CAPANEMA, Brazil – From where it arises in the southern Brazilian city of Curitiba, the waters of the Iguaçu River run for some 1,300 kilometers (800 miles), creating one of the world’s seven new wonders: a stretch of river on which six hydroelectric plants have been built and which hides wildlife that has survived human intervention.
Although 170 km of the river’s course forms part of the protected Iguaçu National Park – Iguaçu meaning “big water” in the local Tupi-Guarani language – human activity along its course has been high.
Despite the six hydroelectric facilities – the latest of them inaugurated last May by the president of Spain’s Iberdrola, Ignacio Galan – the disorderly use of their resources is what has the greatest effect on water quality, which suffers above all from the effects of agricultural, livestock and mining activities.
More than 80 species of mammals, 90 different types of fish and 300 varieties of birds live in the area, which has great potential to become a popular ecotourism zone – both for Brazil and Argentina – quite apart from the natural wonder provided by Iguaçu Falls.
The world-famous falls receive about two million visitors each year on the Brazilian side alone.
Boat trips and hiking are some of the options offered to tourists who want to experience something of the longest river in Parana state, discovering in the process what lies and lives along its waters, which are still calm and silent and give no clue of the power and exuberance that they will gain when they encounter the falls and rapids down which they travel 82 meters (267 feet).
At the end of their route, the waters reach a speed of almost seven meters per second, six times faster than their average speed along the river, and they are forceful enough to tumble a 10-ton boulder along the riverbed.
The magnificent beauty of the giant water cascades found on the border between Brazil and Argentina is impressive, but so is the simplicity and tranquility of the river farther up the stream.
The Macuco Safari company has been offering assorted tourist activities at the Falls for 30 years and last February the firm decided to operate permanently from the city of Capanema, some 90 km along the river from Foz do Iguaçu.
“In Capanema we have trails followed by waterfalls, like the Silva Jardin trail, which is fantastic, with a waterfall 50 meters long and eight meters high. There are four km of trails,” the firm’s business manager, Cleverson Teixeira, told EFE.
Since 2016, the state of Parana has been pursuing a revitalization project established in a law promulgated by former Gov. Beto Richa.
Regarding the large number of hydroelectric plants along the Iguaçu, Teixeira said that they are not harming the local wildlife and that they are just additional tourist attractions for the region.
One of them, Baixo Iguaçu, operated by Neoenergia, a subsidiary of Iberdrola in Brazil, is conducting an important conversation project in the area.