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The cascading waters of Agua Azul take you back to a world more ancient; a timeless world where Nature and man coexisted in harmony. Like nearby Palenque, Agua Azul is a retreat for the mind and spirit. Discover it...

By Logan Hawkes

It's been called by many the most beautiful natural attraction in Mexico, the Cascades de Agua Azul in the Blue Water Biosphere of southern Chiapas, just about 30 miles from Mexico's famous archeological park at Palenque.

The crystalline blue waters are colored, in simple terms, by the large amount of limestone deposits on the rocky river bed, a surreal environment in the heart of the dense green rain forest country of southern Mexico.

Agua Azul is actually a series of shallow pools and waterfalls formed by rimstone dams. The limestone rich water cascades down a series of these natural dams and ends in the clear, waist-deep Shumulhá River. During the dry season, in April or May, the water is shimmering blue because of the high amount of soluted limestone. But during the rainy season there is more water and less color.

Beautiful yet treacherous, the cascading rapids rush miles across jungle valleys and canyons creating a watery world of splendid beauty and one that seems just a step beyond time itself, a twilight zone whose hypnotic qualities easily capture the heart and eye of the few lucky enough to view it in all its natural glory.

Because the picturesque turquoise water playground is known to many who frequent the area regularly, especially on the weekends, it's not unusual to find moderate numbers of sunbathers and river enthusiasts who come to revel and relax in this amazing watery paradise. But there are still plenty of remote areas along the cascades where you can find a beach, a bank, or a waterfall all to yourself. But beware, this river demands respect.

It doesn't take but one visit to areas of the river, especially around the larger falls, where warning signs complete with skulls are posted prohibiting entering the water. Below the sign are a number of wooden crosses marking memorials to those that were lost to the fury of the rushing waters.

There are safe places to play and swim however, provided you understand and respect the dangers. There are a number of local guides that know the cascades well. For white water kayakers there are guided and individual tours down the river with experienced guides, the only way to chance the dangers of the raging waters.

The number of falls, large and small, along the cascading waters are popular attractions as well and you won't want to miss seeing as many of them as you can. The largest falls is called the Misol-Há, a 120-foot drop of cascading water that should have been the backdrop for a Tarzan movie. But many of the smaller falls provide the perfect place to park your yourself in the refreshing waters and rediscover what the earth must have looked like back in the days of the great Palenque Empire. The sounds of birds and insects and jungle calls are a reminder of the rich environment of the ecosystem, and the sultry Jurassic nature of the tropical rain forest can make the mildest feel like Indiana Jones on another wild adventure.

There are communities including lodging located along the natural route of the cascades.

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