The Rincon de la Vieja volcano is a massive 600-year-old geological wonder with at least nine volcanic cones. Geothermal activities relates to the heat found under the earth. In and around the region of Rincon de la Vieja, volcanic activity isn't far from the surface.
Rincon de la Vieja showcases geothermal features, similar to that seen in parks like Yellowstone (in the USA) or Rotorua (in New Zealand). Along the north slopes of the volcano (the Caribbean side),the rainforest begins. The geothermal activity means what to see includes unique volcanic "blue" rivers and natural mineral "green" hot springs. Along the Pacific side (the southern slope) of Rincon de la Vieja volcano at Las Pailas and Las Hornillas, take an enjoyable hike to witness boiling mud pots, sulphur springs, steam vents and fumaroles.
One of the largest geothermal electricity generating projects in the world is scattered through the valley between Rincon de la Vieja volcano and the Miravales Volcano. Stainless steel turbines snake their way from wells driven into the earth to turbine generating stations near Guayabal or La Fortuna de Bagaces. Investigations have been carried out into the feasibility of tapping Rincon de la Vieja's reserves and the volcano is estimated to have a generating potential of 140 megawatts. However, since Rincon de la Vieja is a protected national park, drilling has been limited to test wells. Further drilling will require approval, following environmental impact studies.
For more in-depth information about the volcanoes of Costa Rica and Rincon de la Vieja read over www.ovsicori.una.ac.cr – for those who can understand Spanish.
OVSICORI-A has developed the System Monitoring Volcanoes in Costa Rica. It integrates a group of professional disciplines for diagnosing and assessing the activity of volcanoes. Additionally there is a warning system in place to ensure proper steps are taken to mitigate the impact of volcanic eruptions.
Flora & Fauna
Inside Rincon de la Vieja National Park is an impressive array of wildlife. There are some 300 bird species. Examples include: three wattled bell birds, white fronted parrots, blue-throated goldentails, hummingbirds, spectacled owls, woodpeckers, tanagers, motmots, eagles, resplendent quetzals, creted guan, blue-crowned marmot, laughing falcon, red trogen, black-faced solitaire, great curassow, elegant trogon, montezuma oropendola, white-fronted amazon and guaco and emerald toucan. A suggested book to have on hand in Costa Rica is "A Guide to the Birds of Costa Rica" by Stiles and Stutch.
Among the mammals you will spot and even be greeted by are white-faced monkeys, spider and howler monkeys, coatis, anteaters, red brocket deer, two-toed sloths, squirrels, skunks, collared peccaries, agoutis, kinkajous, tapits, elegant trogans, northern tamandua, tayras, nine-banded armadillos, jaguars, pumas, cougars and tapirs. There are also numerous reptiles and amphibians. And let's not forget the Central American butterflies, native to Costa Rica, with four species of the beautiful blue morpho butterfly.
The vegetation is verdant. Its high forested slopes feature gnarled trees draped in moss mats that provide the arboreal base for orchids and epiphytes. Diverse habitats are created by the changes in altitude, rainfall, the effect of eruptions and the type of substrate. In the lower regions trees include the Guanacaste, freijo, gumbo-limbo, bitter cedar and capulin. In the central region (between 1200 and 1400 meters) the most abundant trees are the copey, poor man's umbrella, highland tinamous, manwood, calabash, jicaro danto and didymopanax. Beginning at 1,400 meters and continuing almost to the peak, the woods are low and the densely-branched trees are covered with mosses and other epiphytes. The many varieties of orchids growing upon the mosses include the national flower of Costa Rica called the guaria morada orchid or purple orchid (Guarianthe skinner). The most interesting plant is the strangler fig, seen towering throughout the park, with a hollow trunk, the only memory of the tree it has devoured.