Serra da Canastra National Park
Created to protect the headwaters of the São Francisco river, the Serra da Canastra National Park is best known for its numerous waterfalls, diverse wildlife and for being a haven for the endangered Brazilian Merganser.
Named because its resemblance to a trunk (canastra, in old portuguese), the mountainous region was originally inhabited by the Cataguazes indians. Very little is known about them besides the fact that they were annihilated by the first colonial scouts in the early 17th century. By the 18th century, taking advantage of the region's remoteness, escaping slaves founded many quilombos (independent hinterland communities) alongside the mountains and many descendants of these communities still live there today. In the 40s, the region saw a diamond rush, but the mining activity declined and was prohibited after the creation of the park.
With an original area of 715km2 comprising the municipalities of São Roque de Minas, Vargem Bonita, Delfinópolis and Sacramento, the national park was created in 1972 aiming the preservation of the water springs surrounding the Canastra Mountains and its fauna. In 2001 a federal act extended its area to more than 2000km2 including also the Babilônia Mountains. Today, the park is managed by the Brazilian Environment Institute (IBAMA).
After the conclusion of a paved road connecting São Roque de Minas to Piumhi in 2006, the park has seen a rapid growth in the number of visitors in the later years and is now considered an important ecotourism destination in Brazil's Southeast.
Serra da Canastra is best known for its several waterfalls, including the famous Casca D'anta waterfall. The landscape consists mainly of chapada type plateaus with bordering water springs and vast, treeless grass fields on the top.
Flora and fauna
There's an entrance fee of R$ 3,00 for every individual entering the park. It is valid for the whole day and for all its gates. Children under 6 and adults over 60 years old are exempted of entrance fees.