National Geographic : 1926 Jul
THE WORLD'S GREAT WATERFALLS that observation and study become prac tically impossible. At that time one cannot cross the rapids above the falls to Livingstone Island, which at the verge of the precipice sepa rates the Main Fall from Rainbow Falls, much as Goat Island separates the Ameri can and Horseshoe Falls of Niagara. From this island Livingstone caught his first glimpse of the falls, and to the visitor in the dry season it affords one of the most interesting and striking of view points. On the western edge of Livingstone Island one can lean over the precipice and get a fine view of the eastern section of the Main Fall, which projects a white mass well out into the chasm, and under which, at some time in the future, proces sions of waterproofed tourists may be expected to grope gaspingly, as in the Niagara Cave of the Winds. As a whole, the precipice wall opposite the falls is as impressive as that over which the Zambezi descends. It displays vast masses of towering dark-brown rock, here dampened into deep blackness, here green and yellow in patches with lichen and moss, crowned with the vivid green and graceful outlines of the Rain Forest and clothed in the shimmering whiteness of sunlit rainbow-circled clouds of spray. IGUAZU, THE PICTURESQUE In the heart of South America, where Brazil and Argentina come together, with Paraguay close at hand, the Iguazu River leaps from the great Brazilian central plateau over a precipice nearly half as high again as that of Niagara. In falling it distributes its waters in two main falls, and at low water a hun dred cataracts, over an area more than twice as great as that of the falling Niag ara, including Goat Island. With its source in the Brazilian coast mountains, only 30 miles from the Atlan tic Ocean, the Iguazu traverses westward the Brazilian central plateau for 430 miles before it plunges in cataract over the plateau's precipitous edge. Most of the great rivers of South America have descended from this pla teau and flowed to the sea either through the Amazon or La Plata; but the descent of the Iguazu is the most spectacular of all (see pictorial diagram, page 57). The Iguazu above the falls, with the stream at low water a half mile wide, glides lazily toward the edge of the pre cipitous plateau, but before descending, it broadens and shallows, and so widely dis tributes its waters that its half-mile width is more than doubled when it falls over the precipice; and it spreads thinly and interruptedly over two miles of contour sweep, if intersecting islands are included in the measurements. A few miles above the falls, while the river is still in Brazil, the Iguazu makes a sharp bend, and, as it nears the precipice edge and the Argentina boundary line, it divides into two currents; one, much the deeper, hugs the Brazilian bank and rushes into the end of a deep, narrow canyon, one side of which is Brazilian and the other Argentine. The other current, and the rest of the volume of the river, rushes in a vast, ir regular semicircle on the Argentine pla teau, among rocks and islets, before leap ing from its precipice, in one main fall and in innumerable cataracts, in two drops, to the bottom of the canyon. Midstream from the lip of the falls precipice a large island (San Martin), corresponding to Goat Island at Niagara and Livingstone and Cataract islands at Victoria Falls, projects in long, peninsular shape, descending gradually to the river level below the falls. This island, sepa rating the two channels, is heavily wooded, so that each section of the falls is hidden from the other, and except from an air plane one cannot at the same time fully see both. The deep, narrow canyon down which the bulk of the Iguazu's volume rushes is called Devil's Throat. The wide, semi circular sweep of the rest of the descend ing waters is called San Martin Falls. The water from Devil's Throat Chasm rages downward on one side of San Mar tin Island, and that from the San Martin Falls down the other. The two floods come together at the point of San Mar tin Island, and the reunited Iguazu rushes in deep, narrow rapids to its junction with the Parana River, 12 miles below. On top of a precipitous eminence, fac ing the San Martin section of the Iguazu, is the Argentine Hotel. On top of a still higher hill on the Brazilian side of the river is the unfinished Brazilian Hotel.