One of the Things You Have to See Before You Die
All Ontarians are spoilt with grander of Niagara Falls. However, legend says that upon seeing Iguazu Falls, the United States’ First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt exclaimed “Poor Niagara!” To agree or disagree with her, one has to see the both.
Taller than Niagara Falls, twice as wide with 275 separate water falls spread in a U-shape over nearly two miles of the Iguazu River, Iguazu Falls is a luxurious gift from Mother Nature. Iguazu 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
Iguazu is also often compared with Southern Africa’s Victoria Falls which separates Zambia and Zimbabwe. Iguazu is wider, but because it is split into about 275 discrete falls and large islands, Victoria is the largest curtain of water in the world, at over 1,600 m wide and over 100m in height (in low flow Victoria is split into five by islands; in high flow it can be uninterrupted).
The name “Iguazu” comes from two native words meaning “water” and “big”. Legend has it that a god planned to marry a beautiful woman named Naipí
, who fled with her mortal lover Tarobá
in a canoe. In rage the god sliced the river, creating the waterfalls and condemning the lovers to an eternal fall.
The first European to find the falls was the Spanish Conquistador Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca in 1541, after whom one of the falls on the Argentine side is named.
Iguazu Falls is located where the Iguazu River tumbles over the edge of the Paraná Plateau. The falls are part of a singular practically virgin jungle ecosystem protected by Argentine and Brazilian national parks on either side of the cascades. Two-thirds of the falls are within Argentine territory. About 900m of the 2.7km length does not have water flowing over it. The edge of the basalt cap recedes by 3mm per year. The water of the lower Iguazu collects in a canyon that drains in the Paraná River, a short distance downstream from the Itaipu Dam. The junction of the water flows marks the border between Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay.
Numerous islands along the 2.7km long edge divide the falls into about 275 separate waterfalls and cataracts, varying between 60m and 82m. About half of the river’s flow falls into a long and narrow chasm called the Devil’s Throat (Garganta del Diablo
in Spanish or Garganta do Diabo
in Portuguese). The Devil’s Throat is U-shaped, 82m-high, 150m-wide, and 700m-long. The border between Argentina and Brazil runs through the Devil’s Throat. The Argentine side comprises three sections: the upper falls, the lower falls, and the Devil’s Throat. During the rainy season of November – March, the rate of flow of water going over the falls may reach 12,750 cubic m per second.
Mist rises between 30m and 150m from Iguazu’s Devil’s Throat. Iguazu offers magnificent 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 Devil’s Throat, in Argentina, has water pouring into it from three sides.
It is possible to see the falls and surrounding area in a lightning trip but it is better to plan at least two days. The view from the Brazilian side is the most panoramic and there are helicopter rides out over the falls from Foz do Iguaçu. You may also take boat rides out to the falls. The light is best in the morning for photographs.
The best times to see Iguazu Falls are in the spring and fall. Summer is intensely tropically hot and humid, and in winter the water level is considerably lower.