Cotopaxi National Park or Parque Nacional Cotopaxi is located in
Napo and Pichincha Provinces of Ecuador. The national reserve covers
an area of 33,393 ha. Cotopaxi National Park is named after volcano
Cotopaxi within its boundaries. At a height of 5,897 m (19,347 ft)
Cotopaxi is one of the tallest active volcanoes in the World. The
first known attempt to climb the mountain was in 1802 then German
naturalist and explorer Alexander von Humboldt made only half way.
On November 27, 1872 geologist Wilhelm Reiss finally made it to the
top of Cotopaxi. Today hundreds climb this impressive mountain that
is ranked alpine F/PD grade. This Ecuadorian national park is
inhabited by condors, rabbits, deer and cougars. Pine tree forests
are commonly found in this harsh environment. Additionally the
Cotopaxi park has ruins of Puruhaes natives that use to live in this
area despite dangerous location on a volcano.
The Park is connected to Latacunga and Quito by the
six-lane Pan-American Highway, which allows the trip from Quito to
the park in approximately two hours and from Latacunga in one hour.
An alternative is the train, which also departs from Quito, and it
takes an hour and a half to reach the park station, another
alternative would be entering the city of Machachi, heading to the
Barrio Santa Ana del Pedregal, where you can visit some hostels.
The Cotopaxi National Park ..
GEOGRAPHICAL SITUATION.- It
is located between the provinces of Cotopaxi, Pichincha and Napo.
SURFACE.- It has an area of 33,393 hectares.- Its highest point is
the summit of the Cotopaxi Volcano, at 5897 meters above sea level.
TEMPERATURE.-Its temperature varies from the end of -10 degrees
Celsius when it is very cold on the glaciers, up to 20 degrees
Celsius on the sunniest days on the lowest moor, depending on the
height. PRECIPITATION.-Annual average of 500 to 1500 mm.
DISTANCE.-From Quito 45 kilometers and 35 kilometers from the city
of Latacunga. ACCESS ROAD.-Carriage to the parking lot of the
Jose Ribas SJ Refuge, at 4 500 meters high. VISITS.- At any time
of the year, preferably from July to December. ATTRACTIONS.- The
Cotopaxi for its landscapes, its glaciers and summit; the Jose
'Ribas SJ Shelter at 4 800 meters high; the trails, the moors, the
lagoons, the archeological ruins, the places to walk and camp, the
mountain bike trails, the horseshoe trails ... The mountain lodges
in the lower moors in or near the Park. CREATION.-In August 1975.
Flora and climatic floors There are few dense native forests
as the rest have been destroyed by fire or cut down to sow grass.
There are extensive moors with 'Stipa ichu', moor straw that is the
predominant graminea in the region. As it rises, representative
plants such as chuquiragua, alchemila, plant colonies in the form of
pads, mosses, lichens, romelios, quishuar or tree of god, and
mortiño appear. In perpetuated snow there is no vegetation.
In the park there are four climatic floors or living areas: the
humid mountain forest, the sub-Andean rainforest, Andean rainforest,
and the snow floor.
The humid montane forest represents the
lowest part of the Park, between 3,400 and 3,900 m.s.n.m .; with
temperatures between 6º and 12º C and average rainfall of 1,000 to
2,000 mm per year. The main feature is that its trees are deformed
and are of low height, are forests of very difficult access and
there are few samples of this area within the Park: ex. Crater of
the Rumiñahui volcano and western flanks of the Cotopaxi; This is
due to the annual grazing and burning activities, although in recent
years these actions have been considerably reduced, a little helping
the recovery of this ecosystem. In 1981, in an investigation, Stipa
ichu (páramo straw) and moss were found as more abundant. Lesser
species were found such as: Halenia weddelliana (Tarugacacho),
Gentiana sedifolia (Lligllisisa-sachamor), Bromus pubescens,
Alchemilla orbiculata, Archirophorus quitensis, Pernetia sp.
Chuquiragua jussieui (Chuquirahua) and Licopodium sp. In the lower
parts of this area, there are some tree species among which stand
out: Oreopanax andreanus (Pumamaqui), Prunus serótina Capulí) and
Gynoxys sp. (Yanachilca-chilca negra).
The sub-Andean pluvial
wasteland comprises between 3,900 and 4,400 m.a.s.l. with
temperatures of 3º to 6º C and rainfall of 1,000 to 2,000 mm per
year. This area occupies a good extension of the Park, mainly on the
slopes of the Cotopaxi and Rumiñahui volcanoes. Within its flora, we
still see the predominance of moor straw, lichen and lycopodia.
The Andean storm tundra located between 4,400 to 4,700 m.a.s.l.,
average temperatures of 1.5º to 3º C and annual rainfall of 1,000 to
2,000 mm. The great feature is that the vegetation forms colonies
and the grasses disappear since this area is especially below the
snowy area and the sandy areas. One of the main representatives are
the well-known pads (Werneria sp.), And Senecio (Culcitium
canescens); In addition, we find moss, lichens and some other
species in smaller quantities.
The snow floor includes the
entire surface covered by snow and glaciers where there is no
vegetation. On the Cotopaxi volcano, the snow starts at an average
height of 4,800m, although there are currently areas like its
western side starting at 5,100m and on its eastern flanks this level
can start from 4,600m. of altitude.
It is worth making a very important note regarding the theme of
the flora of the Cotopaxi National Park, and this refers to a
special theme such as that of pine forests. Around the PNC there are
large pine plantations (Pinus radiata), a species native to
California-North America, which was introduced in 1976 and which are
made for commercial purposes. Although it is true, most of these
plantations are outside the limits of the Park, these plantations
have created “microhabitats” that in most have displaced the
characteristic moorland, and have also changed the dynamics of
ecosystems, so that also in some cases they have served as a refuge
for some species of animals such as white-tailed deer and small bird
species (Coello, 1996).
Wildlife Among the mammals that
inhabit the park are South American camelids like the llama, as well
as there are herds of wild horses in the northern and eastern
sectors of the park. There are also white-tailed deer, spectacled
bear, puma, wild rabbits, the wolf of the moor, the cervicabra, the
skunk, the zarigüella or raposa, the mole mouse, and the Andean
The most important birds are the hawk, hawk, duck,
owl, owl, caracara, condor, Andean toucan and hummingbirds
Infrastructure: cabins, high mountain center, camping center,
travelers center, Jose Ribas Shelter, SJ.
of Citadel of the Puruháes.
Astronomy: Center for Integrated
Surveys of Natural Resources by Remote Sensors (CLIRSEN).
Park is a very sheltered place of the night city light. For this
reason, in addition to its height and equatorial location, it is
very treasured by fans as an ideal place to observe the stars of the