The National Parks of Costa Rica
|PIEDRAS BLANCAS NATIONAL PARK
Destination content © Christopher P. Baker, used from Moon Handbooks Costa Rica, 5th edition.
In 1991, a tract of the Esquinas Forest north of Golfito and centered on the village of La Gamba
was named Piedras Blancas and incorporated (as the Esquinas Sector)
into Corcovado National Park. In 1999, it was split off and named a
national park in its own right. It has been a troubled park, as land
within its bounds is still in private ownership, and logging permits
issued before 1991 apparently remain valid. That year, Michael
Schnitzler, a classical violist, founded the Regenwald der
…sterreicher (Rainforest of the Austrians) to raise funds to buy
land in the Esquinas Forest. Local farmers in La Gamba decided to turn
to ecotourism as an alternative source of income. In turn, in 1993 the
Austrian government decided to underwrite the local population's
efforts to save the forest, and "Rainforest of the Austrians" was
appointed to oversee and direct the project. By 1999, more than 25 sq
km of rainforest had been purchased and donated to the nation thanks to
the generosity of Austrian donors.
A cooperative was formed to provide income for 25 families whose members are employed at Esquinas Rainforest Lodge and on fruit farms and a botanical garden. In time, the cooperative will become owner of the lodge. Plans are to create a "megapark" linking Esquinas to Corcovado National Park and Golfito National Wildlife Refuge. Trails offer hikes from 30 minutes to five hours. A guide is strongly recommended.
The "Rainforest of the Austrians" also operates La Gamba Biological Station in conjunction with the University of Vienna through a grant of the Austrian government. The station, on land adjoining the Esquinas Rainforest Lodge, is open to any student or biologist wishing to study there.
The turnoff from the Pan-Am Hwy. is at La Gamba. You can also get there via a road that leads north from Golfito.
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