SOMOTO, Nicaragua – Somoto Canyon, home to some of the most impressive geological landscapes in Central America, is seeking to be listed by UNESCO as the first geopark in the region.
Over thousands of years, with the erosion caused by rain and the Coco River’s waters, Somoto Canyon, located in the like-named Nicaraguan city, was formed.
The waters of the Coco River, the longest waterway in Nicaragua at 680 kilometers (422 miles) long, flow along an open channel in the middle of the walls of a rocky area, resembling the curves of a slithering snake.
The canyon, in addition to being home to a variety of species, such as deer and river otters, has great geological resources and several pre-Columbian archaeological sites are nearby.
Nicaraguan government officials, along with local authorities and with the assistance of Spain’s Andalusian Agency for Development Cooperation (AACIC), worked to present UNESCO with the area’s candidacy for listing as a geopark covering four municipalities in Madriz province.
The inclusion of Rio Coco Geopark on the World Geoparks Program list would mean international recognition by UNESCO for an area that has geological significance and is properly managed.
Due to its geological offerings, abundant biodiversity and tourist and cultural attractions, the Rio Coco Geopark project is being considered for listing by UNESCO, the Environment and Natural Resources Ministry said.
If Somoto Canyon is included on the list, Nicaragua would be the first country in Central America to have a geopark recognized by UNESCO.
The canyon, brought to the attention of the international community by a team of Czech geologists in 2004, has also become a major engine of the local economy.
The park is the first of its kind in Central America and is located near El Espino, a border area shared by Nicaragua and Honduras.
The park is 15 kilometers (9.3 miles) west of the city of Somoto, which you enter on a road full of sharp stones, passing villages whose residents offer tours of the area.
Due to the area’s combination of water and geological resources, and its potential as a tourist attraction, the government created Somoto Canyon National Monument.
In October 2017, the government presented UNESCO with an application for candidacy as a new geopark.
Currently, the tourism industry is struggling amid the sociopolitical crisis that Nicaragua has been experiencing since April 2018, a period of turmoil that has left hundreds of people dead and imprisoned, as well as thousands of others unemployed or forced into exile.
Miguel Angel Jimenez, one of the tour guides at Somoto Canyon, told EFE that the area welcomed about two to four tourists per day during the crisis and now sometimes gets 300 visitors on weekends.
Most of the tourists are Nicaraguans who live in the United States and Canada, Jimenez said.