were a series of immense waterfall
A waterfall is a place where flowing water rapidly drops in elevation as it flows over a steep region or a cliff.-Formation:Waterfalls are commonly formed when a river is young. At these times the channel is often narrow and deep. When the river courses over resistant bedrock, erosion happens...
s on the Paraná River
The Paraná River is a river in south Central South America, running through Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina for some . It is second in length only to the Amazon River among South American rivers. The name Paraná is an abbreviation of the phrase "para rehe onáva", which comes from the Tupi language...
along the border between Brazil
Brazil , officially the Federative Republic of Brazil , is the largest country in South America. It is the world's fifth largest country, both by geographical area and by population with over 192 million people...
Paraguay , officially the Republic of Paraguay , is a landlocked country in South America. It is bordered by Argentina to the south and southwest, Brazil to the east and northeast, and Bolivia to the northwest. Paraguay lies on both banks of the Paraguay River, which runs through the center of the...
. The falls no longer exist, inundated in 1982 by the impoundment of the Itaipu Dam reservoir
A reservoir , artificial lake or dam is used to store water.Reservoirs may be created in river valleys by the construction of a dam or may be built by excavation in the ground or by conventional construction techniques such as brickwork or cast concrete.The term reservoir may also be used to...
. While published figures vary, ranging from 470000 cubic feet (13,308.9 m³) per second to 1750000 cubic feet (49,554.5 m³) per second, Guaíra's flow rate was among the greatest of any falls on earth.
The falls comprised 18 cataracts clustered in seven groups—hence their Portuguese name, Sete Quedas
(Seven Falls)—near the Brazilian municipality of Guaíra
Guaíra is a municipality in the state of Paraná in Brazil. The population in 2004 was 36,426 and the area is 1262.2 km². The elevation is 517 m. This place name comes from the Tupi language....
and Salto de Guairá, the easternmost city in Paraguay. The falls were located at a point where the Paraná River was forced through a narrow gorge. At the head of the falls, the river narrowed sharply from a width of about 1250 feet (381 m) to 200 feet (61 m). The total height of the falls was approximately 375 feet (114.3 m), while the largest individual cataract was 130 feet (39.6 m) high. The roar of the plunging water could be heard from 20 miles away.
A tourist attraction and a favorite of locals, the falls were completely submerged under the artificial lake created by the Itaipu Dam, linchpin of the world's largest hydroelectric project to date upon its completion in 1982. The building of the dam, authorized by a 1973 bilateral agreement between the Brazilian and Paraguayan regimes of the time, marked a new era of cooperation between the countries, both of which had claimed ownership of Guaíra Falls as its own.
As construction of the Itaipu Dam progressed, thousands of visitors flocked to the area to see the falls before they disappeared forever. Disaster struck on January 17, 1982, when a suspended footbridge
A simple suspension bridge is an early type of bridge that is supported entirely from anchors at either end, and has no towers or piers. However, it may have saddles...
affording access to a particularly spectacular view of the falls collapsed, killing 80 people.
Brazilian poet Carlos Drummond de Andrade
Carlos Drummond de Andrade was perhaps the most influential Brazilian poet of the 20th century. He has become something of a national poet; his poem "Canção Amiga" was printed on the 50 cruzados note...
wrote a poem expressing his dismay at the destruction of Guaíra Falls. Set in large type, the poem filled an entire page in the Jornal do Brasil
Here seven visions, seven liquid sculptures
vanished through the computerized calculations
of a country ceasing to be human
in order to become a chilly corporation, nothing more.
A movement becomes a dam.
—Carlos Drummond de Andrade, "Farewell to Seven Falls" (excerpt, translated from the Portuguese)
Earlier, as the waters began to rise, a demonstration
A demonstration or street protest is action by a mass group or collection of groups of people in favor of a political or other cause; it normally consists of walking in a mass march formation and either beginning with or meeting at a designated endpoint, or rally, to hear speakers.Actions such as...
took place, as hundreds of people gathered to participate in a guarup
, an indigenous
The indigenous peoples of the Americas are the pre-Columbian inhabitants of North and South America, their descendants and other ethnic groups who are identified with those peoples. Indigenous peoples are known in Canada as Aboriginal peoples, and in the United States as Native Americans...
ritual in memory of the falls. The inundation took only 14 days, occurring during the rainy season when the level of the Paraná River was high. By October 27, 1982, the reservoir was fully formed and the falls had vanished. The Brazilian government later dynamite
Dynamite is an explosive material based on nitroglycerin, initially using diatomaceous earth , or another absorbent substance such as powdered shells, clay, sawdust, or wood pulp. Dynamites using organic materials such as sawdust are less stable and such use has been generally discontinued...
d the submerged rock face of the falls, to promote safer navigation on the river.
The director of the company that built the dam was quoted as saying, "We're not destroying Seven Falls. We're just going to transfer it to Itaipu Dam, whose spillway
A spillway is a structure used to provide the controlled release of flows from a dam or levee into a downstream area, typically being the river that was dammed. In the UK they may be known as overflow channels. Spillways release floods so that the water does not overtop and damage or even destroy...
will be a substitute for [the falls'] beauty".
- Brazil, Lonely Planet Guide, 4th Edition, c. 1998 Lonely Planet Publications, PO Box 617, Hawthorn, Victoria 3122, Australia