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Celaque National Park

Celaque National Park is located just 7.5 km from the historical town of Gracias in western Honduras. Declared in 1987, the park covers today an area of 267 km≤. Celaque means Box of Water in the local Lenca language. Due to its cloud forests, the park is a source of water for the communities in the surrounding area. It is home to the highest peak in Honduras, the Cerro Las Minas. Celaque is high in biodiversity and home to jaguars, pumas, ocelots, coatis, raccoons and tapirs, just to name a few. There are two main trails to discover the park; one leads to a waterfall - a 4 to 5 hour return walk, the second trail leads to the highest point of 2,849 m - a hard 7 to 8 hour hike one way.


Location

Just 7.5 km from the historical town of Gracias is Celaque National Park. In 1537, Gracias and the surrounding mountains were the setting for the last battle lead by the Maya leader Lempira. In honour to this famous indigenous leader who resisted the Spaniards for such a long time, the Honduras currency has been named after him. Seven years after his fall, in 1544 the Spaniards proclaimed the town of Gracias as headquarters for the garrison of Guatemala.


 

Size and Foundation

The Celaque National Park was declared in 1987 by the law # 87-87. The park covers 267 km≤, with 159 km≤ being in the core zone. Celaque means Box of Water in the local Lenca language. The Park is the starting point of many small streams that provide the surrounding area with clean water year round. The park ranges from 1,000 m to 2,849 m above sea level. It is home to the highest peak in Honduras. The park also hosts one of the largest and best-preserved cloud-forest areas in Honduras.


 

Natural environment and Importance

Celaque is home to various eco-systems because of its range of elevations. Below 1,500 m, the park consists mainly of pine-oak forests. Celaque contains six of the seven pine species found in Honduras and eight oak species. Above 1,500 m the forest changes to a mixture of cloud forest and pine forest. Which includes such tree species as Liquidambar (Styraciflua), Mountain Zapotillo (Clethra macrophylla) and Aquacatillo (Nectandra gentlei). Between 1,800 m and 2,000 m the real cloud forest begins. Cloud forests are mountainous broad-leaf forests found from 1,500 m to 2,500 m above sea level, depending on the local topography. The clouds are the product of the high altitude and the resulting cooler temperatures of the mountains; this builds a natural barrier for the hot and humid Caribbean air that is forced to climb the mountains. The air cools down and condenses. The result is clouds, fog and drizzle.

Above 2,500 m planes of Elfin Forest can be found, a rare form of cloud forest. The vegetation has adapted to the poor soils and the strong winds crossing the plane. Trees with some 100 years of age, that are normally found up to 40 m tall in the lower parts of the area, here only reach 3 to 5 m. The trees are covered under a thick layer of mosses and lichens.

Celaque is a source of water for the communities in the surrounding area. Cloud forests are water reservoirs. The vegetation collects the water from the air. When saturated, the water drips from trunks or leaf tips to the ground. The ground is spongy, protected by the vegetation from soil erosion, and is collected in lower and rocky parts of the ground. This natural water reservoir guarantees a constant water supply to the surrounding communities even in the dry season.


 

Wildlife

Many animals make their home in Celaque, Jaguars, Ocelots, Coatis, Raccoons, Agoutis, Peccaries, Tapirs, and Armadillos just to name a few. Many bird species also inhabit the park. These include several species of warbler, woodpeckers, vireos, the American swallow-tailed kite, white-fronted parrot, green parakeet, red crossbill, bushy-crested jay, and brown creeper. The cloud forest of Celaque is home to many endemic species the best-known ones being quetzals, collared trogons and emerald toucans. It is nearly impossible to list all the species in Celaque because of its range of elevation the park is home to thousands of different flora and fauna species.


 

Activities

There are two main trails. One leads visitors to a waterfall, a 4 to 5 hour return walk. The second trail leads to the highest point of 2í849 m, a hard full-day hike for an experienced and fit hiker. There are two more camps along this path. The first is called Don Tomas at 2,050 m, which consists of an outhouse and a basic shack with two beds. The facilities here are very basic. It is best to have your own camping gear. The second camp El Naranjo is located at 2,560 m and is just a few flat pieces of ground for tents and a fire pit. Local guides can be hired, which is a good idea as they are knowledgeable of the parks flora and fauna.


 

Accommodation / Visiting times

The visitorís centre and park entrance is found on a spring of the Arcagual River. The visitorís centre was created using two old houses of a small hydroelectric power plant that once was in operation. The centre is at an altitude of 1,400 m above sea level. The visitor centre provides all basic facilities: cold shower, toilet and drinking water (not disinfected, so purified water is recommended). Beds are limited, but itís possible to bring tents and camp.


 

Private tours

Private tours to Celaque National Park:

Natural History
Four-wheel drive adventure across Honduras