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Area: 71.525 hectares - Perimeter: 173,4 Km C/imate: Regional: transition hot tropical / temperate with 5 month dry season. Local: altitude Sub-humid Tropical
- temp: 20° C year average below 1.000 m.
· pluv: 1.300to 1.700 mm total /year
Altitude: 900 - 1.496m.
Geomorphology and hydrology:
The area is made of two isolated metamorphic quartzite high plateau (Chapadao), separated by a large valley: 1. the Serra da Canastra / Chapadao da Zagaia, and: 2. the Serra das Sete Voltas. Plane or undulated highlands are isolated by cliffs, precipices and steep slopes where softer stilts and micas abruptly replace the hard quartz cover, allowing differential erosion. Hundreds of streams originating on the plateau's flow downwards in spectacular waterfalls and cascades. Sierra's, cliffs and cascade create landscapes of exceptional beauty.
The Park is frontier between the Paranaiba (Parana, Plata) and Sao Fransisco river basins. Its quantity of small streams falling from the tops, form in the valleys important affluents of both rivers. On Serra da Canastra is located the highest and legitimate source of the Sao Fransisco river (1.480 m.). Its stream falls from high plateau into the valley in spectacular cascade and waterfalls, one of them 200 m high, starting its 2.700 Km course towards the ocean.
Vegetation in the area is typical of the Cerrado province, with some Atlantic influence.
On the highlands' poorly drained sands and watershed grow Humid prairies (Campo limpo and Vereda's) and on bare rock a typical Low shrub savannah (Campo rupestre), both with hinhly endemic adapted flora (Lycopoia, Sphagnum, Vellozia, orchids, Arnica, graminea, etc.).
Some Dense high forested savannah (Cerradao) patches grow on the rich soils down the cliffs and in narrow valleys, where nutrients accumulate. Gallery forests grow alongside the largest river courses. Al l forests are local ised , i mpoverished and with Atlantic forest influences.
In some localised better drained area's grow Open shrub savannah's (Campo Cerrado).
In the valleys and slopes of the buffer zone, on well drained soils, grow patches of Open forested savannah's (Cerrado senso stricto).
Highland endemic vegetation on most of the area is well preserved. On richer, better drained soils of the buffer zone, natural vegetation has been replaced pasture and cultures and timber was extracted, long before the Park's creation.
The Area shelters a poorly known Cerrado fauna, with some endangered species: Guara wolf (Chrysocyon brachyurus), anteater (Myrmecophaga tridactyla), Canastra armadillo (Priodontes giganteus), etc. It is believed to be recovering from hunting dating from before the ParKs creation.
The Park has no permanent population. Weekend visitation from neighbouring cities is principal activity, mainly motivated by the beauty of its landscapes and visit of the sources of the Sao Francisco. No more camping is allowed within the area. Average visit is 2.500 /year.
In the 10 Km buffer zone are located two towns and a village: Sao Roque de Minas (4.076 inhab. in 1993), Vargem Bonita (1.041) and Sao Joao Batista da Serra da Canastra (50 houses). Sao Roque is closest to the Park's limit.
Region's main activity is modern agriculture: coffee, corn, soybean, rice and cattle ranching for milk production. There are 86 ranches around the Park. Their impacts (deforestation, insecticides, water pollution, etc.) are located upstream and do not affect the Park directly. To renew pastures, ranchers use to light fires that invade the Park every year. Traditional ranches move cattle to high altitude area's during the dry season.
A pinewood 140.000 ha. plantation on the Park's western limit, co-operates with the Park's administration for fire control.
Diamond is being extracted from the Sao Fransisco's sediments down the waterfalls, near Vargem Bonita, affecting riverbed and water quality. Around 300 to 400 miners are permanently active in the buffer zone (1993). Kaolin (white argil) is being extracted near the ParKs north-western limit.
Archaeoloqy and culture
Artefacts and cave wall paintings heve bean signalised within the Park, but still need to be studied.
Regional culture, feasts, legends and traditions are part of ParKs richness. An ancient fugitive slaves village (Quilombo) is located in the Park, as well as remains of 17th century farms.
Access and infrastructure
Access is by road, 262 Km from Belo Horizonte, 183 Km from Uberlandia and 7 Km from Sao Roque de Minas, where visitors can stay in small pensions.
The Park's infrastructure counts four controlled access gates with sleeping and administrative facilities for functionaries, an administrative office, radio communication facilities, mechanical facilities and a visitor's centre with 45 p. auditorium, permanent exposition and audio-visual equipment. There are three fire watching towers. Permanent staff is 25 (1993).