After walking through the hot and humid rainforest, I had finally reached the last, long footbridge. Just ahead of me lay the Devil’s Throat. I could hear its steady roar. The closer I got, the louder it became.
I inched forward to the edge of the footbridge and peered over the balcony to catch sight of this massive waterfall. Mist from the tumbling water rose into the air. I was drenched within minutes.
Before me, the bulk of the mighty Iguazú River plummeted over this rocky, U‑shaped cliff into a deep and narrow canyon. It was breathtaking.
Like the river that feeds it, Iguazú Falls got its name from the indigenous Guaraní people. Its name means “great water.” That’s a fitting description because the amount of water the river carries over the falls is astounding.
On average, the Iguazú River flows at a rapid rate. During the rainy season, it can carry more than seven times that much. That’s enough water to fill five Olympic-size swimming pools a second!
Iguazú Falls is one of the largest waterfall systems in the world. It straddles the border of Argentina and Brazil and is almost 2.7 kilometers (1.7 miles) wide. During the rainy season, up to 275 different waterfalls can form. In the dry season, there are only 150.
About two-thirds of the falls are on the Argentinian side of the river. I crossed the border into Brazil. For a good view, I raced up the churning river in a speedboat. The boat slowed at the foot of several waterfalls. Talk about a powerful shower!
It’s hard to appreciate how spectacular something like this is until you have experienced it for yourself. When Eleanor Roosevelt visited the falls as first lady of the United States she supposedly said, “Poor Niagara.” Niagara Falls, which lies between the U.S. and Canada, is one of the world’s more impressive waterfall systems. But Iguazú Falls is almost twice as tall and more than twice as wide.
As seen from the air, the Devil’s Throat divides Argentina and Brazil.
trail to Devil’s Throat
Legend of the Falls
Like many natural features, the Iguazú Falls has a legend that tells how it came to be. According to the Guaraní tale, the serpent god M’Boi lived in the Iguazú River. M’Boi was an angry god. Each year, the Guaraní people made a sacrifice to keep him from being angry. They threw a young woman into the water.
One year, the tribe chose Naipi. Naipi had planned to marry a warrior from another tribe, named Tarobá. The night before she was to be sacrificed, she and Tarobá tried to escape in a canoe. But, M’Boi saw them. Tarobá paddled as hard as he could, but the serpent god was too powerful. He slithered and squirmed, causing the river to form new curves.
This slowed the pair down. When Tarobá wouldn’t give up, M’Boi got even angrier. He split the earth, creating a rocky gorge known as Devil’s Throat.
Naipi was thrown to one side of the gorge and Tarobá to the other. As water flowed into the gorge, M’Boi changed the young woman into a rock so she wouldn’t get washed away.
When Tarobá tried to help her, M’Boi pulled the young warrior’s hands into the earth. Tarobá’s fingers turned into roots, and his body became a palm tree. The young couple would never be together again. But on sunny days, the legend says, they meet over a rainbow to show their love for one another.
A rainbow bridges the falls.