The famous Iguazu Falls are on the Iguazu River in South America, on the border between Brazil and Argentina.
As the largest waterfall system in the world, they are a popular tourist destination and part of the Iguazu National Park, a UNESCO world heritage site since 1984.
Iguazu Falls Facts for Kids
- The word ‘Iguazu’ means ‘great water’ in the local language.
- The semi-circular, horseshoe-shaped falls are 1.7 miles (2.7 km) wide and made up of around 275 different individual falls depending upon the river’s flow.
- The tallest of the waterfalls is called the Devil’s Throat and has a drop of more than 262 feet (80 meters), making Iguazu Falls almost twice as tall as Niagara Falls and nearly three times as wide.
- The Devil’s Throat is the largest curtain of flowing water at Iguazu Falls and is made up of 14 individual waterfalls.
- On average 1,500 cubic meters of water flows down the falls every second, which can increase up to 13,000 during the rainy season.
- In 2011, Iguazu Falls were chosen as one of the New Seven Wonders of Nature.
- Many of the individual falls that makeup Iguazu Falls are broken up by rocks that stick out. This creates a huge mist and colorful rainbows.
- Alvar Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca was the first Spanish explorer to see the falls in 1541.
- In the 1930s two national parks were created around the falls, one on the Brazilian side and the other on the Argentinian side, to protect the unique and spectacular landscape, animals and plants. Both parks were designated UNESCO World Heritage status in the 1980s.
- The nearest towns are Puerto Iguazu in Argentina and Foz do Iguacu in Brazil. Many tourists visiting the Iguazu Falls fly into the international airport at Foz do Iguacu.
- Most of the falls are situated on the Argentinian side, but it is possible to get very good photos and views from the Brazilian side. Both sides offer trails and viewing platforms as well as tours of their national parks.
Question: Is increased tourism causing environmental problems at Iguazu Falls?
Answer: Iguazu Falls has grown in popularity as a tourist destination with almost 900,000 visitors to the Argentinian side of the park in one year and up to 12,000 a day in peak season on the Brazilian side. Although this generates a lot of money for the governments of both countries (the falls are the property of the countries), such large numbers of people visiting the falls has an effect on the surroundings.
Both countries try to encourage tourism, while where possible, protecting the natural environment and adapting the way people visit. This is an ongoing struggle. For example, the construction of a railroad near to the falls has decreased the amount of pollution from road vehicles coming into the area with tourists. It has also made the area more accessible which in turn means even greater visitor numbers.
Boat trips, helicopters and road traffic at the parks are increasing with tourist numbers, as is the pollution that they cause. Although Iguazu Falls is a leading ecotourism destination, more needs to be done to protect the site and its surroundings.
Question: Why is the Iguazu Falls a popular tourist destination?
Answer: The Iguazu Falls is growing in popularity for several reasons. South America in general is receiving higher tourist numbers. Iguazu Falls, as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, is on many people’s lists of places to see.
Ecotourism is also growing in popularity as is the desire to stand out on social media by going to somewhere seen as being a little more out of the ordinary. Online, people can ask strangers about their travel experiences and can book and find different offers.
Cheaper flights and improved transportation have made what once seemed quite inaccessible much easier to reach and more affordable. This has made one of nature’s most spectacular sights a possibility for a greater number of people to visit.