The highest waterfall in Central America, the Thousand Foot Falls in western Belize sends water plummeting nearly 1,600 feet into a deep gorge below. Thousand Foot Falls is located in Belize's enormous Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve, a protected nature area teeming with wildlife and unique avian species that measures more than 430 square kilometers (106,000 acres) in size.
One of the most popular activities around the Thousand Foot Falls is to take pictures of the beautiful mist rising up from the plunge pool at the bottom of the waterfall. Most visitors catch their first glimpse of these magnificent falls from the viewing area. Replete with benches ideal for enjoying a picnic and a public restroom, the viewing area is actually some distance from the falls. To get the full experience, visitors must commit to a long hike down the side of the mountain.
The Thousand Foot Falls is located close to some of Belize's most scenic and popular waterfalls also located inside the boundaries of the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve, including Rio on Pools and Big Rock Falls. The nature reserve was established in 1944 to help protect the native pine forests of Belize, including Honduras pine and broadleaf species. Most of the reserve is unpaved wilderness, giving visitors a chance to explore the forests, rivers, grasslands, wetlands, and caves that are home to interesting wildlife like the rare Morelet's crocodiles, Baird's tapirs (Belize's national animal), jaguars, coatis, and ocelots. Amphibian species such as the Maya Mountains frog can also be found in the wetter lowlands of the reserve.
Avian species that can be seen in the reserve include the endangered ocellated turkey, red-lored parrot, keel-billed toucan, acorn woodpecker, orange-breasted falcons, and Lesson's motmot.
Another popular destination near the Thousand Foot Falls is Barton Creek, a large river that passes more than four miles through a series of underground passages. Also nearby is the Rio Frio Cave, once used as a ceremonial site by the ancient Maya. There is also a small community of Mennonites who live adjacent to Barton Creek inside the reserve's boundaries.
It's easy to get to the public viewing area for Thousand Foot Falls as it is clearly marked. But to get to the bottom of the falls for a truly up close view of this natural wonder, you'll probably need to ask a tour guide operator to take you there. Be aware that it takes a commitment of several hours to descend and then return from the base of the mighty Thousand Foot Falls.