Volcán Barú

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Volcan baru.jpg
Volcán Barú and the mountain city of Boquete
Highest point
Elevation 3,475 m (11,401 ft)
Listing Country high point
Coordinates 8°48′31.72″N82°32′32.42″W / 8.8088111°N 82.5423389°W / 8.8088111; -82.5423389 Coordinates: 8°48′31.72″N82°32′32.42″W / 8.8088111°N 82.5423389°W / 8.8088111; -82.5423389
Panama relief location map.jpg
Red triangle with thick white border.svg
Parent range Talamanca Range
Mountain type Stratovolcano
Last eruption 1550 ± 10 years

The Volcán Barú (also Volcán de Chiriquí [1] ) is an active stratovolcano and the tallest mountain in Panama, at 3,475 metres (11,401 ft) high. It lies about 35 km off the border of Costa Rica.

Mountain A large landform that rises fairly steeply above the surrounding land over a limited area

A mountain is a large landform that rises above the surrounding land in a limited area, usually in the form of a peak. A mountain is generally steeper than a hill. Mountains are formed through tectonic forces or volcanism. These forces can locally raise the surface of the earth. Mountains erode slowly through the action of rivers, weather conditions, and glaciers. A few mountains are isolated summits, but most occur in huge mountain ranges.

Panama Republic in Central America

Panama, officially the Republic of Panama, is a country in Central America, bordered by Costa Rica to the west, Colombia to the southeast, the Caribbean Sea to the north, and the Pacific Ocean to the south. The capital and largest city is Panama City, whose metropolitan area is home to nearly half the country's 4 million people.

Costa Rica Country in Central America

Costa Rica, officially the Republic of Costa Rica, is a country in Central America, bordered by Nicaragua to the north, the Caribbean Sea to the northeast, Panama to the southeast, the Pacific Ocean to the southwest, and Ecuador to the south of Cocos Island. It has a population of around 5 million in a land area of 51,060 square kilometers. An estimated 333,980 people live in the capital and largest city, San José with around 2 million people in the surrounding metropolitan area.


Due to its height and the narrowness of the isthmus of Panama, it is possible (though relatively rare) to see both the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea from Volcán Barú's peak on a clear day.

Pacific Ocean Ocean between Asia and Australia in the west, the Americas in the east and Antarctica or the Southern Ocean in the south.

The Pacific Ocean is the largest and deepest of Earth's oceanic divisions. It extends from the Arctic Ocean in the north to the Southern Ocean in the south and is bounded by Asia and Australia in the west and the Americas in the east.

Caribbean Sea A sea of the Atlantic Ocean bounded by North, Central, and South America

The Caribbean Sea is a sea of the Atlantic Ocean in the tropics of the Western Hemisphere. It is bounded by Mexico and Central America to the west and south west, to the north by the Greater Antilles starting with Cuba, to the east by the Lesser Antilles, and to the south by the north coast of South America.


The small town of Volcán at the base of Volcán Barú sits on the remnants of a huge lahar that appears to have breached the caldera. A small river has eroded the lahar exposing an ancient forest below dated to about 1000 years old (Stewart, pers. communication).


A lahar is a violent type of mudflow or debris flow composed of a slurry of pyroclastic material, rocky debris and water. The material flows down from a volcano, typically along a river valley.

Volcán Barú is surrounded by a fertile area of cool highlands drained by the Chiriquí Viejo and Caldera Rivers. The towns of Volcán and Cerro Punta can be found on its western side, while Boquete is on the eastern flank.

Volcán, Panama Town and corregimiento in Chiriquí, Panama

Volcán is a town and corregimiento in Tierras Altas District, Chiriquí Province, Panama. It has a land area of 233.7 square kilometres (90.2 sq mi) and had a population of 12,717 as of 2010, giving it a population density of 54.4 inhabitants per square kilometre (141/sq mi). Its population as of 1990 was 7,146; its population as of 2000 was 10,188.

Cerro Punta, Chiriquí Corregimiento in Chiriquí, Panama

Cerro Punta is a city and corregimiento in Tierras Altas District, Chiriquí Province, Panama. Cerro Punta is located in Panama's western highlands at an altitude is 6,500 feet, just south of the Continental Divide. Many of the inhabitants of the village and the surrounding areas are indigenous Native Americans. The climate, like the rest of Panama, is tropical with a short dry season and rainy season that extends about 9 – 10 months of the year. Night time temperatures are often cool due to Cerro Punta's relatively high elevation. During the 1970s much of the land was used for cultivating strawberries; households also maintained small mixed-vegetable gardens. The village can be reached by traveling north from the Pan-American highway.

The occasional fall of hail or ice pellets has been reported on the summit, where the minimum temperature can be below 0 °C (32 °F) and the formation of frost is frequent during the dry season. The peak is host to a large installation of broadcast towers.


De Boer et al. [2] were the first to show that El Barú volcano is active and part of the extension of the Central American Volcanic Arc in Panama. Further detailed work on the geochemistry of the lavas from El Barú and other volcanoes in Panama was completed by Defant et al. [3] They substantiated, based on geochemistry, that the lavas were derived by subduction (calc-alkaline). Radiometric dates also showed that the volcanism falls into two groups that range from 20 million years to recent. They also showed that the youngest volcanism consists primarily of adakites (partial melts from the subducted slab) whereas the older volcanism is normal calc-alkaline lavas.

Central America Volcanic Arc

The Central American Volcanic Arc is a chain of volcanoes which extends parallel to the Pacific coast line of the Central American Isthmus, from Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and down to northern Panama. This volcanic arc, which has a length of 1,500 kilometres (930 mi), is formed by an active subduction zone along the western boundary of the Caribbean Plate.

USGS Volcano-Hazards Assessment Study

In 2006, an earthquake swarm was registered in the Volcán Barú area. This was not the first one; researchers cite at least three other seismic events of the same nature recorded in the recent past (1930, 1965, 1985). [4]

Earthquake swarm events where a local area experiences sequences of many earthquakes striking in a relatively short period;differentiated from earthquakes succeeded by a series of aftershocks by the observation - no single earthquake in the sequence is the main shock

Earthquake swarms are events where a local area experiences sequences of many earthquakes striking in a relatively short period of time. The length of time used to define the swarm itself varies, but may be of the order of days, weeks, or months. They are differentiated from earthquakes succeeded by a series of aftershocks by the observation that no single earthquake in the sequence is obviously the main shock.

In 2007, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), in cooperation with Panama's Science, Technology and Innovation Secretariat (SENACYT) and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), published a study on different aspects of Volcán Barú. [4] The 33-page report outlined potential hazard areas, rock composition, and areas affected by previous eruptions; there is evidence that during the last eruption, which occurred in the 16th century, the debris avalanche deposits covered a volume of 20–30 km³, reaching as far as the Pacific Ocean (the largest documented in Central America and nearly 10 times the area covered by the Mt. St. Helens debris avalanche in 1980). [4]

Data collected at several locations from four previous eruptions which occurred during the last 1600 years indicate that a new eruption would last several years, putting at risk population and costly infrastructure in the areas surrounding the volcano. Typical events during such volcanic episodes include pyroclastic flows, super-heated gas clouds rapidly descending the volcano’s east flank, conceivably reaching as far as Boquete, Alto Boquete, and the Caldera River, and fallout of ash and other particles ranging in size from dust to 1-meter blocks, known as tephra, causing fires, roof collapses, water contamination, crop damage and eye and lung irritation, especially among elders and infants. A third type of event, mud and debris flows, known as lahars, create landslides, obstruct rivers courses, and could have long-term effects in the zone. The severity of these events is directly related to the lava flows and their interaction with underground water deposits. [4]

A comprehensive set of maps is included with the study, clearly showing the most likely affected areas in Boquete, Volcán, Bambito and other towns in vicinity of the Volcán Barú. [4] The study recommends local authorities should make the population aware of the potential risks, and create a response system in preparation for the eventual onset of an eruptive episode. [4]

National park

The volcano was declared Volcán Barú National Park in 1976, with an area of 14,325 ha (35,400 acres). It is a part of the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor. Fauna include the black guan, black-and-white hawk-eagle, Underwood's water mouse, volcano junco, wrenthrush, and yellow-thighed finch. [5] Over 250 species of birds have been identified within the park, and all five species of big cats live here as well. The national park protects a range of habitat, including humid montane forests, low humid montane forests, and montane rainforests. [6]

The park's most popular hiking trail is the Sendero Los Quetzales (Los Quetzales Trail), which connects Boquete with Cerro Punta and wraps around the side of the volcano. The trail takes around 6 hours to hike. There is another trail to the top of the volcano, but this is long, steep and strenuous. You can, however, see both the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea from the summit on a clear day.

See also

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  1. "Barú". Global Volcanism Program . Smithsonian Institution.
  2. de Boer, J., Defant, M.J., Stewart R. H., Restrepo, J. F., Clark, L. F., and Ramierez A. H., 1988, Quaternary calc-alkaline volcanism in western Panama: Regional variation and implication for the plate tectonic framework: J. South American Earth Sciences, v. 1, p. 275-293.
  3. Defant, M. J., Jackson, T. E., Drummond, M. S., de Boer, J. Z., Bellon, H., Feigenson, M. D., Maury, R. C., and Stewart, R.H., 1992, The geochemistry of young volcanism throughout western Panama and southeastern Costa Rica: An overview: J. Geol. Soc. Lond., v. 149, p. 569-579.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Sherrod, D.R.; Vallance, J.W.; Tapia Espinosa, A.; McGeehin, J.P. (2008). Volcan Barú; eruptive history and volcano-hazards assessment: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2007-1401, 33 (PDF). pp. 1 plate 1.
  5. "Volcan Baru/ Panamá". Osatravel. Retrieved 8 June 2012.
  6. "Baru Volcano National Park".