Serra da Canastra

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São Roque de Minas,Sacramento,Delfinópolis cities/Minas Gerais, Brazil, South America
4908 ft / 1496 m
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Serra da Canastra
Created On: Jun 28, 2007
Last Edited On: Jul 2, 2007


Area: 71.525 hectares - Perimeter: 173,4 Km Climate: Regional: transition hot tropical / temperate with 5 month dry season. Local: altitude Sub-humid Tropical.
Temperature: 20° C year average below 1000m.
Pluviometric average: 1.300 to 1.700 mm total /year
Altitude: 900 - 1496m.
Best time to go:
April to October. Temperature : 17ºC/23ºC

Park Informations:
IBAMA (5537) 3433-1195
Visit: 8am/6pm


The Serra da Canastra National Park is located in Southwestern State of Minas Gerais, Brazil (20°00'-20°30' S and 46°15'-47°00' W), municipalities of São Roque de Minas, Sacramento and Delfinópolis. Vegetation types are forests, including gallery forests along creeks and rivers, as well as small patches of cloud forests and montain forests; Savannah with four different physionomic types and "campos rupestres" with 1000 species registered and 43 news. There are too 354 birds species. This National Park was created to keep safe São Francisco River sources, third brazilian biggest river, with 2800 Km, crossing five States in Brazil.
There’s a road that cross the high part of the Park, with signal acess to the attractions. Out of park, roads come in to private property with many waterfalls.
Divino Fall
Fundão fall

Geomorphology and hydrology

The area is made of two isolated metamorphic quartzite high plateau (Chapadão), separated by a large valley: 1. the Serra da Canastra / Chapadao da Zagaia, and: 2. the Serra das Sete Voltas. Plane or undulated highlands are isolated by cliffs, precipices and steep slopes where softer stilts and micas abruptly replace the hard quartz cover, allowing differential erosion. Hundreds of streams originating on the plateau's flow downwards in spectacular waterfalls and cascades. Sierra's, cliffs and cascade create landscapes of exceptional beauty.

The Park is frontier between the Paranaiba (Parana, Plata) and Sao Fransisco river basins. Its quantity of small streams falling from the tops, form in the valleys important affluents of both rivers. On Serra da Canastra is located the highest and legitimate source of the Sao Fransisco river (1480 m). Its stream falls from high plateau into the valley in spectacular cascade and waterfalls, one of them 200m high, starting its 2700 Km course towards the ocean.


Vegetation in the area is typical of the Cerrado province, with some Atlantic influence.

On the highlands, poorly drained sands and watershed grow Humid prairies (Campo limpo and Vereda's) and on bare rock a typical Low shrub savannah (Campo rupestre), both with highly endemic adapted flora (Lycopoia, Sphagnum, Vellozia, orchids, Arnica, graminea, etc.).
Dense High forested Savannah (Cerradao) patches grow on the rich soils down the cliffs and in narrow valleys, where nutrients accumulate. Gallery Forests grow alongside the largest river courses. All forests are localized, impoverished and with Atlantic forest influences.
In some localized better drained areas grow open shrub savannah's (Campo Cerrado).
In the valleys and slopes of the buffer zone, on well drained soils, grow patches of open forested savannah's (Cerrado).
Highland Endemic Vegetation on most of the area is well preserved. On richer, better drained soils of the buffer zone, natural vegetation has been replaced pasture and cultures and timber was extracted.
Canastra overview...Campos Rupestres of Serra da Canastra
Canastra overview...


The Area shelters a poorly known Cerrado fauna, with some endangered species: Guara wolf (Chrysocyon brachyurus)the bigger Canidae in South America, anteater (Myrmecophaga tridactyla), Canastra armadillo (Priodontes giganteus)and mono carvoeiro(Brachyteles arachnoides)the bigger ape in Americas, etc. It is believed to be recovering from hunting dating from before the ParKs creation.

Local Population

The Park has no permanent population. Weekend visitation from neighbouring cities is principal activity, mainly motivated by the beauty of its landscapes and visit of the sources of the Sao Francisco. No more camping is allowed within the area. Average visit is 2500/year.

Buffer zone

In the 10 Km buffer zone are located two towns and a village: Sao Roque de Minas (4.076 inhab. in 1993), Vargem Bonita (1.041) and Sao Joao Batista da Serra da Canastra (50 houses). Sao Roque is closest to the Park's limit.

Region's main activity is modern agriculture: coffee, corn, soybean, rice and cattle ranching for milk production. There are 86 ranches around the Park. Their impacts (deforestation, insecticides, water pollution, etc.) are located upstream and do not affect the Park directly. To renew pastures, ranchers use to light fires that invade the Park every year. Traditional ranches move cattle to high altitude area's during the dry season.

A pinewood 140.000 ha. plantation on the Park's western limit, cooperates with the Park's administration for fire control.

Diamond is being extracted from the Sao Fransisco's sediments down the waterfalls, near Vargem Bonita, affecting riverbed and water quality. Around 300 to 400 miners are permanently active in the buffer zone (1993). Kaolin (white argil) is being extracted near the ParKs north-western limit.

Archaeoloqy and Culture

Artefacts and cave wall paintings heve bean signalised within the Park, but still need to be studied.
Regional culture, feasts, legends and traditions are part of Parks richness. An ancient fugitive slaves village (Quilombo) is located in the Park, as well as remains of 17th century farms.


Serra da Canastra: getting there

From Belo Horizonte, take BR-381 to São Paulo and in Betim town take MG-050 to Piumhi (270Km). After, come to São Roque de Minas(60Km) and more 7Km to the Park entrance. That’s the high part to the Park and the main entrance. There’s other three entrances: Casca d’Anta (low part entrance), Sacramento (west entrance) and São João Batista ( north entrance).

Getting There:

Belo Horizonte: 370Km
São Paulo: 566Km
Rio de Janeiro: 807Km

Canastra is in southwest of the State of Minas Gerais. Fly into Belo Horizonte. The trip from Belo Horizonte is approximately 340 Km. It’s localized in São Roque de Minas. Plates indicates the right way to access the entrance of the National Park. The distances inside the park are long. If you like, hire guides with transport included or go with car.


Casca d’Anta Fall (186m) – first and higgest fall of São Francisco river. Acess to the low part of the Park, with the better view, to São José do Barreiro road, Casca d’Anta entrance.
Cerradão Fall (private property, R$5 entrance) – 1,5Km easy trail. There are three falls (130m, 25m, 10m) with naturals tanks. Road to “Os Leites”, after São Roque de Minas
Fundão Fall (or Gameleira, 90m) – naturals tanks. Acess to main road.
Tesouro Cave – hard trail (2h), dark and humid cavern,with rock formations, narrow and soppy corridor. Needs a guide, lantern and helmet.

Where to stay

Chapadão da Canastra
Benjamin Constant nº10
Phone (5537) 3433-1267
São Roque de Minas

Pousada Barcelos
Av. Vicente Picardi nº 189
Phone (5537) 3433-1216
São Roque de Minas

Pousada Ecológica Paraíso da Serra
Casca d’Ata Fall road, Km9
Phone (5537) 3433-2062
Paraiso da Serra

Pousada Recanto da Canastra
Casca d’Anta Fall road, Km2
Phone (5537) 3433-2048
Recanto da Canastra

Pousada Bela Vista
Casca d’Anta Fall road, Km3
Phone (5537) 3433-2049
Pousada Bela Vista

Where to Eat:

Fazendinha da Canastra
Casca d’Anta Fall road, Km6
Phone (5537) 3435-1111

Av. Tancredo Neves nº10
Phone (5537) 3433-1323

Travel Agencies:

Aventura na Serra
Phone (5537) 3435-1317

Santa Marta
Phone (5537) 3343-1122

Serra da Canastra

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