This national park is officially called Parque Nacional Natural de Sierra Nevada del Cocuy, Chita y GĂĽicĂˇn, but most people just call it Parque Nacional Natural El Cocuy.
Its 306,000 hectares are located in BoyacĂˇ, Arauca and Casanare Departments. On this western side of the range, the park boundary is etched at the 4000-meter (13,120-foot) line. The Sierra Nevada has 21 peaks, several over 5,000 meters (16,400 feet). Ritacu'wa (Ritacuba) Blanco is the highest, at 5,330 meters (17,483 feet). This region is delicate pĂˇramo and has been heavily impacted by farming populations. The park service is working with these communities in restoration of the eco-system and in the development of sustainable alternatives, like eco-tourism. This area abounds with opportunities for trekking and climbing enthusiasts, and for those who just want a feel of the snow. The snowline is, at closest, only a three-hour hike away. This part of the park is divided into three general access points: Las Lagunillas or Alto de la Cueva; La Capilla or La Esperanza; and Rutaku'was (Ritacubas).
At the east side of Parque Nacional Natural (PNN) El Cocuy plunges to its lowest point, 600 meters (1,968 feet) in the Colombian llanos. Climbing the sheer rock here is only for experts. Because of the remoteness of the region and its dense vegetation it has been less impacted by the human hand. The northern sector of PNN El Cocuy is part of indigenous U'wa territory. This is the best preserved, in large part due to the U'wa's respect of Mother Earth. However, their culture and lands are endangered due to the presence of possible petroleum fields.
Fauna species found in PNN El Cocuy include the spectacled bear, puma, chinchilla rabbit, mountain tapir, white-tailed deer and dozens of bird species, amongst them the Andean condor and the Ăˇguila real. Flora is equally diverse, owing to the many eco-systems embraced by the park: frailejĂłn, cardoon cactus, the encillo and sietecueros trees, numerous varieties of mosses and lichens, and cojines (Plantago rigido).
The Park contains the largest expanse of glacier fields in northern South America but they are quickly receding due to global warming. Scientists estimate that at the present rate of melting, the snow pack will disappear in 15 to 20 years. The Sierra Nevada del Cocuy is the birthplace of rivers flowing both to the RĂo Magdalena and the Orinoco.
For more information on PNN El Cocuy, visit: www.parquesnacionales.gov.co/PNN/portel/libreria/php/decide.php www.elcocuy.info/sierra_nevada.htm.
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