Iguazu Falls, Argentina

     In July of 2019, I was in Argentina with a couple of traveling buddies, to see the Total Solar Eclipse, (July 2, 2019).  We had decided to view the Eclipse on the western side of Argentina.  But we flew into Buenos Aires on the eastern side of Argentina.   It took us three days to get to the Eclipse site. So it was going to take us three days to get back to Buenos Aires to fly out.  We decided to take to take six days instead, and see the sites of Northern Argentina.  Three of those sites are shown here:

Iguazu Falls area map in Argentina

     Our first site to visit was the Campo del Cielo Meteorite site.  The Campo del Cielo refers to the area where a group of Iron Meteorites are found.  This area was situated on the border between the provinces of Chaco and Santiago del Estero, 1,000 kilometers northwest of Buenos Aires, Argentina. The crater field covered an area of 3 by 18.5 kilometers  and contained at least 26 craters, the largest being 115 by 91 meters.   It took us all day to get there on July 5th from our starting point near the Ischiqualasto Provincial Park.  The craters’ age is estimated as 4,000–5,000 years. The craters, containing iron masses, were reported in 1576, but were already well known to the aboriginal inhabitants of the area. The craters and the area around contain numerous fragments of an iron meteorite.   

The Pampas of Argentina

     A vast waving sea of hip-high grasses interrupted only by far-off horizons, lagoons, palm trees and the occasional tree-like  ombu shrub, the Pampas of central Argentina is an open, flat land of Argentina wildlife.  Making up a full quarter of the country’s land area, the Pampas hosts some of the richest soils in the world.  Our travels to the Campo del Cielo Meteorite site was on dirt roads and made the trip a slow  and frustrating trek, especially with a car-rental. By the time we got to the site, it had got dark and we didn’t have ability to explore the site. 

The “El Chaco”; image taken from: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:ID_H003_Campo_del_Cielo_7859.jpg

   The largest two fragments, the 30.8-ton Gancedo and 28.8-ton El Chaco, are among the heaviest single-piece meteorite masses recovered on Earth.  The second-largest mass of 28,840 kg named El Chaco was located in 1969 at a depth of 5 meters using a metal detector.   Unfortunately, we were unable to take a picture of it because it was too dark. So I am using an image from the above Wikimedia website.

The transition zone between “The Pampas” and “The Ibera Marshes”

     On July 6th, we continued east across north-eastern Argentina.  It was there that we entered the “Ibera Marshes”.  A lush mosaic of grassy meadows, mucky marshes, and spongy swamps, the Ibera wetland complex in northeastern is mostly inaccessible, waterlogged world, sheltering rare denizens of Argentina wildlife.

The Ibera Marshes in northeastern Argentina

     The Ibera Marshes host one of the rarest ecosystems on Earth: deep-water lagoons with floating islands known as embalsados, or “dam lands”, which move up and down with water levels.

Embalsados in the Ibera Marshes

     Formed by the interweaving of aquatic plants, the tangled platforms of vegetation can grow more than 3 m thick and are strong enough to support full grown trees.

The Ibera Marshes of Argentina
The Ibera Marshes in Argentina 2019

     The second-largest marshland in South America, Ibera covers an area larger than the country of Jamaica.  Undisturbed for centuries, a recently completed dam on the Parana river is causing the water table to rise, threatening to turn the marshland into a lake, (pictured above).  Driving across the Ibera Marshes took all day.  Our next destination, on July 7th, was the Iguazu Falls. 

On top of Iguazu Falls in Argentina 2013

     Here, the Iguazu River pours 58,000 tons of water per second over the southern edge of the Parana Plateau into a horseshoe-shaped gorge.

     Tree-lined islands and rocky outcrops separate more than 275 individual cascades that drop vertically or flow over stepped ledges in the gorge walls.

On top of Iguazu Falls in Argentina 2013

     The thunderous roar of the water can be heard from a great distance, and spray is thrown high into the air.

“The Union Falls” on top of Iguazu Falls in Argentina 2013

      The highest waterfall is the Union Falls that spills into the Devil’s Throat, a deep chasm where the river has cut into a geological fault.

The Iguazu falls in Argentina 2019

     My trekking group and I spent the day hiking on a group of specially constructed walkways and footbridges that took us spectacular growths of bamboos, palms, liana, and wild orchids that border the gorge under the falls.

The Iguazu Falls in Argentina 2019

     Trees festooned with ferns, lichens, and bromeliads are decorated with the hanging nest of local birds.

The Iguazu Falls in Argentina 2019

     The staircase character of the falls consists of a two-step waterfall formed by three layers of basalt. The steps are 35 and 40 m in height. The columnar basalt rock sequences are part of the 1,000-metre-thick Serra Geral Formation within the Paleozoic-Mesozoic Paraná Basin.

Two smaller falls found near the Iguazu Falls in Argentina 2019

     The tops of these sequences are characterized by 8–10 m of highly resistant vesicular basalt and the contact between these layers controls the shape of the falls. Headwater erosion rates are estimated at 1.4–2.1 cm/year.  Iguazu Falls had formed on the rim of the basaltic Paraná Plateau, Serra Geral Formation. This volcanic plateau formed in Lower Cretaceous period some 132 million years ago in an enormous volcanic eruption nearby.

The Coati is the symbol of the Iguazu Falls

     Pictured above is the Quati Cauda-Anelada (Ring-Tailed Coati). Its main feature is the eight black circles present on the tail.  It is a common resident around the Iguazu Falls. These animals are omnivores, meaning they eat meat and fruit and can find everything within their own habitat. The Coati is essentially a hunter, you can tell that by his quickness in capturing the snack of the unsuspecting.

Video from below the Iguazu Falls


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