The Iguazu Falls are within the Iguazu National Park, a protected area and the largest remnant of the Atlantic Forest biome of southern Brazil. The total Park area on the Brazilian side is 1696 Km2 (the Argentine and Brazilian Parks total over 2300 Km2). Long before it became a national park, the place has an interesting story:
In 1542, the Spaniard Alvar Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca was traveling to the city of Asunción (Paraguay), when he came across the grandeur of the Iguazu Falls. He was the first European to see the region, where at the time Guarani Indigenous people lived. The area was owned by the military colony, which around 1900 ceded it to the Uruguayan Jesus Val, when it then became private property.
On March 1, 1916, another important character enters history: the aviator, inventor and sportsman Santos Dumont, who was in Santiago (Chile), to attend the 1st Pan American Aeronautics Conference. After that, he traveled to Buenos Aires (Argentina). From there, he decides to visit the Iguazu Falls, located in the territory of Misiones, on the Argentine border with Brazil.
Frederico Engel, owner of a hotel that used to be where it is now located the Avenida Brasil (in Foz do Iguaçu), learned of Santos Dumont's presence on the Argentine side. Moved by the noble visit, Engel went with other locals to invite Santos Dumont to see the Falls also from the Brazilian side. Impressed by the beauty of the falls and during conversations with Engel and his team, Dumont discovered that the area had been donated by the former Military Colony to a private individual. Then Santos Dumont commented that the place should be public, heritage of all. That was when he decided to go to the city of Curitiba (where were the headquarters of the Paraná government) to talk to the president. The city vibrated with the visit of Santos Dumont. He was very famous. Santos Dumont was received at the office of the president of Paraná on May 8, where he submitted a request that Paraná create a park to protect the falls and enable more people to visit the site. In July of the same year, the State Decree no. 653 was published, expropriating the area of 1,008 hectares given years earlier to Jesús Val. Thus, to the curriculum of the sportsman, aircraft and inventor, was added to the successful acting as activist for the environmental cause, which today is an important remnant of biodiversity and one of the most visited places in the world!