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El Yunque Rainforest, Puerto Rico


El Yunque waterfalls at Juan Diego trail
Juan Diego Waterfalls Photo: Elena


What is a rain forest? In the case of El Yunque in Puerto Rico it is all about being the first mountain to face the wind and catch all the rain.

El Yunque is a cool, mountainous, tropical rainforest.

The Eastern side of the Luquillo Mountains, which has the El Yunque rainforest at the top elevations, gets most of the rain. . . "The true sub tropical 'Rain forest' occupies very little area in Puerto Rico, only a single, crescent shaped, band on the windward side of the El Yunque mountains. It lies wholly within the El Yunque National Forest Reserve. This life zone is characterized by an annual total of 3,400 mm of rain. Its' main features are the Sierra Palms and a superabundance of epiphytes.". . . The trade winds blow from the north east and these mountains ( 3,500 ft elev. ) are in the north easternmost part of Puerto Rico. As the warm moist air rises when it meets the mountains and cools off, it dumps the rain...and intensifies the wind.

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bromeliads in the forest

Epiphytes and Sierra Palms.

US NATIONAL FOREST SERVICE Maintained by the US Forest Service, El Yunque offers a unique opportunity to visit a rainforest. Hours are 6 AM - to 6 PM. The gates will close if the parking is full, come early. Phone numbers for US Forest Service (787) 888-1810 or (787) 888-1880. Camping: You need to get your permit before 3 pm • No designated area & no facilities for campers. Cold, wet and rough!

 
US National Rainforest visitors center
EL PORTAL VISITOR CENTER Informative exhibits, a gift shop, film and a coffee shop in a spectacular building. $4. per person admission. There is no fee to enter the rainforest.
John Druitt offers private tours of El Yunque
'ISLAND WALKERS' PRIVATE TOURS OF EL YUNQUE
' John 'Rubio' has lived and worked within tropical rainforests for over 35 years. Join him for an exhilarating experience, includes transportation.
Tel. 787.309.6224 email: rubiostours@gmail.com

Here is a link to an interactive little diagram that shows how the clouds and rain are made-going up mountains. The winds must rise when they meet the mountains. This rising of the air mass causes the air to cool and release rain on the windward side.

  Snorkel tour on a private boat   Private cave tour with guide   Biobay kayak tours
     

The native peoples must have made many a spiritual journey to the top of 'Yuquiyu'. It still feels very special at La Roca, Mt. Britton and Los Picachos peaks and an aura of mystery surrounds you in the cloud or dwarf forest! "According to Legend, the good spirit 'Yuquiyu' reigned on his mighty mountain-top throne, protecting the Taino people."

The Cloud Forest on the La Roca Trail

Path through the cloud forest to La Roca in El Yunque

Trail to La Roca. Photo Clay Humphrey

The intrigue of visiting the El Yunque rain forest is only partly in the observation of the varieties of plants that have managed to grow and adapt to the copious amounts of year round rainfall and winds near the top. The magic of El Yunque is in the pristine beauty, the sounds, the quietness and the serenity.

At the very top of the mountain peaks the further increase of both wind and rain creates the dwarf or 'elfin' forest in which few species are able to adapt and cling to the wet soil. Often shrouded in fog, this is a particularly beautiful part of the forest, with its twisted and stunted trunks.

Trail to La Roca  overlooks forest
LA ROCA Lost in the mist on a cloudy day. A 2 hour hike further up from Mt. Britton. The trail to MT. BRITTON starts from the parking at the top of the road. It is about 45 minutes up THE paved trail with occasional rest huts.
The peaks of Los Picachos at the top of El Yunque rainforest
MAP El YUNQUE TRAILS Starting at the Palo Colorado visitors center you can cross the street to walk around the dam, or go down the stairs to the little picnic gazebos and the long trail down to La Mina Falls. The trail up to Los Picachos takes several hours.
Rio Blanco River on the south side of the rainforest above Naguabo
On the south side of the rainforest, up from Naguabo, Robin Phillips offers a day long hike to the waterfalls and also will do tours to the Taino Petroglyphs.
National Park History:

This reserve was first set aside by the king of Spain, which then transferred to the federal government in 1898. How did the present lookout towers and trails first become established?

The Civilian Conservation Corps operated in the years between 1933 and 1942. President Franklin D. Roosevelt established the CCC as part of the New Deal Initiative, a program to end the Great Depression. Through this federally funded program, 3,463,766 young men found employment and much needed food, clothing and shelter. Using little else than shovels and axes, the young men of the CCC completed recreation and conservation projects on public lands throughout the United States, Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. They built roads and towers, developed recreational sites and trails, and engaged in forestry and wildlife improvements. In all of these sites, people today reap the benefits of the work done by the CCC



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The forest hosts a number of unique plant and animal species such as the endangered Puerto Rican Parrot ( very rarely seen) and the tiny coquis (indigenous tree frogs) that serenade the evening hours.
No dangerous snakes occur in Puerto Rico.

Coquî tree
frogs


Island coqui  El Yunque Peak hike and a camping trip.

A variety of accommodations are available just outside the Park Boundaries. Some next to the rainforest itself and others in the foothills. All have a unique view of the forest and/or the sea. The tranquility experienced during a stay in any one of the small guest houses surrounding the forest refreshes the spirit and will increase your understanding of the rainforest.


Why Do Some Rainforest Trees Grow ”Buttress” Roots? Read about rainforest soils, climate, topography and the Sierra Palms.

Some of the trees of the El Yunque National Forest’s upper zones have adapted to its unique soil, topography and humid climate conditions by growing “buttress roots,” a type of prop root that grows at the base of the tree trunk, to form a support for the tree. . . article by Alan Mowbray.



   
• Sierra Palm Forest level of the forest, just below the dwarf forest. Walk through the Sierra Palms on your hike up to Mt. Britton. Cement path with occasional gazebos. • Dwarf Forest lies at the very top of the El Yunque rainforest. Plants are unique and survive the extreme rainfall and constant wind.
• MT. Britton Tower is a favorite hiking trail with the tower destination and views over the mountains tops. 45 minutes up from the parking at the top of road #191. Sunny days you can see forever, cloudy days the clouds swirl around and below you! • Visitors Center The El Portal Visitors Center lies just below the rainforest and offers an introduction to the rainforest with exhibits, a film, store and snack bar. Entrance Fee. Weekends local artisans set up.
Help the Rainforest various ecological threats and ways to help our environment.

Coqui Frogs Photos and a little about the Coquis.

NIGHT SYMPHONY

Coqui frog of Puerto Rico

Rainforest, biobays, scenic lighthouse views, kayaking, hang gliding, zip lining.
THE 7 BEST THINGS TO DO IN THE EAST








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