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Lençóis Maranhenses lagoons in Lençois Maranhense National Park, Maranhão state, Brazil

The Unknown Planet: Lençóis Maranhenses lagoons

Dunes and pools in Lençois Maranhense National Park, Maranhão, Brazil
Lençois Maranhense National Park, Maranhão state.
Image: Artur Warchavchik

Blue fresh water lakes nestling between white shifting dunes in Lençois Maranhense National Park in Maranhão state in Brazil. The coastal area of sand dunes with numerous ponds and seasonal rainwater lagoons is situated about 300 km (180 mi) south of the equator in northeastern Maranhão, east of the city of Baía de São José. Brazil's only desert became a national park in June 1981.

Every year during the rainy season, especially between July and September, rain water collects in the valleys between the sand dunes and is prevented from drain away by a layer of impermeable rock underneath the sand.
Dunes and pools in Lençois Maranhense National Park, Maranhão, Brazil
Satellite view of a section of Lençois Maranhense National Park, Maranhão state.
Image: Google Earth

The lagoons are then full with a large numbers of fish that arrive when the lagoons are interconnected to rivers such as the Preguiças River, Rio Grande or the Rio Negro. These rivers also carry sand from the interior of the continent to the Atlantic Ocean coast. In the dry season, especially between October and November, strong winds from the equatorial Atlantic push the sand back inland and create the dunes.

The town of Barreirinhas is the main jumping-off point for visitors to the park. There are several regular bus/truck routes between Barreirinhas and São Luís, capital city of Maranhão. No motor transport inside the park.

Main image: White dunes and pools in the Lençóis Maranhenses, Maranhão.
Photo: Vitor 1234

Sources: Parque Nacional dos Lençóis Maranhenses (PNLM), Wikipedia, Smithsonian Magazine
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