Caracol State Park, located in Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil, boasts the stunning Caracol Falls - a popular tourist destination. The waterfall is between the Brazilian Highlands' pine forest zone and the southern coastal Atlantic Forest and comprises two cascades.
Caracol Falls is about 7 km (4.3 mi) from Canela, Brazil, in Caracol State Park. The Caracol River forms the 130 m (426 ft) set of waterfalls, cut out of basalt cliffs in the Serra Geral, falling into the Vale da Lageana.
The waterfall is between the Brazilian Highlands' pine forest zone and the southern coastal Atlantic Forest and has two cascades. The upper cascade is approximately 100 m (328 ft) before the second cascade, which falls over an overhanging cliff ledge.
Caracol Falls is Brazil's second most popular natural tourist attraction, trailing only Iguazu Falls. A 30 m (100 ft) observation tower offers an elevator, a panoramic view, and a cable car that gives tourists an aerial view of the waterfall.
Caracol State Park
Caracol State Park (Parque Estadual do Caracol) is a small park in Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil. It contains the dramatic Caracol Falls, a major tourist attraction. It has an area of 25 ha (62 acres) and is located 7 km (4.3 mi) from the municipal seat.
Caracol State Park is in the Serra Gaúcha in the northeastern part of the state. The average elevation is 760 m (2,490 ft). Above the escarpment of Caracol Falls, the vegetation is montane rainforest and araucaria forest. Below the ridge, the vegetation is a submontane seasonal deciduous forest. The Park also contains savanna grasslands.
The araucaria forest was devastated by logging from the 1920s to the 1950s. However, the vegetation is now regenerating. Some specimens with trunks up to 1.5 m (5 ft) in diameter are still found near the edge of the escarpment.
The climate is temperate, with rain distributed throughout the year. The average temperature is 22 °C (72 °F) in the summer and 10 °C (50 °F) in winter, occasionally falling to as low as −8 °C (18 °F). Snow falls in July and August.
In prehistoric times, the indigenous hunter-gatherer group occupied the region, the Kaingang (also spelled caingangue in Portuguese or kanhgág in the Kaingang language).
The first European explorer named the area "Canela" from a caneleira (cinnamon) tree under which they made their camp. The Wassen family of Germany arrived in 1863 and began farming and raising livestock. The area's natural beauty led to hotels and vacation homes being built beginning in 1900. The resort town of Canela was founded in 1944.
Apart from vacationers, the economy depended on trade in cattle, pigs and their products, which were taken for sale to Porto Alegre and neighboring municipalities. A logging industry developed, exploiting the vast forest of araucaria pines, and accelerated when the railway arrived in 1924.
A pulp mill was built beside a tributary of the Arroio Caracol, which crosses the Park, affecting the water quality. This and the destruction of the forests drove the tourists away. Many species of animals were also driven out, including the maned wolf (Chrysocyon brachyurus), which was hunted in the false belief that it killed cattle.
The state government declared that the land covered by the Park was of public utility in 1954. The Caracol State Park was established in 1973 with an area of 100 ha (250 acres), of which 25 ha (62 acres) is state-owned.
The Park receives about 2,500,000 visitors annually. It is the most popular tourist destination in the southern region of Brazil after the Iguaçu National Park.