Puert Rico's Famous El Yunque National Forest
Nature lover’s travelling to Puerto Rico will likely enjoy a visit to the El Yunque National Forest. This stunning wilderness area has the distinction of being the only tropical rain forest listed in the United States National Forest System.
Previously known as the Caribbean National Forest, this natural attraction is situated on the slopes of Puerto Rico’s Sierra de Luquillo Mountains. It is one of the oldest reserves to be found in the Western Hemisphere, having been first set aside for preservation in 1876 by Spain’s King Alfonso XII. In 1903 some 65 950 acres of land were finally established under the name ‘Loquillo Forest Reserve’. The name was changed to the ‘Caribbean National Forest’ in 1935 and then again to El Yunque National Forest in 2007 to better reflect the cultural heritage of the local people. Today the reserve encompasses a whopping 28 002 acres of land. This makes it the largest section of public land to be found in Puerto Rico.
The El Yunque National Forest in Puerto Rico is truly a natural treasure. The reserve is home to as many as four different varieties of forest vegetation. These are: Tabonuco Forest, Sierra Palm Forest, Dwarf Forest and Palo Colorado Forest. The variety is, in part, due to the differences in elevation found in the area as a series of peaks snake their way through the area. The Highest mountain peak to be found in the reserve is known as El Toro and measures some 1 078 meters above sea level. Visitors to this stunning natural area will be able to make the most of the amazing vegetation by travelling through the reserve on foot. A number of clearly marked walking trails make this easy and enjoyable to do.
Botanists will also be happy to learn that the El Yunque National Forest is home to more than 240 species of trees and plants. As many as 23 of these species are found nowhere else in the world. Some of the plants you can expect to see here include: Sintenis’ Holly, Luquillo Mountain Lidflower, Palo de Jazmin, Maga Tree, Palo Colorado, Capa Rosa and El Yunque Colorado.
Animals are also not in short supply and there are plenty of birds, mammals and reptiles roaming the undergrowth. Visitors would do well to spot the small but distinctive and uniquely Puerto Rican Coqui Frog. Other animals they may spot include the Orange-fronted Parakeet, the Puerto Rican Galliwasp, the Tree Snail, the Puerto Rican Crested Anole, the Puerto Rican Flycatcher and the Puerto Rican Wetlands Blindsnake. This is also one of the primary homes of the Puerto Rican Parrot (Amazona vittata) which was a highly endangered species up until very recently. Though the bird’s numbers have swelled somewhat due to a careful parrot recovery program, its existence is still somewhat threatened and conservationists need to exercise constant vigilance to ensure that they continue to thrive. Clearly there is a lot to enjoy at this great natural location so pack a picnic lunch and head off to the El Yunque National Forest.