|Source||Sierra de la Macarena|
|Length||100 km (62 mi)|
Caño Cristales is a Colombian river located in the Serrania de la Macarena province of Meta. The river is commonly called "The River of Five Colors" or "The Liquid Rainbow", and is even referred to as the most beautiful river in the world due to its striking colors. The river appears in many colors, including yellow, green, blue, black, and most importantly, red, due to the Macarenia clavigera (Podostemaceae) at the bottom of the river. This is responsible for the unique appearance of Caño Cristales.
The rocks of the Macarenia date back to 1.2 billion years ago. They are a western extension of the Guiana Shield of Venezuela, Guyana, and Brazil, whose rocks are considered to be among the oldest in the world. The rocks of the region belong to the sedimentary cover of the Guiana Shield. The Macarenia encompasses three ecosystems rich in diversity of flora and fauna: the Andes, the Eastern Llanos, and the Amazon rainforest. It is, therefore, of great significance in global biology. "Every new germs gap rush stations", says José Eustasio Rivera, in La Vorágine, referring to this type of vegetation.
In the jungle of the Macarenia, plants struggle to find nutrients in the soil, while a population of various fungi help break down the trunks of fallen trees.
The small circular pits, -giant's kettle- that characterize the river bed, have been formed by pebbles or chunks of highly dense minerals. When one of these harder fragments falls into one of the cavities, large or small, it is rotated by the water current and begins to carve at the cavity wall and increases the dimensions of the pit.
Fauna and flora
Caño Cristales has aquatic plants and corals. Its red color is characteristic of endemic plant species and corresponds to Macarenia clavígera.
The representative biome of the Serranía de La Macarena is the hydrophytic rainforest; hot, warm, and cold. The mountain is home to about 420 species of birds, 10 species of amphibians, 43 species of reptiles, and eight primates.
The river itself is totally devoid of fish, due to its high concentrations of sedimentary materials. Other channels of the Macarena, such as the Caño Siete Machos, hold red plants in winter. These red plants adhere tightly to rocks in places where the river has faster current.
To reach Caño Cristales, it is necessary to travel to the municipality of La Macarena, Meta, in Meta Department. There are two ways to get there, from Villavicencio, in a DC-3 cargo aircraft coming out every day or from Bogota, by direct flight that departs every Friday and returns on Sunday. Presently, there are no camp sites available near Caño Cristales.
The most ideal time to visit Caño Cristales is from late July to early December.