The Iguazu River runs along the border between northern Argentina and southern Brazil and feeds the largest waterfalls system in the world, Iguazu Falls. The Iguazu falls are higher than Niagara Falls, wider than Victoria Falls, and contains approximately 275 individual waterfalls. National parks dedicated to the falls are present on both sides, and both are UNESCO world heritage sites. The falls can be viewed from the Argentinian side, the Brazilian side, by boat, and by air. Because we’re awesome, we did all four.
PUERTO IGUAZU, ARGENTINA
Puerto Iguazu is the name of the town on the Argentinian side of the falls, and is was our final destination in Argentina. When we arrived, I thought the falls would be nice to see, but waterfalls are waterfalls. I was wrong, and this turned out to be one of the highlights of our time in South America.
A majority of the falls are in Argentina, and the Parque National Iguazú is quite large. The first thing we did here was to walk around the jungle trails in the park, where we saw some cool wildlife.
Next, we took the boardwalk out to the Devil’s Throat, which is where half of the river’s water cascades over rock. This makes for lots of mist and great views.
The best part of our Iguazu visit was the boat trip. Wisconsin people, you know Flash Flood at Noah’s Ark? This was that, times 100. For all non-Wisconsin people, go to Noah’s Ark. Any-hoo, this was really fun.
So after all this, I was pretty wiped out and decided to go back to the truck, BUT, I happen to be married to a crazy person who decided to power hike to the top of the falls with our good friend Ele. In hindsight, I wish I’d gone with them because, rainbows and waterfalls!
FOZ DO IGUAZU
After a few days in Puerto Iguazu, we headed over the border to visit the falls from the Brazilian side. The Brazilian park contains only 20% of the falls, but provided us a more panoramic view of the falls. The Brazilian park has a walkway that takes you out under the falls, similar to the walkways near Niagara Falls. Overall, we enjoyed this side better because you can really appreciate the full, awesome scale of the falls from this vantage point.
After we finished our walk through the Brazilian park, Sydney, Ele, and I decided to take a helicopter ride over the falls. We convinced Sydney to take a ride in the helicopter by explaining that it might be better than an airplane ride (which she hates already). Well, Ele and I had a great time on the helicopter ride, but Sydney has vowed to never go in a helicopter again.
The next day, Samuel and Vaughn (one of our British companions) went to visit the Itaipu Dam (official name: Central Hidroeléctrica Itaipú Binacional) on the Paraná River. The dam straddles the border between Brazil and Paraguay and produces 80% of Paraguay’s power and 15% of Brazil’s power. The entire flow of Iguazu Falls flows through one of Itaipu’s intake pipes in two seconds (there are 20 in the dam)! It is one of the American Society of Civil Engineering’s Wonders of the Engineering World.
The dam is almost 8 km long and has 20 generators, which produce between 14 and 15 GW of energy each year. It holds the world record for yearly energy production, and actually beat the Three Gorges Dam (China) yearly production while we were there! The Itaipu Dam is the second largest hydroelectric dam in the world, behind the Three Gorges Dam.
We saw several interesting birds during our time near Iguazu Falls. The first bird that we saw is the Andean Condor. We saw this massive and impressive bird when we were near the Andes in Chile and Argentina, but we were able to get some really good pictures of it here.
We also saw a Plush Crested Jay while hiking along one of the boardwalks out to the Devil’s Throat.
Another really interesting bird that we saw while walking along the boardwalks was the Anhinga, also known as the snakebird, darter, or water turkey. It is similar in appearance to a cormorant, but has a longer bill and tail, along with the silver/white feathers on the wings and tail and yellow bill and feet.
The last bird we saw on the Brazilian side was the Crested Oropendola. It built long, weaved hanging nests in all the palm trees. The picture I got wasn’t great since they moved so much, but it gives you a general idea of what it looks like. The beak it yellow and rather large, the body is mainly black, and the wings/tail have red and/or yellow on them.