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Caño Cristales, the Rainbow River

Colombia’s Liquid Rainbow

Colombia has a unique feature that has been dubbed ‘the most beautiful river in the world.’ This river, called the Caño Cristales, is also known as the river of five colors for the vibrant path it winds through the Colombian landscape. The Caño Cristales is a unique biological wonder that, for most of the year, looks like a completely normal river. However, during the short period between the wet and dry seasons, the river explodes with life and color.

At any other point of time during the year the riverbed of the Caño Cristales is like any other: clean, cool, mossy, green, and rocky. When the water levels are at a certain point, a plant called Macarenia clavigera blooms. The Macarenia clavigera plant is bright red and creates a river of bright colors and shades.

The Macarenia clavigera plant needs sunlight to bloom, which is why it remains dormant during the wet season when the river is too high to allow adequate sunshine to get to the plant. During the dry season there isn’t enough water flowing through the river to sustain the majority of the plant life in the river, so the plant shrinks back to await the influx of water during the rainy season.

La Macarena was closed to outside tourism for a few years because of instability in the region. The national park reopened in 2009 and there are a few tour agencies that currently operate to bring tourists into the Caño Cristales area. In addition to the river, visitors can expect beautiful Colombian rainforests, hiking opportunities, and the chance to see an extraordinary natural area unknown to much of the outside world.

Journalist source: Catchpole, K. (2016, MARCH 12). GEOGRAPHYREALM. Retrieved from

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