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Caracol State Park (Parque Estadual do Caracol)
Location: 9 km from Canela, Rio Grande do Sul
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
Parque Estadual do Caracol or Caracol State Park is situated 9 km from Canela
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.
Environment 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
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.
Tourism 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.
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