river to fracture into many different streams along the plateau and result in the large number of discreet falls. The falls are shared between Argentina on the east side and Brazil on the west. Each side operates a national park giving access to view the falls. Many people consider that the Argentinian side provides the best view and access to the falls.
Once you enter Parque Nacional Iguazú in Argentina, you walk to the Central Station, where a train will take you to the Cataratas Station. From there you can choose to begin your exploration of the falls by taking the upper trail, Paseo Superior or the lower trail, Paseo Inferior. Both “trails” are mostly raised metal catwalks so you have a nice clear and clean walking path in any weather conditions.
The upper trail is almost one-half mile long and leads you along a portion of the upper edge of the plateau and within a few feet above the water as it rushes over the edge of some of the waterfalls. The lower trail is almost 1 mile long and takes you down along the edge of the lower portion of the Iguazú River below the waterfalls. The trail affords some killer views of the waterfalls on the eastern side of the plateau. Also from this trail, there is a boat that takes you across the river to San Martin Island that sits in the middle of the river in front of the falls. Unfortunately, when we were there this boat service was not running due to high water levels.
About half of the river’s flow occurs in a long and narrow, U-shaped chasm called the Devil’s Throat or Garganta del Diablo. Water cascades into the chasm from three sides with the bulk of the flow in the bottom of the U. From the Cataratas Station the train will take you to the Garganta del Diablo Station. From that point there is a 2/3 mile long walkway that takes you out across the upper Iguazú River and puts you on a platform above the edge of the Devil’s Throat. It is a formidable sight and an amazing experience to watch the cascades of water churning all around you. The sound is like thunder and the mist rises in a dense cloud into the air as high as 500 feet.
Iguazú Falls is located in a finger of Argentina extending out from the northeast of the country. It was sort of difficult to figure out the best way to plan for visiting there. It’s best done while on the way to or from Paraquay or Brazil but since we weren’t planning to visit either one on this trip we decided to go there from Buenos Aires. The falls are located about 15 miles from the town of Puerto Iguazu so we made the trip there and spent two nights.
The national park is very well run. It is very clean and well organized. There are lots of maps and signage around to help you find your way and people at information booths to answer your questions. They have plenty of bathrooms and snack bars for when you want to take a break. There is a bus service that runs every 15 minutes between Puerto Iguazu and the park. It all makes for a very easy and pleasant experience for visiting these amazing waterfalls.