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With the purpose of protecting a representative sample of Selva de Montaña or Mountain Cloud Forest, also known as the Yungas region, as well as its important population of fauna and flora, the Parque Nacional Calilegua National Park was created in 1979, on an area donated by the company that owned the Hacienda Ledesma Ranch, in the Calilegua Region of the Jujuy Province.

It occupies a surface of 76306 hectares of mountainous relief that consists of a series of faults, glens and very steep mountain ranges that mainly originate in the Calilegua Highlands.

The reserve is covered by jungles, transitional forests up to 410 m.a.s.l., and above them, mountainous forests which at 2,500 meters over sea level give way to an Andean High Mountain Plateau that reaches the highest mountain peaks of the highlands, but hollowed by deep ravines that have been carved by the courses of rivers and streams.

As the rest of jungle parks in north-western Argentina, the Calilegua Reserve carries out the important function of protecting the river catch basins, thus ensuring the quality and volume of waters that frequently supply crops and cities down-river.

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San Martin

- Calilegua
National Park

- Ramal
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- Valle Grande
It is the best known and most visited park due to its easy access. The mountains, about 4000 meters high, boast vertical cliffs hundreds of meters tall, which, together with a dense jungle vegetation that covers valleys and slopes, make the area one of the most attractive in the region.

The Cerro Hermoso, Amarillo, Mono Alto, and other mountains stand out for their beauty. Several streams and rivers descend from there, such as the Valle Grande and the Tormento, which flow into imposing Rio San Lorenzo River. Then all of them empty into the Rio San Francisco River which, flowing east, will later join the Rio Bermejo River.

Sometimes these rivers only have a thin water thread and for that reason most of their valleys are dry. In the rainy season they become big torrential rivers that drag along logs, torn off trees, and big rocks.

Abundant rain in the region (more than 2000 mm per year) allows for the development of a dense vegetation that covers all the landscape. This formation, one of the richest in species in Argentina, is characterized by possessing different types of vegetation on its slopes according to the different altitudes or heights.

Depending on the altitude, the Park displays a vast range of microclimates. With average temperatures of 17 °C, winters are dry and temperate in the lower zones. And on mountain tops, between the months of June and September, it normally snows. Summers are hot. They reach maximum temperatures of 40 °C.

Relative humidity fluctuates between 60% and 85%. Precipitations vary with altitude, from 800 mm in the lower zones of the Park, to 2000 mm in mountain jungles, focalising between the months of November and April.

The autumn is characterized by clouds of fog totally covering the highlands. The compact vegetation web intercepts the fog, making it precipitate, which means additional water for the vegetation. This type of precipitation is called "horizontal rain".

The best time to visit the Park is between the months of April and November.

In the Yungas we find diverse animal species according to the diversity of environments, vegetation strata and altitudinal floors. Many of these species, especially birds, carry out seasonal journeys from higher zones to lower zones in winter, and inversely in summer.

This group of vertebrates is the most numerous, with about 350 registered species in the Park. Many of them live exclusively in this vegetal formation, the Yungas. They are not found in any other natural environment of Argentina.

The most representative species are the poma eagle, an enormous endangered predator, big parrots such as the green macaw, the red-faced and orange forehead macaw, the alder parrot (characteristic of the alder forests), jungle guans such as the red-faced guan, an endemic species in the region, and a multitude of humming-birds, as well as small fruit eating, climbing and insectivorous birds.

Among the mammals we find the herbivores, represented by the tapir, the white lipped peccary and the collared peccary, the red and brown so called corzuelas, the agouti and the tapeti, a native rabbit.

In the high pasture-grounds we find another native deer, the taruca or guemul, which is an endangered species due to hunting, since it is considered a valuable trophy. Carnivores are abundant, whether big-sized ones such as the jaguar (an endangered species) and the puma, or medium-sized ones such as the big tayra, the ocelot and the forest fox.

Many mammal species have exclusive arboreal habits, such as squirrels, which run along the trees in search of fruits and seeds, and the Cai monkey, which move in small groups around the tree tops.

There is an atypical group of amphibians in this biome: marsupial frogs. These species place their eggs in bags or marsupia on their backs, where all the larva development takes place. Once completed, completely formed little frogs leave the marsupium. Invertebrate fauna, although it has not been studied much, is diverse and rich. The most common forms are the same that abound in jungle regions of Misiones and the Amazon.

Among the fish we find 12 species, amongst which we can mention such diverse species as moharras, tararira (Hoplias malabarious) , shad, catfish and bream; there are 29 reptile species such as vipers (the coral), snakes (the false coral) and the red iguana, among others.

In the Yungas, climatic conditions such as rain, humidity and temperature vary abruptly with altitude between even relatively close points.

Thus, valleys and low zones enjoy a warm and less rainy climate, with less frequent frost. On the slopes, temperatures are a bit lower, but precipitations are less abundant. And in even higher zones we move to a humid temperate climate with cold winters and frequent snowfall.

These particular circumstances determine the existence of a series of vegetation floors that differ from each other. On the plains at the foot of the mountains and on low mountain ranges, we find the Selva Basal or Transition Jungle, thus called because it is located between the Jungle proper and the dry forests of the Chaco.

Dominant trees in this formation are the so called palo blanco, the palo lanza, the white Tipa, the jacaranda, the Red Cebil, the horco cebil, the lapachos, among other species. Since rains at this altitude do not go above 1100 mm, a dry season coinciding with winter is defined, a time when most trees lose their foliage.

Mountainous jungles, located on top of the previous formation, occupy eastern slopes and form an impenetrable forest mass which, habitually, is covered with clouds during summer and the beginning of autumn. These clouds make this formation the most humid of all, with rains of up to 3000 mm per year.

These characteristics determine a humid and dark interior environment where a multitude of lianas, vines and epiphyte plants interweave and vegetate on logs and tree branches, covering them almost completely. Evergreens predominate here and their size is much bigger than in the Selva Basal. They can reach heights of 30 metres.

This group of giant vegetables is formed by the skirt laurel tree with a trunk that reaches 2.5 metres in diametre, the horco molle or palo barroso, the criollo walnut which nuts you can eat, and numerous Myrtaceae (of the family of Myrtles and Eucalyptuses) such as the so called mato, the guil, the horco-mato, the alpa-mato and others that define, when they are abundant, a particular formation named Selva de Mirtaceas or Myrtle Forest.

As we climb the slopes, we leave the jungle with evergreens and the traveller will once more find deciduous trees that form the so-called Bosque Montano. This formation must endure cold and dry winters, and scarce rainfall (only 400 mm).

We can differentiate three types of forest: mountain pine, alder and queñoa forests. Mountain pine is the only conifer of the Argentinean Northwest. The alder, which reaches up to Mexico, is located on steep slopes. The queñoa is a small tree with a twisted trunk that can be found up to 3000 m.a.s.l. on rock walls, reaching a height of up to six meters.

On top of the Bosques Montanos, we find the Prados Montanos, entirely formed by grassy and herbaceous plants that blossom during the rainy season and give the landscape unsurpassable beauty.

We can reach the Park through Ruta Nacional N° 34 National Route, which runs along the foothills from San Salvador de Jujuy. When we reach Libertador General San Martin, we take Ruta Provincial N° 83 Provincial Route, made of compacted gravel, and only eight kilometres away we reach Valle Grande and the Aguas Negras Stream, where we enter the National Park.

The route crosses the Park through the middle part (a 23-kilometer-section), and passes the area called Seccional Mesada de las Colmenas, where the traveller will find personnel from the Administracion de Parques Nacionales National Parks Administration . Along this road we can enjoy the characteristic beauty of the region.

There is bus service from Salta to Libertador San Martin, and from Libertador to San Francisco, crossing the Park. The last bus leaves every day (except on Wednesdays) at 8:00 or 9:00 in the morning.

To reach the Park by car, we must take the Ruta Nacional N° 34 National Route and go north to Libertador General San Martin. After crossing the Rio San Lorenzo River, we must turn left down Ruta Provincial N° 83 Provincial Route.

From there onwards the road is rather steep. For that reason we recommend driving carefully and enjoying the views as we move on.

The traveller that decides to visit Parque Nacional Calilegua directly, can reach it from Buenos Aires to the Salta or El Cadillal airport, in Perico Jujuy, 70 kilometres from Libertador General San Martin; or simply, he or she can take a bus to Libertador in the Bus Station Estacion Terminal in the Barrio Retiro of Buenos Aires.

Libertador General San Martín: 10 Km
Calilegua : 15 Km
San Francisco : 20 Km
Valle Grande : 70 Km
San Salvador de Jujuy : 130 Km
Salta : 170 Km

This park is a paradise for bird-watchers. There are more than 300 registered species up to now. The traveller can request a list from the Intendencia del Parque Park Management or directly from the Park rangers. You can camp in the Aguas Negras Camping, that has restrooms and it is an ideal spot to discover the various paths that cross the Park.

It is possible to go trekking for several days. We start in Parque Nacional Calilegua and reach the Quebrada de Humahuaca Gorge. After abandoning the Park limits, we take Ruta Provincial N° 83 Provincial Route to the town of San Francisco, and from there we can continue on foot or by horse towards Tilcara or Humahuaca, in the ravine by the same name.

We can also go horse back riding from San Francisco to the town of Alto Calilegua, at 2700 m.a.s.l. ; the degree of difficulty is high, and in some parts very high. For a horse riding excursion to Alto Calilegua, the approximate time is six hours for the ascent and 4:30 hours for the descent. This section of the road can also be done on foot, with an average time of eight to ten hours.

It is not easy to reach the high dominions of the Keu and the Chinchillon. We have to leave the protected area, and go on foot or by horse along the path that connects the towns of San Francisco and Alto Calilegua. On the way we can visit the spectacular Cajon del Rio Jordan, where the peculiar Calilegua frog lives. If physical strength allows it, the programme includes reaching the summit of the Cerro Amarillo Mountain at 3660 m.a.s.l..

From Valle Grande the traveller can embark in a walking excursion to the Quebrada de Humahuaca Gorge. This lasts three days. We cross mountains 4100 meters tall. The roads, simply spectacular, are also good to practice mountain bike on.

At 3000 m.a.s.l., outside the Park limits, there is the small village of Alto Calilegua, which can only be reached by mule or on foot. We find there the remains of pre-Hispanic fortifications which add archaeological value to the region. Mountain lovers have as an alternative the possibility of reaching on foot the high areas of the Park: Cerro Amarillo and Hermoso.

No one knows for certain when the current inhabitants of the highlands arrived, or where they came from. They grow corn, pumpkins and potatoes. But they are basically shepherds. In summer they leave the cattle freely grazing on the grassy heights, and with the arrival of the hard winter season, they transfer it to the jungle border.

Going northwest along a mountain path we can reach Valle Grande, a town located in a splendid valley surrounded by mountains, very near the Tropic of Capricorn.

Walking paths and narrow fords of different length and degree of difficulty, make this National Park an appropriate place for nature lovers who wish to go for walks and excursions.

The Sendero Burgos Path: Next to the camping grounds. It crosses the foothill jungle for about 600 meters. Walking time: 40 minutes. Difficulty: medium.

The Sendero al Mirador Path: At 180 meters from the Aguas Negras sector, on the right side of Ruta Provincial N° 83 Provincial Route. The valley of the Rio Lorenzo River can be watched. Walking time: 40 minutes. Difficulty: high and medium.

The Sendero a La Lagunita Path: At two kilometres from the Aguas Negras sector, on the right side of the route, a path that takes us to the La Lagunita Small Lake begins. Seventy meters along the road there is a lookout spot facing the dense mountain forest. We can watch water fowl bird fauna. The return trip can be done along the Aguas Negras Stream, where animals or their tracks can be seen, left on the wet mud of the stream. Walking time: two hours. Difficulty: high.

The Sendero Tataupa Path: It branches off at 2,5 kilometres from the Aguas Negras sector, on the left side of the route. It crosses the foothill Jungle and returns along the Negrito Stream. Walking time: five hours. Difficulty: high.

The Sendero de la Junta Path: It branches off three kilometres from the Aguas Negras sector, on the right side of the route. We can see where the Aguas Negras and Toldos streams come together. We return along the Aguas Negras Stream. Walking time: five hours. Difficulty: high.

The Sendero La Herradura Path: It starts 100 metres from the Aguas Negras sector, on the left side of the route. It crosses the foothill Jungle. Walking time: 15 minutes. Difficulty: low.

The Sendero a la Cascada Ppath: It starts 100 meters from the Mesada de las Colmenas sector. We climb the road on the left side. It crosses the Montana Jungle. We reach the Negrito Stream and 300 meters downstream, where it joins Tres Cruces stream, we can see a small waterfall. We return along the same road. Walking time: three hours. Difficulty: high.

The Sendero Momota Path: Next to the camping grounds, it crosses the foothill Jungle for about 600 meters. Walking time: 40 minutes. Difficulty: medium.

  • If you go by car, drive at low speed. Remember you are on excursion.
  • If you listen to music or the radio, do it at low volume, thus avoiding bothering other visitors and wild fauna.
  • Only make fire in suitable places, away from the trees.
In the Parque Nacional Calilegua it is not allowed to:
  • Hunt, fish or set traps.
  • Bother the animals.
  • Remove any type of plants.
  • Enter places that have not been prepared for visitors.
  • Introduce foreign species that do not belong to the Reserve.
When you enter the Park, contact Park Rangers in the Aguas Negras Sector (at the Park entrance) or at the Mesada de las Colmenas (13 kilometres away from the entrance). You can watch trees and learn about them by reading the "Guia de arboles para visitantes".

The Administración de Parques Nacionales National Parks Administration
Intendencia Calilegua.
San Lorenzo y Madrigal - Calilegua.
Dpto. Ledesma CP 4514
Provincia de Jujuy - Argentina.
Tel.: 03886-422046


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