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Water, Canal & Woods

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Gatun Lake

Due to the vital importance of water for the Canal's operation and the direct inter-relation between the rainy tropical forest and the pluvial precipitation, wooded areas that were been converted surround the Canal into satate managed national parks and biological reserves.  In addition to ensuring the water supply, these protected areas are also used for eco-tourism as well as for scientific research.

The Chagres National Park covers 320,000 acres (129,000 ha.)of rainforest that provides 40.0% of the fresh water that goes into the inter-oceanic waterway. The Soberania National Park of 55,000 acres (22,104 ha) is a perfect example of tropical forest  boasting an amazing biodiversity.

More than 150 species of birds can be found of this area and the forest contains over 200 unique plant and animal species.  Another well known feature of the Park is the Las Cruces Trail, also called "the jungle road" or "Madden Road".  It was the main trade and passenger traffic route from 1530 to 1855.  This trail, a predecessor to the Panama Canal, was also used by fortune seekers traversing the Isthmus during the 1849 - 1850 California Gold Rush.  What is left today is only a six-mile trek through the tropical forest.   It can easily be walked, especially during the dry season.

In the largest section of the Canal (Gatun Lake), the Barro Colorado Island was declared a biological reserve in 1923.  It offers a great variety of plant and animal life, especially monkeys, and has become a worldwide recognized site for scientific research.  Since 1946 it is under the administration of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute.

Without forest there is no water, without water there is no Canal.

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