Chagres National Park

Located in Panama, the Chagres National Park (in Spanish: Parque Nacional Chagres) offers a fascinating glimpse into the mighty natural magnificence and the rich indigenous culture of the country. With its lush biodiversity, historical indigenous communities, and exciting tourism activities, this park promises an unforgettable experience. Embark on a journey through this article to discover all you need to know about this natural sanctuary.

Chagres National Park Information

Chagres National Park

Geographical Location

Situated between the provinces of Panama and Colon, the Chagres National Park spans around 1,290 km² of tropical forests and mountains at coordinates 9°24′N 79°30′W / 9.4, -79.5. The protected area encompasses from Cero Azul to areas near the Caribbean coast in Colon.

History and Designation as a National Park

Established in 1985, the park has played a fundamental role in the protection of Panamanian biodiversity and the conservation of critical water resources for the Panama Canal. Its main objective is to preserve the natural forest to ensure the water supply needed for the functioning of the Panama Canal, as well as to provide drinking water to cities like Panama, Colon, and La Chorrera, and to generate electricity for Panama and Colon. The conservation of the park is crucial to maintain adequate levels of freshwater, as the Panama Canal requires large amounts of water to operate properly.

Preserving fauna such as the harpy eagle and jaguar is also among its goals.


The climate is tropical and humid, with an average annual temperature of 28°C. Visitors are recommended to wear light clothing, sunscreen, and insect repellent to make the most of their visit.

There is a variation in average temperatures, ranging from 30°C in the lower areas to 20°C in the mountains. Precipitation also varies, with levels around 2,200 mm at Lake Alajuela and up to 4,000 mm in mountainous areas. The park’s hills are covered by both wet and very wet tropical forests, creating a diverse and lush natural environment.


Highlighted Flora and Fauna

Chagres National Park harbors a great diversity of birds, including the piculus callopterus or Panamanian woodpecker, a unique species in the country, as well as the majestic harpy eagle, Panama’s national bird. Regarding mammals, the park is home to white-tailed deer, black-handed spider monkeys, and various species of bolitoglossa. Additionally, its dense forests host tapirs, jaguars, and other large felines. In the park’s rivers, such as the Chagres River, there are 59 species of freshwater fish, as well as water opossums, spectacled caimans, and crocodiles.

Its rich flora also includes various species of orchids and giant ferns. The park’s vast expanse encompasses both dry and wet forests.

Ecology and Biological Diversity

The park stands as one of the sites with greater biodiversity in Panama, presenting a rich blend of ecosystems ranging from cloud forests to lowland rainforests.

Water Resources

The Chagres River and Its Significance

The Chagres River plays a fundamental role in the park’s ecosystem and in providing water for the Panama Canal, one of the most important landmarks in world engineering.

Reservoirs and Their Role in the Panama Canal

The reservoirs of Chagres National Park, including Lake Alajuela, offer a crucial water source for the operation of the Panama Canal, besides providing beautiful landscapes for visitors.

Culture and Indigenous Communities

Emberá and Kuna Communities

The indigenous communities of Emberá and Kuna inhabit the area and offer a unique insight into their rich cultural heritage and living traditions through their crafts, music, and dances.

Local Traditions and Customs

Visitors can learn about the traditions of the Emberá and Kuna peoples, from their native cuisine to their ancient spiritual rituals.

Community Involvement in Conservation

These communities play an essential role in park conservation as they care for and preserve the ecosystem in its natural state, ensuring the preservation of their home and heritage for future generations.

Tourism in Chagres National Park

Key Attractions and Viewpoints

The park offers a range of attractions, such as birdwatching, trekking trails, and opportunities for rafting on the Chagres River. Viewpoints provide breathtaking panoramic views of the lush jungle and meandering rivers.

Hiking Trails and Adventure Activities

With a wide range of hiking trails, from beginner to advanced, visitors can explore the park’s beauty at their own pace. Adventure activities such as kayaking and rafting are also popular among the more adventurous tourists.

Visitor Rules and Regulations

To ensure the park’s preservation, visitors are urged to follow all rules and regulations, including not littering, not feeding wild animals, and respecting protected areas.

Conservation Projects

Threats to the Park and Protection Measures

Despite its designation as a national park, Chagres faces various threats, including deforestation and poaching. However, Panamanian authorities and several NGOs have established protection measures to preserve this natural paradise.

Reforestation Initiatives and Biodiversity Conservation

Several ongoing reforestation initiatives seek to promote the recovery of degraded areas and the conservation of endangered species.

Role of Local and International Organizations

Local and international organizations play a vital role in the protection and conservation of the park, providing funding, training, and logistical support for conservation initiatives.

Visit Planning

Getting There: Transportation and Logistics

Chagres National Park is approximately an hour’s drive from Panama City. Public transportation is available, although organized tours can also be arranged from the city.

Best Times to Visit

While the park is open year-round, the best time to visit is during the dry season, from mid-December to April, when rainfall is less frequent, and hiking trails are in the best conditions.

Safety Recommendations and Necessary Equipment

Visitors should wear appropriate hiking shoes, sunscreen, insect repellent, and carry drinking water. Additionally, hiring a local guide is advisable for longer hikes and rafting.

Services and Facilities

Visitor Centers and Environmental Education

Visitor centers provide valuable information about the park, its flora and fauna, and ecosystems. Environmental education programs are also offered to promote ecological awareness among visitors.

Accommodation and Camping Areas

The park offers camping areas for those who wish to spend the night surrounded by nature. Accommodation options are also available in lodges and eco-lodges near the park, where visitors can enjoy amenities while immersing themselves in the natural beauty of the surroundings.

Restaurants and Local Shops

Within and around the park, visitors will find restaurants offering traditional Panamanian cuisine and local shops where they can purchase indigenous crafts and other typical products.

Whether you’re interested in biodiversity, indigenous culture, or exciting outdoor activities, Chagres National Park has something to offer for every preference. Get ready for a unique adventure in this incredible Panamanian destination.

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