The Rio Macho Forest Reserve was created on January 23rd, 1964 to protect forested areas in the southern Talamanca Mountain region near Tapanti National Park and Chirripo National Park. Is Costa Rica’s largest protected area, composed of 13 different units for a total of over 200,000 acres, which is also part of the La Amistad Biosphere designated by UNESCO, where is located the Villa Mills Experimental Biological Station, at the premises formerly occupied by the CATIE.
Rio Macho Forest Reserve in conjunction with other Protected Areas like Chirripó National Park and Tapantí National Park, form the largest latitudinal biological corridor of the country where there are as many mountain high forests, moors, bogs, cloud forests and fauna associated with these ecosystems, much of it endangered.
Thanks to its three different life zones blended together: Premontane Rain forest, Low montane rain forest and montane rain forest, is the natural habitat to an immense variety of animals such as tapir (Tapirus bairdii), puma (Puma concolor), jaguar (Panthera onca), collared peccary (Pecari tajacu), wild rabbits (Sylvilagus dicei), squirrels (Sciurus sp.) mice bats, etc. Similarly, visitors can find some salamanders of the Bolitoglossa and Oedipina genus and frogs of the Hylidae, Leptodactylidae, Ranidae Centrolenidae families, amongst Caecilidae family, lizards such as the common lizard (Sceloporus malachiticus) and the caiman lizard (Mesaspis monticola); of snakes can appoint the Godman’s pit viper (Cerrophidion goodmani), the Side-striped palm viper (Bothriechis side) and some non-poisonous.
In birds, one of the most representative of the highlands is the Resplendent Quetzal (Pharomachrus mocinno) who lives here year round, as well as other species such as the Black-faced Solitaire (Myadestes melanops), the Sooty Robin or Sooty Thrush (Turdus nigrescens), the Swallow-tailed Kite (Elanoides forficatus), the Rufous-collared Sparrow (Zonotrichia capensis), the Black-billed Nightingale-thrush (Catharus gracilirostris), the Sooty-capped Bush-Tanager (Chlorospingus pileatus), the Collared Redstart (Myioborus torquatus), the Blue-and-white Swallow (Pygochelidon cyanoleuca), the Golden-browed Chlorophonia (Chlorophonia Callophrys) ,trogons, hummingbirds, woodpeckers, the unique silky flycatcher and the peg-billed finch, all of which are endemic, found only in this part of the world.
Some of the plant species include oaks, the cipresillo (querquis costaricensis), mountain needle and blueberry, all endemic to this area. Also, visitors can find hundreds of species of bromeliads, lichen moss, ferns and a multitude of orchids and colorful flowers such as “guesneracias”. These forests are also characterized by a high incidence of epiphytic plants. The wild avocados, cedrillos and wild blackberries found in the area are one of the main sources of food for the Resplendent Quetzal, besides the oak forest and trees contribute highly to clean the air, though the fixation and storage of carbon and liberation of oxygen.
This is also an area of rivers, where the Savegre River plays a very important role, as host of a large population of Rainbow Trouts (Salmo gairdneri) and a supply of potable water through rural aqueducts.
Temperatures range from 0°C to 17°C, being January the coldest month, with minimum temperatures below zero and highs around 20°C, and the hottest month is April. The dry season lasts from December to April, being February and March the driest months. The rainy season lasts from May to November with September and October as the wettest. The average annual rainfall is around 2000mm.
Other nearby Costa Rica National Parks includes the Tapanti National Park, Chirripo National Park, Cerro Las Vueltas Biological Reserve, Los Quetzales National Park (Former Los Santos Forest Reserve), Cataratas Cerro Redondo Wildlife Refuge and Paramo Wildlife Refuge. There are no public park facilities at this wildlife refuge.
Getting to Rio Macho Forest Reserve:
Take the road from San Jose to Cartago, and take the exit for the Cerro de la Muerte, the Inter-American Highway, and at La Auxiliadora Sector, at Kilometer 92, where the community of Villa Mills is, turn left on an unpaved road leads to the community of Piedra Alta and Alto del Jaular. The Biological Station is at 1.8 km from the entrance. You can enter all types of vehicles throughout the year, with a distance of travel from San Jose of 2 hours, and one hour from San Isidro de Perez Zeledon.
Take a bus from the route San Jose – San Isidro de El General – Perez Zeledon which takes about 2 hours, making the stop at Villa Mills (MUSOC, 2222-2422 / TRACOPA, 2222-26-66). From here you can take taxi to Rio Macho Forest Reserve.
Location: between Tapanti and Chirripo National Parks, in Cartago province.
La Auxiliadora Sector GPS coordinates: 9.567953,-83.736736 (9°34’04.63″N, 83°44’12.25″W)
Size: 69,604ha (171,922 acres)
Altitude: from 2000m up to 3000m.
Pacific La Amistad Conservation Area (ACLA-P) Telephoe: +(506) 2771-4836 / 2771-3155
INFOTUR Tourist Information: 1192