Waterfall, bromeliads on palm trunks, El Yunque Rainforest, Puerto Rico.
Photo: Thomas R. Fletcher.
Under the supervolcano
National Science Foundation researchers recently concluded that El Yunque is a remnant of an ancient supervolcano. The volcano, named Hato Puerco, was one of the Caribbean’s largest and most active volcanoes during the Cretaceous period 145 – 66 million years ago. More recently, the rainforest was revered as a sacred site for over a thousand years by the prehistoric Taino natives. They believed that Yuquiyú, their god of light and life, dwelled in its cloud-covered peaks, which they called “Yuque” (the white land). Yuque was corrupted by the Spaniards to “Yunque”, and today the rainforest is known as El Yunque. First protected by Spanish King Alfonso XII in 1876, the reserve is one of the oldest in the hemisphere. From the original 5,116 acres, the official boundary now encompasses nearly 29,000. Trade winds, which originate off the African coast, bring most of the rain. The over-abundance rushes down the mountains in a myriad of waterfalls, cascades and pools into the sea. In spite of all the rain, the sun is often out and the sky is blue. Hiking in the pure air with the ever-present sounds of water dripping and flowing all around is an exhilarating experience.
Source: El Yunque National Forest.
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