Chagres National Park

Year of compilation: 2003

Site description
Chagres National Park protects the upper Chagres River watershed above Lake Alajuela (Madden), (5,000 ha), a reservoir that provides water for the operation of the Panama Canal, as well as drinking water and hydroelectric power for Panama City. In the Chagres basin, the park includes the Boquerón, Pequení, and Las Cascadas tributaries of the Chagres. North of the Chagres basin, it includes the upper watersheds of the Nombre de Dios, Viento Frio, Cuango, Culebra, and Mandinga Rivers, which flow directly into the Caribbean. The highest point is at Cerro Jefe (1,007 m) in the southeast. The historic Spanish colonial road, the Camino Real from Panama City to Portobelo and Nombre de Dios, passes through the park.

Key biodiversity
The globally threatened endemic Speckled Ant-shrike of the Darién Lowlands occurs in the foothills of the park. The globally near-threatened Great Curassow, Harpy Eagle, Russet-crowned Quail-Dove, and Blue-and-gold Tanager are also found, and the near-threatened Plumbeous Hawk and Crested Eagle probably also occur. Two active Harpy Eagle nests were found in the park in 1997. Many nationally threatened species, as well as many endemics of the Darién Lowlands and Darién Highlands EBAs, also occur.

Non-bird biodiversity: Mammals recorded or probably present include Water Opossum, Central American Woolly Opossum, Slaty Mouse Opossum, Giant Anteater, Silky Anteater, Northern Naked-tailed Armadillo, Geoff-roy’s Tamarin, Western Night Monkey, Central American Spider Monkey, Panamanian Spiny Pocket-Mouse, Capybara, Crab-eating Raccoon, Bush Dog, Olingo, Neotropical River Otter, Ocelot, Margay, Jaguarundi, Puma, Jaguar, and Baird’s Tapir. Reptiles and amphibians include the frogs and toads Atelopus limosus, Colosthetus flotator, C. inguinalis, Minyobates fulguritus, M. minutus, Phyllomedusa lemur, Eleutherodactylus gollmeri, E. museosus, and E. pardalis, the salamanders Bolitoglossa biseriata and B. schizodactyla, the lizards Sphaerodactylus lineolatus, Anadia vittata, Leposoma southi, Ptychoglossus festae, and Anolis poecilopus, and the snakes Rhadinaea sargenti, Urotheca fulviceps, and Micrurus stewarti (Ibáñez 1997c,d,e).

Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
Within the park, 17,000 ha, or 14% of the land area, has been deforested, mostly around Lake Alajuela but also near Cerro Azul and Cerro Jefe and in the San Cristobal and Piedras River valleys. Although some new deforestation continues within the park, it is not presently a severe problem. Illegal hunting, including market hunting, is a problem especially near populated areas. Largely uncontrolled placer gold mining takes place within the park in the River Cuango watershed in the north, and threatens to spread to the Chagres watershed as well. There is a legal and controlled manganese mine near the northern boundary of the park near Portobelo. Conservation of the park would be enhanced by a management program for its buffer areas, as well as extension of its boundaries southward on the Pacific watershed at the far eastern end of the park, where remaining unprotected forest is threatened. Small numbers of tourists visit the area of Camp Chagres and indigenous villages on Chagres and Pequení Rivers, and enjoy white-water river rafting on the Piedras and Chagres Rivers. Approximately 2,700 people were living within the park in 1990, mainly latinos and Embera around the shores of Lake Alajuela and on the Pequení River. The parts of the park near the headquarters at Camp Chagres south of the lake and at Cerro Azul are easily accessible, but the upper part of the Chagres basin is remote and is essentially wilderness.

Conservation responses/actions for key biodiversity
A MOSI station is in operation near Campo Chagres.

Protected areas
Chagres National Park was established in 1984. It is contiguous with Portobelo National Park along its northern boundary and the Narganá Wildlands Area in the east.

Habitat and land use
The park contains semideciduous lowland, evergreen lowland, and submontane forest. Land use within and around the park includes primarily cattle and subsistence agriculture, although there are adjacent urban/suburban areas at Chilibre just southeast of Lake Alajuela, and at Cerro Azul in the foothills. The Altos de Cerro Azul housing development is within the park boundaries.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2022) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Chagres National Park. Downloaded from on 30/06/2022.