The Park is directed by the Chico Mendes Institute for Biodiversity Conservation (ICMBio), a federal organ responsible for managing the Conservation Areas of Brazil. Iguassu is an example of the integration between conservation and the sustainable use of natural resources.
Iguassu National Park was created in 1939 by the Decree N° 1,035. It houses the largest remnant of Atlantic forest (semidecidual stationary) in southern Brazil. The Park protects a rich biodiversity, consisting of representative species of Brazilian fauna and flora, some of which are endangered, like the jaguar (Panthera onca), the puma (Puma concolor), the broad snout caiman (Caimanlatirostris), the purple breasted parrot (Amazona vinacea), the harpy eagle (Harpia harpyja), the pink peroba (Aspidospermapolyneutron), the ariticum (Rolliniasalicifolia), the araucaria (Araucariaaugustifolia), and many other species of relevance and scientific interest.
The significant biological variability plus the unique landscape with rare scenic beauty of the Iguassu Falls made the Iguassu National Park the first conservation area in Brazil to be established as a World Natural Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1986.
Joined by the Iguassu River to the Iguassu National Park in Argentina, the Park includes important biological continuum from Center and South of South America with more than 600,000 hectares of protected areas and another 400 thousand of still primitive forests. It is a unique responsibility of joint actions between Brazilians and Argentines in an effort to preserve this important heritage.
The word Iguassu means “large water” in the Tupi-Guarani etymology. The cascades are formed by the falls of the Iguassu River. Eighteen kilometers before joining the Parana River, the Iguassu River gains altitude and then plunges 80 meters down. It can reach up to 2,780 meters wide. Its geographical formation dates from about 150 millions years, but the formation of the waterfall’s geographic characteristics began approximately 200,000 years ago.
The Iguassu River measures 1,200 meters in width above the falls. Below, it narrows into a 65 meter channel. The total width of the waterfall in the Brazilian territory is approximately 800 meters and 1,900 in the Argentinean side. The height of the falls varies between 40 to 80 meters, depending on the river flow. The number of falls varies, reaching a little over one hundred during periods of average flow.
The average flow of the river is about 1,500 m³ per second, ranging from 500 m³/s in times of drought and 8,500 m³/s in times of flood. The largest volume of water occurs between the months of October and March.
There are 19 main falls. Five of them are on the Brazilian side (Floriano, Deodoro, Benjamin Constant, Santa Maria and União). The rest are on the Argentinean side. Since most of the falls are on the Argentinean side and facing Brazil, the best views are for those who observe the scene from the Brazilian side.