How the Rainbow River of Many Colors Appeared: The Hidden Natural Treasure of Caño Cristales
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Caño Cristales, flowing in distant Colombia, has rightfully earned the title of the most beautiful and fantastic river in the world. It has also been called “The River of the Gods,” “The Rainbow that Melted,” and “The River of Five Colors.” Why? Because it literally overflows with all the colors of the rainbow, as if someone has poured here tons of different colors and not stirred. It’s not easy to get here, but it’s worth it. It’s not for nothing that Caño Cristales has been added to the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Algae give off iridescent colors
The beauty of this place is due to the aquatic plants that live at the bottom of the river. When illuminated by the sun’s rays, they produce a beautiful visual effect in the form of a combination of almost all the main colors – green, intense red, yellow, blue and pink. The result is a veritable rainbow river!
The colorful algae and rocks at the bottom of the river are perfectly visible: the water is so clear and clean that they say you can even drink it. And the lack of salts and minerals in it contributes to the fact that there are almost no silt deposits at the bottom.
Although Caño Cristales is a long river (it stretches for more than 100 kilometers), it is not wide or abundant. It is not more than 20 meters wide. It is the right tributary of the Losada River, which, in turn, is a tributary of an even larger river – the Guayabero. The Guayabero flows into the Orinoco. This is the chain. So Caño Cristales would have remained an ordinary average little river, if it were not for its unique color.
The Rainbow River was not widely known for many years. And now not everyone knows about it. /Photo:guruturizma.ru
Throughout the rocky bottom of Caño Cristal distributed aquatic plants, “responsible” for creating bright colors. Particularly intense is the red, which is produced by an endemic plant called Macarenia clavigera. Many small fish can be seen in the water. There are also 420 species of birds, 10 species of amphibians, 43 species of reptiles and 8 species of primates.
The ideal season to travel to Caño Cristales is only a few months of the year, from early June to the end of November. During this time, the river is filled with rain and just in time for the abundant algae blooms.
Interestingly, Caño Cristales is a so-called hidden natural treasure. Until the 1980s and 1990s, almost no one but the locals knew much about it (in particular, because it was not safe in these places). It began to gain popularity among tourists at the turn of the XX-XXI centuries. And even now Caño Cristales remains an exotic and somewhat even mystical place not only for foreign visitors, but also for Colombians themselves.
How to get here
This paradise of Colombia is located north of the municipality of La Macarena, in the province of Meta. Most travelers prefer to stay in La Macarena and from there go to Caño Cristales. To get to the Miracle River, you must first cross Guayabero by boat, which takes 20 minutes, then another 25 minutes to drive an off-road vehicle and the rest of the way to walk on foot – about an hour. So this trip is suitable only for healthy and hardy people.
Excursion along this magical route should be carried out with an experienced guide, who already knows the area. By the way, you can also book a boat trip on the Guayabero River (locals offer tourists such service), during which, if you are lucky, you will see the wild inhabitants of this region – birds, turtles, and so on.
Once you get to Caño Cristales, you can admire its incredible colors and take unique photos that people will probably think of as Photoshop. You can also swim in the clear river water, and this experience is simply unforgettable.
By the way, guides, who take tourists to these places, very much ask “bathers” do not use sunscreen, sunscreen or repellent. The fact is that the water here is so clean that even small amounts of chemicals can have a negative impact on the ecosystem of the unique river. “Please just wear a hat and a long-sleeved shirt to avoid sunburn,” the locals ask.
The colorful river has very clear water and it is undesirable to climb in it while wearing cream. /Photo:tripadvisor.com
An interesting fact about Caño Cristales and the surrounding area: many years ago, the La Macarena area was a place traditionally used by the surrounding population to grow coca bush, and the local authorities had to go to great lengths to eradicate this established practice and make this paradise an ideal space for tourists.
Living surrounded by bright colors seems to be an international aspiration. And in order to surround yourself with all the colors of the rainbow, you can not only travel around the world in search of unique natural beauties. Sometimes it’s enough just to be born in a rainbow city. We suggest you read about the most colorful cities in the world: from Chukotka to Bolivia.
Caño Cristales River of Five Colors
To get to Caño Cristales, one of the most unusual rivers in our world, you must overcome steep mountains, paddle a canoe, cross the jungle, hike through the savannah and even put your life in danger: the area is cultivated with coca and the territory is controlled by guerrillas.
But the one who finally gets here won’t regret the effort: violent waters from the rocky mountains rush forward at great speed, creating tiered waterfalls, whirlpools, and funnels. This river is colorful and differs from other colored rivers in the world that the water is not some one yellow, red or green color, and contains five colors of the rainbow.
And the most remarkable thing is that nature itself (and not the emissions of any chemical and hazardous plant) has given such an amazing color to the water. That’s why the locals have called it the River of Five Colors for a reason.
Rainbow River of Colombia
On the geographical map of the world, Caño Cristales (Crystal River) can be found at the following coordinates: 02°11′31″N. 73°53′25″W. It is located in the center of Colombia, in the department of Meta and originates on the southern side of the Macarena Mountain Range, and then gently passes to the east.
The Five Colors River connects to the Atlantic Ocean as follows:
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- The Caño Cristales River is a tributary of the Losada;
- The Lozada flows into the navigable Guayabero River, which flows through Venezuela and Colombia;
- The Guayabero merges with the Orinoco, which flows into the Atlantic Ocean.
Characteristics of the Rainbow River
The most rainbow river of our world is not very large: its length is about a hundred kilometers, width – less than twenty, it is also not deep (however, on a small boat it is possible to swim through it).
The bottom of Caño Cristales is completely strewn with natural pools of round shape, resembling wells (moias).
They were formed using small stones and pieces of rock: getting into a small cavity at the bottom of the river, where a constant whirlpool has formed because of the rapid flow of water, the stone begins to rotate at breakneck speed with the water, chipping away at the stony depression and increasing the size of the well.
The Crystal River Columbia has quite a few waterfalls and even a stepped cascade called the Staircase, with stone grottoes behind a wall of flowing water. The rocks along which it flows are also remarkable: on some of them you can see well-preserved cave paintings of the Indians who lived in the area centuries ago.
Amazing waters of the river
Caño Cristales is located in the tropics, so the climate is hot and dry and the temperature + 30 ° C is not uncommon, and therefore the water is extremely warm and pleasant. And also – very clean, you can even say – distilled. Drinking it is not recommended, but you can take a dip (there is even a belief that those who bathe in the waters of the Rainbow River Colombia, will find harmony of body and soul and understand what true peace is).
This water is not only clean, but also surprisingly transparent – it flows through a rocky area, so the rocky bottom has no sand, silt or mud, and therefore you can see it to the smallest detail.
True, except for the growing algae there is nothing else to look at: no one lives in this river – neither the mountain relief with numerous waterfalls and cascades, nor too sterile water, which contains almost no minerals that would promote normal development of organisms helps living beings to develop normally.
The variegated waters of the river
Caño Cristales is known worldwide for its colorful waters during the dry season, which lasts from June through November with almost no rain.
This happens for one simple reason – during this time algae blooms, which in combination with each other, the natural terrain and weather conditions create this amazing phenomenon of nature.
The blue color of the Columbia sky is reflected in the water in different shades and tones, green and yellow colors give the river bottom, which in addition, in some places is covered with algae and moss of green, black and yellow tones.
The red color and its hues (especially rich colors can be seen in spring, here it lasts from September to November), which prevail in the waters of Caño Cristales, are derived from the endemic algae Macarenia clavigera, a genus in the Podostemia family, a poorly studied tropical herbaceous aquatic plant.
Plants in this family bloom only when the water level in the river drops: the algae get the right amount of light, which favors their growth and allows them to bloom as lushly as possible. For the same reason, when the rainy season begins, the water in the river rises and the color of the plants becomes less visible.
The Podostemum only live in waters that are characterized by high flow rates (usually mountain rivers or waterfalls). Many species of this family usually have a very limited range – sometimes their distribution is limited to one river or even one waterfall.
Thanks to absolutely transparent water containing almost no impurities, when the water level goes down, algae, abundantly covering the bottom, can be perfectly seen even being at the very bottom of the reservoir.
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As the surface where the river flows is riddled with numerous depressions of natural origin, forming waterfalls, cascades, whirlpools, the appearance of the flowing water is unstable: the colors are constantly mixing with each other, thus creating an amazing kind of iridescent patterns.
When is the best time to visit this wonderful place?
Caño Cristales can only be visited during a certain time of year when the river is in bloom, from July to November. At other times, all travel here is prohibited – and to the river tourist will not agree to lead any guide in Colombia: the rules are strict, and the fines are not insignificant.
Moreover, the national park, which belongs to the River of Five Flowers, is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site: it is home to cougars, deer, anteaters, more than 500 species of birds, a huge number of reptiles, there are fifty species of orchids and many other plants, typical only for this area.
All this is extremely valuable and unique, so UNESCO representatives are extremely vigilant to ensure that nothing and in no way harms the river or the park.