Until recently, there was a beautiful waterfall on this river. When I arrived there today with friends, to everybody’s surprise, including the locals, the waterfall was gone! All that was left was a big hole with standing water in it. No cascading waters. Just the bone-dry riverbed where the waters once flowed and fell over the edge.
Locals explained that water being diverted further upstream by the world’s largest open pit copper mine – a mine named Chuquicamata– has caused a serious drop in the river levels, resulting in the vanishing of the waterfall that has been there for thousands of years.
Since I got to Calama, I had been really looking forward to that waterfall. I had heard so much about it. For now, it’s no more. Residents hope that with the rainy season that arrives in January, the water levels of the river will again increase and the waterfall will return. This is the desert.
It’s the Atacama Desert. It’s the driest place on Earth. Doubtful it will get so much rain that the river will bounce back enough to bring back the cascade. But I won’t discount Mother Nature. She’s capable of much.
Still, the Loa River was still a bit cold. Some have more tolerance for near-freezing waters than I do. My friends and I only got in up to our waists. The river is born from the snowmelt in the Andes Mountains, which loom in the horizon. The ice-cold water left our legs numb. It’s that cold. But we still enjoyed our lazy Sunday afternoon down by the river.
- The Rush Of A Desert River (miketendstotravel.com)
- A Place In The Desert Sun Where Snow Kisses Sand (miketendstotravel.com)