Cano Negro Nature Preserve

The town of San Rafael on the banks of the Rio Frio is often simply called Guatuso by its 6,000 inhabitants. It offers little in the way of tourist attractions but is a good place to go to rent a boat or hire a guide for excursions into the Cano Negro Nature Preserve. The nearly 10,000-hectare preserve is set aside for the protection of Costa Rica's native animals. It is of special interest to ornithologists, who come to study the storks, pink spoon-billed herons, darters, common herons and cormorants that inhabit this lowland preserve near Costa Rica's northern border. Large flocks of migrating birds fly through Cano Negro between January and March. Small groups of birds are also visible the rest of the year. Because Cano Negro is thinly inhabited and off the beaten track, rare animals such as pumas, tapirs and jaguars are still to be found in its thickets. During the rainy season the Rio Frio often overflows its banks forming a lake that extends for several square kilometers. This is a good place to observe waterfowl. The lake completely disappears during the dry season. There is a forest station in the small village of Cano Negro, 25 kilometers to the southwest, where simple accommodations are available. Forest station employees are also armed with information about fishing trips (except in the months from April to June), excursions on horseback and guided hikes. Excursions into this unique animal paradise by boat on the Rio Frio can be arranged at the small border town of Los Chiles, which is also the point of departure for Nicaragua. It is also possible to take the rough road through incredibly beautiful scenery from Cano Negro via Angeles and Upala southward to the Nicoya peninsula.
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