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The El Yunque Rainforest

February 10, 2015

by Paula
San Juan, Puerto Rico
written Dec 14, 2014

Our inland travels in Puerto Rico brought us to the El Yunque National Forest, the only tropical rain forest in the US National Forest System. Located in the northeast part of the island in the Sierra de Luquillo mountains, it encompasses 28,000 acres of land. The highest mountain peak, El Toro, rises 3,494 feet above sea level, where one can see both the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. Lush plants create a jungle-like atmosphere where the tiny coqui frogs peep all day long.

El Yunque, formerly known as the Luquillo National Forest and the Caribbean National Forest, is clearly a special place. When still a Spanish colony in 1876, King Alfonso XII proclaimed the forest a Crown Reserve. Once in US hands, Teddy Roosevelt proclaimed it a Forest Reserve in 1903.  Additional land grants were made over the years and it was declared a national forest in 1935. Today, the National Park Service maintains the park, with scenic roadways, hiking trails, and camping areas.

Our hike took us to the La Mina falls along winding paths, down steep switch-backs, and up stone staircases.  While hiking, we met a rainforest wildman who was friendly, but seemed somewhat deranged.  His picture is below.

The lush rainforest plants are unusual and gorgeous.

The walking paths are easy to navigate but still feel remote.

Over 200 inches of rainfall  helps grow the flora to enormous proportions!!

Our hike took us to the La Mina falls, where we had a picnic.  It was not the peaceful lunch spot we had envisioned, because the falls were packed with tourists and locals swimming and splashing under the falls.

A few stone lookout towers remain in the park, which give amazing views of the surrounding countryside.

The El Yunque wildman.