Caño Cristales has been referred to as the "river of five colors",
"the river that ran away to paradise," and "the most beautiful
river in the world." It is indeed a unique biological wonder.
For most of the year, the Caño Cristales is indistinguishable
from any other river, with a bed of rocks covered in dull green
mosses and a cool dark blue current. However for a short period
each year the river blossoms in a rainbow of colors.
During Colombia's wet season, the water flows fast and deep,
obscuring the bottom of the river and denying the mosses and
algae that call the river home the sun that they need. And
during the dry season there is not enough water to support
the dazzling array of life in the river. But during a brief span
between the wet and dry seasons, when the water level is
just right, the many varieties of algae and moss bloom in a
dazzling display of colors. Blotches of amarillo, blue, green,
black, and red--and a thousand shades in between--coat the river.
A number of the more adventurous Colombian tourist agencies
will fly travelers to the nearby town of La Macarena. The river,
which is roughly 20 meters wide and runs for 100 kilometers,
is rather remote. Without any roads leading to the river, the
Caño Cristales must be accessed by horse.