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PLACES TO SEE > RESERVES > Columbia Forest Reserve


Lying just north of the Maya village of San Jose, the Columbia River Forest Reserve protects 103,000 acres of tropical rainforest. It is one of the largest tracts of undisturbed rainforest in Central America. A 1993 study found this region to harbor one of the most biologically diverse ecosystem in Belize.

San Jose Village at entrance to Columbia Forest Reserve
San Jose Village - Entrance to Columbia Forest Reserve

The Columbia River Forest Reserve has a variety geological formations. In part, the landscape is strongly karsified, riddled with major cave systems and some of the largest sink holes in the country (one is 800 feet deep and 1/4 mile wide). The most prominent geological feature of the Columbia River Forest Reserve is the "Little Quartz Ridge". This sharp "fin" of quartz-rich rocks has a height of 1040 meters above sea level. The slopes of the ridge form shallow lateral caverns extending like shelves into the rocks on either side of some creeks. These shallow caverns provide suitable breeding habitats for many animal populations.

Limestone rock

The terrain within the reserve varies from 900-2700 meters above sea level. Rainfall over the region averages a little over 100 inches annually. The highly porous limestone topography of the area plays an important role as an aquifer, storing much of the year's heavy rainfall in fissures and underground caverns.

Access is difficult and permits from the Forestry Department are necessary to enter the reserve. But if you are looking for a backcountry experience in a near virgin tropical forest, check with the Belize Forestry Department and experienced guides can be hired at the village.

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