This park is located on the eastern side of the Panama Canal,
between the provinces of Panama and Colon. With a surface of 129,000 hectares (300,000
acres), this park was created to protect the tropical rainforest around the rivers that
run through it and which are the main source of water for the Panama Canal.
This park was created with the objective of preserving the natural forest of which it
consists, in order to produce water in sufficient quantities and of adequate quality to
guarantee normal operations of the Panama Canal, as well as supplying drinking water to
the cities of Panama, Colon and La Chorrera and at the same time generating electricity
for Panama and Colon..
It must be pointed out that for the Canal to continue working, it is necessary to maintain
the water levels, as each ship passing through the locks needs about 52 million gallons of
non recoverable sweet water.
How to get there
There are many ways to get to the park.
First, from the Transisthmian Highway (which runs between the cities of Panama and Colon)
there are three different ways: taking the road to the Madden Dam, taking the Calzada
Larga road to the Alajuela Lake and from the town of Nuevo Vigia. There is another way,
taking the road to Cerro Azul, which branches off the Pan-American Highway before Tocumen
International Airport, about 30 Km away from Panama City.
Because the park is so close to
the City, all services can be found there, but Cerro Azul also has some hotels and restaurants. You
will need to contact a tour
operator for a visit to the park.
What to do and Where to go?
The Chagres River and Lake Alajuela are the first places that you have to visit when you
get to the park. The Chagres River is perfect for rafting. The Alajuela lake is great for
fishing and watersports activities like water-skiing, jet ski, sailing and swimming.
You can camp almost anywhere in this park and enjoy bird watching or, just spend a night
in a tropical forest. These activities of getting in touch with nature are combined with
visits to authentic indigenous villages of the Embera-Wounan tribe living in the park and
who have preserved their way of living and their traditions.
There is a lot of interesting history in the park because the Spanish conquerors used it
as a way for carrying the gold and silver from their colonies in South America. They used
two routes named Camino de Cruces and Camino Real between the XVI and XVIII centuries
which were the precursors of the modern Panama Canal route. In the Cerro Azul region and
specifically on top of Cerro Jefe at 1,007 meters (Boss Mountain of 3,000 ft) you have a
spectacular view of the Panama Canal and with a bit of luck on a clear day you can see
both, the Atlantic and the Pacific.