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Cajas National Park (Parque Nacional Cajas)

Cajas National Park




Location: Azuay Province   Map

Area: 285.44 km² (28,544 ha)




Description of Cajas National Park

Cajas National Park known also as Parque Nacional Cajas or simply El Cajas is located in Azuay Province in Ecuador. Cajas National Park covers an area of 285.44 km² (28,544 ha). he name of Cajas National Park is derived from a local dialect of Quichua native tribes and is translated as "cold" or "doorway to snowy mountains". Either way the name fits the description of Ecuadorian highlands. Most of Cajas National Park is located at the elevation between 3100 m and 4450 m above sea level. Dress appropriately since the average temperatures here are 13.2 °C and if you have problems with high altitudes you should take medications to decrease its negative effects.



Travel Destinations in Cajas National Park

Hill of Three Crosses

Hill of Three Crosses is one of the highest point in the protected reserve. It serves as a watershed boundary between waters that flows to the Pacific on the Western side and water that flows to the Amazon river and subsequently to the Atlantic Ocean on the Eastern side. The three crosses is devoted to all the lives lost who died in the vicinity of this geological formation.




On the heights of the Western Cordillera de los Andes, west of the city of Cuenca, there is the Cajas National Park, formed mainly by large elevations that keep lacustrine systems in its interior in the form of huge interconnected boxes, hence its name - Boxes. With the fundamental framework of a parametric ecosystem, there are more than 1000 bodies of water in the Park, among which 235 well-defined lagoons located above its extensive valleys stand out; Among the most important are Luspa, Lagartococha, Osohuaycu, Mamamag or Taitachungo, Quinoascocha, La Toreadora, Sunincocha, Cascarillas, Ventanas, Llaviucu, Angas, Ventanas and Tinguishcocha; This large number of lagoons regulates and preserves the streams of the area through its drainage. Rivers like the Tomebamba, the Mazán, the Yanuncay and the Migüir are born in the Cajas, and provide drinking water to the city of Cuenca. These rivers are, at the same time, main contributors to the Paute Hydroelectric Complex, which provides electricity to almost the entire country.

Thanks to the varied and abundant bodies of water that make up the park there is also a considerable presence of migratory birds in the area. This situation, together with the contribution of the area to the collection and provision of water to surrounding communities, allowed the place to be recognized as a Ramsar or Wetland site of International Importance since 2002.

In the area there is no marked regularity of the weather; Frequent frosts occur and there is a permanent presence of drizzles (garúa) and fog.

The plant formations that occur in the park are: high montane mist forest, high montane evergreen forest, and herbaceous moor, in which the passage and tourist area is established. In the eastern limit of the park is a sub-Andean rain forest (bp-SA), composed mainly of tree species and shrubs with a great diversity of orchids, ferns and mosses. The forest formation of Polylepis, qiwuña, "quinoa" or "paper tree" stands out, which is between 8 and 10 m high, and grows at the edge of the lagoons or ravines and in rocky places and is the only one tree species above 4,000 meters above sea level. In the western limit, timber species abound.

The flora that the PNC possesses is biodiverse since it has ecosystems rich in flora, the most representative species of the Cajas are grouped in forests that include trees and shrubs of regular size. We found residual trees of sarar, pichul, yellow, red quinoa, ferns, moss, orchids of different genera.In general, there is a record of 600 vascular plant species. The area has come to represent more than half of the plant biodiversity of the Cuenca canton.

On the other hand, the effects of human actions, grazing and burning have degraded some areas of the Park, which carries out restoration of the most affected parts with plantations of native grass or Polylepis species.

In the Cajas the characteristic fauna of the Ecuadorian moors is registered. There are white-tailed deer, spectacled bear, puma, yaguarundí, deer of the moor, moor rabbits, the Andean tapir, muerciélagos, images of the presence of the wolf of the moor have been registered, as well as the flame has been reintroduced. The most important birds are the caracara, the condor, the Andean toucan, ducks and hummingbirds. The Cajas water mouse is an endemic species of the park. In addition to these species, the Cajas National Park has species such as: puma, hurí, raposo, chucurillo, añas, fox, guatusa, augur, deer, yamala, danta, spectacled bear and bat. 3. Like the northern El Angel Ecological Reserve, the Cajas is recognized and very popular for its trout.

The Cajas National Park has 152 species of birds, among these are: hawk, tile, condor, pajonal pituyo, curiquinga, chaupau, chirote, hawk, among others. Within these bird species, 8 are considered under threat criteria.

On the other hand, in the mid-40s, the introduction of trout into the rivers and lagoons of the area to promote sport fishing; later there was the favorable environment for the development of aquaculture in the area, mainly in culture pools.

The total species registered for the Cajas National Park, correspond to 10.3% of the total species registered in Ecuador.





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