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Stretching 82 feet by 50 yards, and varying from five to 13 feet deep, the 800,000 gallon, multi-purpose swimming pool at the William Woollett Jr. Aquatic complex in Irvine, California is one of the largest pools in the Unites States. Using a standard garden hose, it would take more than three weeks to fill. If you could somehow channel the torrent of water that passes over the massive Iguazú Falls on an average day, it would fill the swimming pool in just over three minutes. During the rainy season, the volume of water tumbling over the falls can exceed 450,000 cubic feet per second. At this rate, it would fill the swimming pool in roughly one quarter of one second.

The richness of life rising up from the mists of Iguazú Falls is a far cry from the bleak slabs of concrete overlooking the famous Niagara Falls. While the latter is infested with gawking tourists and noisy seagulls that fight over scraps of cold McDonald’s French Fries, the former exudes nature-in-the-raw.  The water that feeds these falls passes through more than 250 separate waterfalls before plunging more than 170 to 350 feet and crashing to the rocks below. The thunderous rush can be heard for miles. Out of the deafening roar, a fine spray rises in a cool plume, dampening the miles of inconspicuous trails lining both sides of Brazil and Argentina. 

To the local Guaraní people, the falls area was a spiritual place, and it was they who named it Iguazú, or “Great Water.” Time seems to stand still at this sacred spot, blatantly ignoring the rushing Iguazú River as it cuts through the verdant Argentine and Brazilian rainforest and out to sea. Birds and insects flitter among the trees that thrive in this unique ecosystem, fortified by the constant mist projected from falls.  Nowhere is the delicate balance between brute force and sheer beauty more apparent than at “The Devil’s Throat,” where water cascades over 14 different falls, drops more than 350 feet, and finally disappears into a cloud of mist that rises more than 100 feet above the falls. 

The souvenir vendors who hawk t-shirts and post cards keep a respectful difference, and the nearest Big Mac is in Buenos Aires.  Small motorboats take visitors right to the roaring base of the falls, where they joyously shout to one another before returning to shore as soaked if they had followed the falls into the river. During the rainy season, between January and March, the falls swell with water, offering even more impressive views. Once you’ve finished your jaw-dropping gaze at the falls (and this may take a while), adventure into the surrounding park, where a variety of animal and bird species flourish.

Established in 1934, Argentina’s Iguazú National Park spreads out across 67,620 hectares.  On the Brazilian side, the government has set aside 170,000 hectares of protected land.  Its remarkable beauty and abundant biodiversity earned this park the title of a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1984. A host of mammals call this place home, including five species of giant cat. Not to be outdone by their four-legged friends, more than 450 species of birds—including parrots, toucans and the rare great dusky swift—soar beneath the thick jungle canopy. Like the delicate mist rising from the rocky base of Iguazú Falls, beauty seems to blanket this enchanting jungle world, delighting and surprising visitors and every turn.

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