National Park is the name of a fifty acre parcel of tropical
forest located on the northside of the Western Highway just
to the east of the Roaring Creek Bridge. The land was first held
as a Crown Reserve, then became a park and later received the
completely protected status of National Park, to be administered
by the Belize Audubon Society.
park derives its name from the giant guanacaste or tubroos tree
growing near the southwestern edge of the park. This huge tree
shelters a large population of epiphytes (aerial plants) among
its branches. The tree is located only a short distance from the
park entrance and is well worth the short walk.
Guanacaste or Tubroos tree is a fast growing species and one of
the largest trees found in Central America. It can reach a total
height of over 130 feet, of which 30 to 40 feet can be astraight
trunk. The guanacaste tree can attain a trunk diameter in excess
of 6 feet. The tree has a large flat, widespreading crown
with pale green leaves and small white flowers. The seed pods
are broad, flat, and shiny dark brown, three to four inches across
and coiled into almost a complete circle. Some observers think
the seed pods resemble a human ear. This may account for one of
the local names of the tree, "monkey's ear tree". Cattle
feed on the leaves, flowers and pods. Tubroos is a favorite timber
for the dugout canoes so popular throughout Belize. In Belize,
canoes made of the tubroos tree are called oreys. The wood is
not readily attacked by the damaging pinworms which cause so much
damage to wooden boats. Other uses for the tough wood include
feeding troughs and mortars for hulling rice.
large guanacaste tree in the park escaped being made into a dorey
despite its proximity to the Belize River. The trunk of the tree,
instead of growing straight as most guanacaste do, split very
near its base when young, so that the tree has three trunks instead
of one. This makes the tree even more widespread and a better
support for the many epiphytes, bromeliads and cacti.
addition to the massive tubroos tree, there are many other species
of trees growing within the park boundaries. Some of these include
Mammee Apple, Quamwood, a large cotton tree, hundreds of cohune
palms and two mahogany trees. The mahogany tree is the National
Tree of Belize. Over one hundred species of birds have been seen
in the park. During the winter months the park's avian population
is swollen by the arrival of North American migrants. During the
early morning or late afternoon, the bird count can easily swell
with an extra 40 or 50 species.
of the most popular birds of the reserve are the beautiful
blue crowned mot and the black-faced ant thrush. Other significant
birds sighted within the park include trogons, cuckoos, parrots
recorded within the park include the smallest wildcat in Belize,
the jaguarundi. Small mammals include the kinkajou, paca, agouti,
white-tailed deer and several different species of bats and opossums.
Four foot long iguanas can be found sunning themselves in the
upper branches of the big trees. They are just one of a number
of reptiles found within the park.
self-guiding trail guide booklet is available at the new visitor
center. About thirty trees are labeled along the trails
and the tour booklet explains the different uses of these trees
in Belize. Swimming is also a popular sport at the park as
the Belize River takes a wide bend at the park, depositing lots
of sand creating a small beach.
National Park is small, but its location makes it very important.
The park is accessible to Belizeans and visitors alike. It is
located directly on a major bus route where the Western Highway
intersects the Hummingbird Highway. The new visitor center outlines
the history of the region as well as the wildlife. Overnight accomodations
are available in nearby Belmopan.