Our region of Costa Rica
History of the Area
The heavy rainfall and cloudy weather of the eastern slopes of the Central Volcanic Mountain Range do not promote agriculture and for this reason this area was one of the last to be developed in Costa Rica. Even today large areas of virgin forest remain in this region and La Paz Waterfall Gardens is located between two large national parks, the Poás Volcano National Park and the Braulio Carillo National Park. We are also located on the way to Selva Verde Lodge and the Organization for Tropical Studies OTS in the Sarapiquí region of Costa Rica. The park is a great tour from the Sarapiquí area of Costa Rica as well as a great tour from the Arenal Volcano area.
We are located on the northeastern slope of the Poás Volcano on the Caribbean side of the Continental Divide at an altitude ranging from 4,200 ft. to 5,225 ft. (1,300 m to 1,600 m). This altitude provides us with both cloud and rain forest vegetation. Although the summit of Poás Volcano is 8,174 ft. (2,515 m), the mountain range averages about 6,000 ft (1,850 m) in elevation and therefore causes the maximum precipitation to occur below us at a level of about 3,000 ft. (925 m). In the areas above 3,000 ft. the weather becomes less rainy and foggier, therefore establishing a cloud forest environment at altitudes above 4,500 feet (1,400 m). Most crops, including coffee, cannot survive in this environment.
Because the land was of no use for growing cash crops there were no roads built into the area until 1940 when they discovered that the area was viable for dairy farms. However, large scale growth in dairy farming did not occur until the 1960’s when the landowners imported the superior Holstein milk cows from Madison, Wisconsin. Most of the lush dairy grass is African in origin and was imported via Brazil in the l800’s. Because Costa Rica was almost 100% rainforest for millions of years no native grasses evolved.
The road to Waterfall Gardens and the bridge over the La Paz River was actually constructed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers during World War II. This occurred because the Japanese had invaded Indonesia and threatened to cut off the world’s supply of quinine from its quinine farms, which was at that time the only effective cure for malaria. Quinine is extracted from the bark of the cinchona tree and Costa Rica has a variety of cinchona tree that grows in abundance a few kilometers below Waterfall Gardens. The U.S. knew that its soldiers would be exposed to malaria in the South Pacific campaign and tried to start a farm for the Brazilian variety of the cinchona trees given that its close relative grew there. A pact was made between the governments and the road and bridge were built, but the experiment failed because it was found that the bark from the native Costa Rican cinchona tree did not contain high enough concentrations of quinine and the area proved to be to wet for the Brazilian variety with higher quinine content.
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