As I walked down the long
boardwalk across the Iguazú River, I imagined a spectacular white sheet of
water curving into a horse-shoe shape – my imagination didn’t even come
close to the amazing sight of Devil’s Throat at Iguazú Falls.
Devil’s Throat is the most impressive part of Iguazú Falls. It is the U
shaped cliff at the center of nearly two miles of waterfalls. From the
Argentinean side, you walk across a wooden footpath over the Iguazú River
for about 15 minutes before arriving at the top of this 270 feet high
waterfall. At this point the roar of the water is so loud you have to shout to
the person next to you. The water sprays up over the boardwalk soaking
all of the spectators, and the sight is so spectacular, it becomes a
permanent picture in your mind.
The falls had been know to the indigenous people of South America for
years before the first Spanish explorer discovered them in 1542. The
Spaniard, Alvar Núnez Cabeza de Vaca attempted to name the falls “Saltos
de Santa Maria”, the Virgin who was to protect his expedition, but it was
the original name given by the Guarany people that stuck – I-Guazú, which
translates into ‘great water’.
The Iguazú River runs over a plateau that was formed by volcanic activity
during the Mesozic Era more than 135 million years ago. The falls was
formed about 200,000 years ago when a shift in a geological fault
transformed the mouth of the Iguazú River into a crescent shaped cliff. A
fault is break in the rocks that make up the earth’s crust. When these
faults move it usually results in an earthquake, and depending on the
amount of movement and type of fault, a cliff will be formed.
Another factor in creating the falls was the erosion of the plateau of the
Iguazú River. This plateau that makes the top of the falls consists of
many interleaved layers of sandstone and basalt. These layers erode at
different rates and many times the bottom layer will erode before the
upper layer, causing the top layer to fall off the top of the falls in large sheets
of rock. This erosion not only influenced the shape and size of Iguazu
Falls, but it is also moving the falls. Upon formation Iguazu Falls was
located about 30 miles downstream at the Triple Frontier, the border of
Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay, but erosion has and will continue to move
the falls upstream.
Iguazu Falls is often compared to Victoria Falls, Angel Falls, and Niagara Falls. I
don’t think Niagara Falls is even in the same league, as Iguazu is about
three times the size. Victoria Falls is the world’s largest falls, at 300
feet high and 1 mile wide, but Iguazu Falls consist of 270 different
waterfalls over nearly two miles. Angel Falls is the world's tallest
falls at 807 feet, but it is a very small waterfall. During the dry
season Angel Falls can dry up into nothing more than a trickle.
One advantage of Iguazu Falls is a variety of
viewpoints, ranging from an amazing overlook of the Devil’s Throat to
standing at the base of