“My poor Niagara” – First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt upon seeing the Iguazu Falls
The Iguazu falls, located on the Iguazu river which borders Argentina and Brazil, are collectively considered to be one of the largest waterfalls in the world. Although, the Iguazu river begins in Brazil near the city of Curitiba and the majority of its course continues through Brazil, the vast majority of the falls are on the Argentinean side of the border. The first European to record the falls was the Spanish conquistador Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca in 1541. Today more than 1.6 million people visit the falls annually.
Names and legends
The name Iguazu derives from the Guarani word ‘y’ meaning ‘water’ and ‘ûasu’ meaning ‘big. Legend has it that a God planned to marry a beautiful woman named Naipi, who fled with her lover Tarobá in a canoe. In a fit of rage the god sliced the river in two creating the falls and condemning the lovers to an eternal fall
The falls are located where the Iguazu river tumbles over the edge of the Paraná plateau, 23km (14mi) upstream from the Iguazu’s confluence with the Paraná river. Because of the numerous islands that lie along the 2.7km (1.7mi) edge, the falls are divided into several separate waterfalls and cataracts which vary in height from 82m (269ft) to 60m (197ft). The number of these small falls can vary between 150 to 300 depending on the water level. Although the falls are one of the longest in the word at 2.7km (1.7mi), approximately one-third of this length doesn’t not have any water flowing over it.
The Devil’s Throat
About half the rivers flow falls into a long narrow chasm called ‘Garganta del Diablo’ or ‘the Devil’s Throat’. The Canyon is roughly 80-90m (260-300ft) wide and 70-80m (230-260ft) deep.
Comparisons with other waterfalls
Iguazu is sometimes compared with Victoria Falls in southern Africa which separates Zambia from Zimbabwe. Although Iguazu Fall is almost 1000m (3300ft) longer, it is split into on average into 275 different falls and cataracts, whereas Victoria falls has the largest curtain of water in the world with a width of 1600m (5249ft) and a height a little more than 100m (330ft). With that being said, the volume water flowing over the Iguazu falls is more than 70% greater than that at Victoria Falls. Niagara Falls, on the United States and Canadian border, is the smallest of the three in both height and width, at a height of 51m (167ft) and a width of 1203m (3947ft). However, the waterflow over Niagara Falls is by far the largest being 40% greater than Iguazu and 250% more than Victoria Falls.
Height: 60-82m (197-269ft)
Width: 2.7km (1.7mi)
Average waterflow: 1,756m³/s (62,010 ft³/s)
Number of waterfalls: 275
Longest drop: 82m (269ft)