Wild and Scenic Rivers and Proposed Wilderness Area

Presently designated Wilderness Area and Wild and Scenic Rivers in the El Yunque N.F.

Use this map to select one of the Federally designated Wild and Scenic Rivers and Wilderness Areas in the El Yunque National Forest.

Click on a river or area to get descriptive information (geology, history, recreation, etc.) about it. If you would like to obtain additional information about these vital conservation issues, please click on the links shown below.

[Image]: Map with links to the Wild and Scenic Rivers and the El Toro Wilderness area of the El Yunque National Forest.Link to information about the Icacos River. Link to information about the La Mina River.Link to information about the Mameyes River.Link to information about the El Toro Wilderness area.

 

Wild & Scenic Rivers:

Wilderness:

WILD & SCENIC RIVERS

Wild and Scenic River designation preserves selected rivers or river sections in their natural, free-flowing condition. To be eligible for designation, rivers must possess outstandingly remarkable scenic recreational or other natural values. Wild and Scenic River designation also requires Congressional action.

Designation of these Wild/Scenic Rivers on the Forest was significant because they are the only tropical rivers in the National Wild and Scenic River System.

Wild segments are managed to protect and enhance the values for which they were found eligible for designation. The segments are kept free of impoundments and are accessible only by trail. The riparian zone are maintained in an essentially primitive condition (free of structures and modifications of the waterway, such as rip-rapping and channelization) and maintain current water quality.

Scenic segments also remain free of impoundments, have largely primitive riparian zones, and are accessible only at certain points by roads.

Effects of the Designation

Wilderness Area and Wild and Scenic River designation by Congress can be considered the most protected of management areas, since once so designated only another act of Congress could change a Wilderness Area status. Areas allocated to the Wilderness Management Area would be managed under the following constraints: 

  • No road construction or other development 
  • No motorized or mechanized (e.g., bicycle) use
  • No timber harvesting
  • No water development
  • No treatment vs. control (manipulative) research
  • No mineral activity
  • Recreation management for low use, primitive experiences
  • Primitive standards for trail construction

R MAMEYES

[Image]: Photo of a segment of the Mameyes River, CNF.

Location

The area of the R Mameyes, from the Forest boundary mile west of the Road 988 bridge (Puente Roto) to its headwaters in the Ba de Oro Research National Area. Total length is 4.5 miles.

Scenic Value

The portion of the Mameyes, from its headwaters to the confluence with the R de la Mina, is remote and isolated. The stream course is a mass of jumbled boulders, and numerous small waterfalls and pools. Below the confluence with the La Mina, the R Mameyes enters a narrow, very scenic, gorge of about one mile in length. Along the gorge run the Carrillo (#9) and La Coca (#8) trails.

Recreation Value

The Mameyes, at the Puente Roto crossing, is the most popular water play area on the Forest. All alternatives considered in this plan revision include the construction of a large picnic area at Puente Roto to enhance the experience of users of the area, and to protect soil and water quality.

Historical-Cultural Value

Within the Scenic section of the river, there are home-stead sites dating to the 1930 or earlier. There are no recorded heritage sites within the proposed Wild section of the Upper Mameyes River, or within the Recreation section of the Lower Mameyes.

Geological & Hydrological Value

The Mameyes Watershed covers 6.88 square miles within the Forest, or 10.4% of the Forest. The average discharge at Station 0655 is 58.6 cubic ft./sec. Water quality is optimum within the study area of the upper segment, since the entire corridor is located in the Ba de Oro natural area, and no development exists. Water quality is good within the study area of the lower segment, affected to some degree by recreation use on the R de la Mina (a tributary of the Mameyes), and the heavy use near Puente Roto.

Due to steep slopes, no significant flood plains occur. Using Dr. Fred Scatena method for riparian wetland estimates, there are approximately 73 acres of riparian wetlands along the Mameyeseligible segments.

Biological Value

The R Mameyes provides habitat for the Puerto Rican Parrot and the Puerto Rican Boa, both endangered species. The endangered Broad-winged and Sharp-shinned Hawks, and the threatened Peregrine Falcon, are also known to occasionally use the area. No species of sensitive coqu are known to occur in the R Mameyes, but the numerous waterfalls associated with this system could potentially support populations of the Web-footed Coqu Suitable habitat also exists for the sensitive Red Fruit Bat.

No endangered plant species are known to occur along the Mameyes. Three sensitive plant species: Ni de Cota (Laplacea portoricensis), Saintedwood (Ternstroemia heptasepala), and Schwaneck Logwood (Xylosma schwaneckeanum), are known to occur in the area. The unique Pterocarpus (Pterocarpus officinalis) Forest occurs within the river corridor. Stands of this buttress-rooted tree are uncommon not only on the island but throughout the Caribbean.

The Mameyes River is the only river in the Island that runs un-interrupted from its origin to the sea.  Therefore the Mameyes system enjoys the highest natural aquatic diversity and species richness of any Forest watershed; supporting all 5 species of native fish, all 9 species of freshwater shrimp, and its only freshwater crab. Because of its pristine and primitive condition it serves as a baseline for research comparison with all other rivers.

 

RÍO DE LA MINA

[Image]: Photo of La Mina Falls at the La Mina River, CNF.

Location

The Río de la Mina segment being considered is from its confluence with the Río Mameyes to its headwaters located east of PR-191. Total length is 2.1 miles. The Río de la Mina and Río Mameyes have the highest scenic, research and biological values of any of the eligible rivers. One of its unique biological features is the Pterocarpus (Pterocarpus officinalis) Forest, which occurs in its lower reaches near the Forest boundary.

Scenic Value

The Rio de la Mina has small sections of pristine Palo Colorado and Sierra Palm forests views. This river has the most visitors of the three proposed rivers.

Recreation Value

The heaviest recreational development use in the Forest occurs at the Palo Colorado and Sierra Palm Picnic Sites (originally built by the Civilian Conservation Corps, CCC in the 1930s) located along the Río La Mina, near its headwaters. From these recreation sites, the La Mina Trail (#12) roughly parallels the river down-stream to the La Mina Falls, one of the most spectacular waterfalls in the Forest. Trail #24 continues downstream from the La Mina waterfall and links with the La Coca Trail near the Río Mameyes. Along this trail an old mine tunnel can be seen in the stream bank, where gold is said to have been extracted. (Trail #24 has been closed for several years because of small landslides, but is currently being re-constructed.)

Historical-Cultural Value

This river’s name, “La Mina,” probably comes from a mid-1800’s mining complex, located within the proposed Scenic section.

A series of homestead sites of the former community of Florida are located within the proposed Scenic corridor. Trail #24, and many of the facilities in the recreation complex along PR Hwy 191, were constructed by the CCC in the 1930s. PR Hwy 191 is also a CCC era project.

Geological & Hydrological Value

  • The Río de la Mina is part of the Mameyes Watershed. The Río de la Mina sub-watershed covers an area of 2.7 square miles or 6.1% of the Forest.
  • Water quality is good within the study area, affected to some degree by the Palo Colorado and Sierra Palm Picnic Areas.
  • Because of steep gradients and a dense network of ephemeral channels, no significant flood plains are found.
  • Using Dr. Fred Scatena’s Method for riparian wetland estimates, there are approximately 33 acres of riparian wetlands (Scatena, 1990).

Biological Value

The Río de la Mina provides important habitat for the Puerto Rican Parrot and the Puerto Rican Boa, both endangered species. The endangered Broad-winged and Sharp-shinned Hawks, and the threatened Peregrine Falcon, are also known to occasionally use the area. No species of sensitive coquís are known to occur in the Río de la Mina, but the numerous waterfalls associated with this system could potentially support populations of the Web-footed Coquí. Suitable habitat also exists for the sensitive Red Fruit Bat.

Two endangered plant species, Capá Rosa (Callicarpa ampla) and the Miniature Orchid (Lepanthes eltorensis), are known to occur along the study segment. Five sensitive plant species are known to occur within the study corridor: Luquillo Mountains Snailwood (Conostegia hotteana), Beruquillo (Marlierea sintenisis), Sintenis’ Guava (Psidium sintenisii), Saintedwood (Ternstroemia heptasepala), and Schwaneck’s Logwood (Xylosma schwaneckeanum).

 

RÍO ICACOS

Location

[Image]: Photo of a pond at the Icacos River, CNF

The section being considered is the Río Icacos from its confluence with the Río Cubuy (where they form the Río Blanco), to its headwaters approximately ½ miles south of the gate of PR Hwy 191. The total length is 2.9 miles. The Rio Icacos has a different geological and more varied scenic value than the north side rivers. The upper part of the Icacos flows through flatter terrain, forming highly attractive sandy bottomed pools. The corridor provides habitat for many species of rare plants, and outstanding examples of the Sierra Palm Forest.

Scenic Value

The Río Icacos has some of the most varied terrain of any of the Forest’s rivers. The stream gradient is less steep near its headwaters than further downstream, in contrast to all rivers on the Forest, with the exception of Río Sabana. The stream exhibits a unique sandy bed, due to its granodirite origin in this upper, flatter section. Contrasting sharply is the downstream segment, which more closely resembles other rivers in the Forest with huge jumbled boulders, rapids and steep gradient. The Sierra Palm Forest type is very conspicuous along the riverbank, more so than any other major river in the forest.

Recreation Value

The river roughly parallels the closed section of PR Hwy 191 for about 2/3 of its length. The road provides easy hiking access to the river corridor, even though no trails currently exist. The river provides outstanding opportunities for semi-primitive recreation; including hiking, backpacking, and water play in a relatively isolated environment. The gentle gradient of the upper part of the river creates sandy-bottomed pools, and adjacent flat areas, unlike much of the forest.

Historical-Cultural Value

Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) projects and sites dating from the 1930s are numerous within the study corridor, including trails, work camps, PR Hwy 191, and the small hydroelectric dam and its associated penstock at the south end of the study section.

Several pre-Columbian Taíno petroglyph sites are located along this river, downriver of the study section. There is one rock shelter within the corridor, which has Spanish Colonial ceramics in association with flaked stone tools.

Geological & Hydrological Value

The river is within the Río Blanco Stock, an intrusion of tertiary quartz diorite. The river headwaters have a gentle gradient and sandy clay flood plains. Steep gradients and numerous boulders characterize the downstream segments.

The Icacos River is located in Río Blanco Watershed. The Icacos River basin covers 812 acres (2.9% of the Forest Land). Water quality is high within the study area, although frequent landslides associated with Río Blanco derived soils contribute high amounts of sediment to the stream. The average discharge is 15.0 cubic ft./sec. There are 63 acres of flood plain conditions along the upper valley. Using Scatena’s method for riparian wetlands estimates, there are approximately 37 acres of riparian wetlands along Río Icacos (Scatena, 1990).

Biological Value

The Río Icacos Valley is not currently occupied by the Puerto Rican Parrot, but was historically an important use area, and is designated as “essential habitat” for the species’ recovery. The Icacos is known to be inhabited by the Puerto Rico Boa.

The Icacos Valley is occasionally visited by the endangered Broad-winged Hawk, and possibly by the endangered Sharp-shinned Hawk and the threatened Peregrine Falcon. The sensitive Burrow Coquí is known to occur in the upper headwater areas. Suitable habitats exist for the sensitive Mottled and Web-footed Coquís and for the sensitive Red Fruit Bat.

Endangered plants known to occur in the area are Capá Rosa (Callicarpa ampla), Sintenis’ Holly (Ilex sintenisii), Palo Colorado (Ternstroemia luquillensis), and El Yunque Colorado (Ternstroemia subsessilis). The study corridor provides unique habitats in which 15 species of sensitive plants are known to occur: Puerto Rico Raintree (Brunfelsia portoricensis), Hairycup Orchid (Brachionidium ciliolatum), Luquillo Mountain Manjack (Cordia wagnerorum), Guasábara (Eugenia eggersii), Niño de Cota (Laplacea portoricensis), Smallstalk Necklace Fern (Lindsaea stricta var jamesoniiformis), Island Babyfoot Orchid (Lepanthes dodiana), Licopodio (Lycopodium tenuicaule), Licopodio (Lycopodium wilsonii), Beruquillo (Marlierea sintenisii), Palo de Cera (Myrica holdrigeana),Tortugo Prieto (Ravenia urbanii), Woodsbury Nightshade (Solanum woodburyi), Saintedwood (Ternstroemia heptasepala) and Schwaneck’s Logwood (Xylosma schwaneckeanum).

The topography associated with the Río Icacos Valley makes it a unique aquatic ecosystem. Whereas most Forest streams oversteepen in their upper reach, the upper Río Icacos is a sinuous, low-gradient, slow moving stream characterized by fine substrates. It is one of only two such streams on the Forest.

 

EL YUNQUE NATIONAL FOREST WILDERNESS AREA

The El Yunque National Forest Wilderness Area is significant because it is the only tropical forest wilderness in the U.S. National Forest System, and contributes to the national goal of a more diverse wilderness preservation system.

The 10,000 acre EL Toro Wilderness Area lies on the west side of the Forest and is bound on the north by PR Hwy 966, on the south by the Forest boundary, on the east by PR Hwy 191 and the west by PR Hwy 186.

The vegetation is dense, mixed evergreen forest ranging from 3 meters in height on the peaks to 30 meters at lower elevations. Four major forest types: Tabonuco, Palo Colorado, Sierra Palm, and Cloud Forest occur in the area.

Several species of bats are common along with numerous lizards, tree frog species and several species of fish are found in the streams. The area is occupied by 42 year-round and 35 migratory species of birds.

The environment provides visitors with opportunities for a feeling of solitude and serenity, a spirit of challenge, adventure and a sense of self reliance.

 

EL TORO WILDERNESS AREA SPECIAL FEATURES

[Image]: Photo of a view of El Toro Peak, CNF.

The El Toro Wilderness Area provides an excellent setting to develop good formal and informal outdoor education programs.

Federally listed endangered plants such as the Miniature Orchid (Lepanthes eltoroensis) and Palo de Jazmín (Styrax portoricensis), plus several other rare plant species, are known to occur. Four endangered wildlife species are present: The Puerto Rican Parrot, Puerto Rican Sharp-shinned and Broad-winged Hawks, and the Puerto Rican Boa.

There are cultural or historical features within the area containing artifacts and Taíno petroglyphs.

The Scenery is spectacular and the grandeur of tropical vegetation can be appreciated from peaks both within and outside the area.

Wilderness Area and Wild and Scenic River designation by Congress can be considered the most protected of management areas, since once so designated only another act of Congress could change a Wilderness Area’s status. Areas allocated to the Wilderness Management Area are managed under the following constraints:

  • No road construction or other development
  • No motorized or mechanized (e.g., bicycle) use
  • No timber harvesting
  • No water development
  • No treatment vs. control (manipulative) research
  • No mineral activity
  • Recreation management for low use, primitive experiences
  • Primitive standards for trail construction