Getting to know the CER: Laguna Escondida

Children's Eternal Rainforest
Looking across the forest of Peñas Blancas in the direction of Laguna Escondida. Photo credit: Sarah Maxwell.

Guest post by Richard V. Joyce

Laguna Escondida (or Hidden Lagoon) lies several kilometers north of Eladio’s Refuge in the Peñas Blancas Valley. Rugged terrain and multiple river crossings mean that it can take over three hours to hike there from Eladio’s cabin. Trail-crew members, researchers and biology students are among the few people to make the trip to this remote site.

Laguna Escondida
Eladio Cruz, superb naturalist, conservationist and friend of CER, stands in front of Laguna Escondida. Photo credit: Mollie Deuel.

Beginning in the mid 1980s, an aquatic plant called water lettuce (Pistia stratiotes) began to colonize the lagoon, eventually covering majority of its surface. Because Laguna Escondida is far from away from any waterway that contains Pistia, it is unclear how the plant originally arrived. Perhaps an aquatic bird such as a northern jacana, masked duck or great blue heron brought seeds stuck in its feathers to the pond.

Cecropia Tree
A cecropia tree silhouette at sunrise in the Peñas Blancas Valley.

On a hike to Laguna Escondida this May, a group of biology students saw a broad-billed motmot and heard crested guans. Guans are arboreal birds related to turkeys, whose large size and clumsy flying make them desirable to hunters. Important as seed dispersers, these birds are indicators of a robust ecosystem. As the students hiked, their rubber boots stepped next to the tracks of collared peccaries, another species that the CER protects from hunting.

Water flowing through the CER
The CER preserves much of the watershed of the Peñas Blancas River.

Fer-de-lance Pit Viper
The fer-de-lance pit viper is one of the more notorious inhabitants of the Children’s Eternal Rainforest. This rather large specimen was sunning itself on the trail to Laguna Escondida.

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