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Caracol State Park (Parque Estadual do Caracol)



Location: 9 km from Canela, Rio Grande do Sul

Entrance Fee: R$10

Open: 8:30am- 5:30pm





Description of Parque Estadual do Caracol or Caracol State Park

Parque Estadual do Caracol or Caracol State Park is situated 9 km from Canela (Caracol State) in the Rio Grande do Sul state in Brazil.  Parque Estadual do Caracol or Caracol State Park is situated 9 km from Canela (Caracol State) in the Rio Grande do Sul state in Brazil.  Parque Estadual do Caracol or Caracol State Park is a protected area in the Southern region in the State of Rio Grande do Sul near a municipality of Canela. It covers a total area of 50 acres of pieheiral (pine forest) of the Brazilian Highlands and Southern coastal Atlantic Forest. Parque Estadual do Caracol is covered by a network of hiking trails. It is famous for Cascata do Caracol or Caracol Waterfall that reaches a height of 130 meters (400 feet). After Iguazu Falls it is the second most visited tourist attraction in Brazil with 289,000 annual visitors. For their comfort a watch tower was erected for a better view of the Caracol Waterfall (Cascata do Caracol) with a total height of 100 feet (30 meters). Additionally there is a cable car that offers tourists an aerial view of the Caracol State Park and Caracol Waterfall below. The entrance to protected reserve also has a restaurant and craft stalls.





In prehistoric times, the park region was occupied by caingangs, fruit and seed gatherers, and hunters. Early European explorers named the region "Cinnamon" on a shin guard under which they camped. The Wassen family of Germany arrived in 1863 and began to cultivate and raise cattle. The area has a pleasant climate and natural beauty of canyons, rivers and waterfalls. Hotels and holiday homes were built in the region from 1900, before the construction of the city of Canela.

In addition to the vacationers, the economy depended on trade in cattle, pigs and their products, which were taken for sale to Porto Alegre and neighboring municipalities. A logging industry developed, exploiting the huge Araucaria forest, and accelerated when the railroad arrived in 1924. A pulp mill was built alongside a tributary of the Caracol River that runs through the park, affecting water quality. This and the destruction of the forests drove tourists away. Many species of animals were also expelled, including the maned wolf (Chrysocyon brachyurus), which was hunted because of a false belief that it killed the cattle.

The Gaucho government declared that the land covered by the park was of public utility in 1954. After legal expropriation, the area was transferred in 1968 to the Canela State Tourist Office. Caracol State Park was founded in 1973 with an area of ​​100 hectares, of which 25 hectares are state-owned.

The climate is temperate, with rainfall distributed throughout the year. The average temperature is 22 ° C in summer and 10,5 ° C in winter, occasionally dropping to -8 ° C. Snow falls in July and August. Above the escarpment of the Caracol waterfall, the vegetation is montane rainforest and araucaria forest. Below the escarpment the vegetation is submontane deciduous forest. The park also contains savannah fields.

The Araucaria forest was devastated by logging between the 1920s and 1950s, but some specimens up to 1.5 meters in diameter are still found near the edge of the escarpment. The vegetation is now regenerating and Araucaria angustifolia is forming an emerging stratum above a canopy of trees such as wild pine, bugre and capororoca. The large number of visitors creates some environmental problems, including destruction of seedlings, garbage and so on. However, the environment is generally recovering and wildlife is returning to their habitats. Some areas are reserved for visitors to use for picnics and recreation, while they are reserved as natural refuges. Thousands of tree seedlings were planted to accelerate the region's recovery.

The area has been recommended for permanent preservation as a refuge for deer and especially caves. Thirty species of mammals were recorded, including bush deer, red howler monkey, small bush cat, coati, otter and prey. 130 bird species were recorded.

The park receives about 2,500,000 visitors annually. It is the most popular tourist destination in southern Brazil after the Iguazu National Park. The park offers barbecue grills for visitors in an area with many covered tables and benches, with nearby restrooms. There is a large grassy area for sports. Adjacent to the park entrance are craft shops, a restaurant and restrooms.

A cable car offers a panoramic view of the falls. The lifts have closed cabins and come from Switzerland. They are privately operated and there is a fee for the tour. There are two lookouts, from which the waterfall can be seen, one with free entrance, the other slightly higher and with an entrance fee. The 27-meter glazed platform is reached by a lift. The Ecological Observatory offers one of the best views. There is a 927 step staircase leading to the base of the waterfall.

The Maned Wolf Project, established in 1991, is park-based and supports low-impact ecotourism and environmental education. The project teaches courses on environmental actions, observation, interpretation and practical ecology of the park. There are four interpretive trails, an environmental education center in an old house built of Araucaria wood by the Wassen family, and an amphitheater. The trails are unsuitable for people in poor physical conditions, who can afford to catch the small train from Vivo Dream Station.




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