Mountain Pine Ridge National Park
Mountain Pine Ridge National Park is a nature reserve in the Cayo District of southern central Belize. It was established in 1944 to protect and manage the native pine forest. Its boundaries are poorly defined, but it is estimated to cover an area of 106,352.5 acres (430 km²), although much of the reserve has been leased.
Little is known of the early history of the area. The Maya had a city at Caracol on the borders of the modern reserve as early as 1200 BC, and Mayan artifacts discoverd in Barton Creek Cave suggest that it was used as a ritual site. There is no mention of Mountain Pine Ridge in Hummell's 1921 report of forests of Belize, but it is believed he may have been the first forester to visit the area in 1897. To control increasing forestry activity in the area, a region of 1,504,000 acres was designated as forest reserve in October 1944, but despite fire control measures being established in 1945, much of the forest was destroyed by a fire in 1949. Few trees in the existing forest date to before this period. The reserve was reclassified in 1952 as a production forest and the 1950s saw the provision of roads and a landing strip. In 1959, the area of the reserve was reduced, losing some land to the neighbouring Sibun Forest Reserve. Hunting was banned in the reserve in 1978 in recognition of the nature conservation role that could be played by the reserve.
The reserve is home to various large mammals, including pumas, jaguars, ocelots, coatimundi, and Baird's tapir. There is a small population of Morelet's crocodile as well. Native species of bird include the Rufous-capped warbler, crossbill, pine siskin, eastern bluebird, Stygian owl, king vulture, ocellated turkey, acorn woodpecker, blue-crowned motmot, plumbeous vireo, keel-billed toucan, and red-lored parrot. Orange-breasted Falcons are more common in the area than elsewhere in Belize. Other fauna present in the reserve are the frog species, Rana juliani (which is restricted to the Maya Mountains) and Eleutherodactylus sandersoni, and the fish species Poecilia teresae.
At Barton Creek, there is a large river cave that may extend up to 4.5 miles and has not been fully explored. It is accessible only by boat, and archaeological investigation have uncovered a large number of Mayan relics from the various ledges above the river, suggesting it was used for rituals. The Rio Frio Cave through which the Rio Frio runs, has the largest entrance of any cave in Belize. There are small waterfalls on the Rio On and at Cristo Rey and larger drops at Big Rock on the Privassion Creek and Hidden Valley Falls. Baldy Beacon provides uninterrupted views over the reserve, as its soil is too poor to support any vegetation other than some hardy grasses.
JOURNEYS trips that include Mountain Pine Ridge National Park:
Information based on http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mountain_Pine_Ridge