Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve

A nature reserve in the Cayo District of south central Belize. Established in 1944 to protect and manage the native Belizean pine forests. It is estimated to cover an area of 106,352.5 acres (430 km2). Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve is predominantly pine forest, primarily Honduras pine, Pinus caribaea var. hondurensis, but with a significant broadleaf forest component.

The Macal River forms the boundaries of the reserve to the west and south and is fed by tributaries including Rio Frio, Rio On, Privassion Creek and Pinol Creek.

Much of the forest was destroyed by a fire in 1949. Few trees in the existing forest date to before then. Hunting was banned in the reserve in 1978.

The reserve is home to various large mammals, including Cougars, Jaguars, Ocelots, Coatimundis, and Baird’s tapirs, with a small population of Morelet’s crocodiles. Native species of bird include the Rufous-capped warbler, Red crossbill, Pine siskin, Eastern bluebird, Stygian owl, King vulture, Ocellated turkey, Acorn woodpecker, Lesson’s motmot, Plumbeous vireo, Keel-billed toucan and Red-lored parrot.

At Barton Creek, there is a large river cave that may extend up to 4½ miles (7.2 km) but has not been fully explored. It is accessible only by boat, and archaeological investigations have uncovered a large number of Mayan relics from the various ledges above the river, suggesting it was used for rituals. The Rio Frio Cave through which the Rio Frio runs, has the largest entrance of any cave in Belize. There are small waterfalls on the Rio On and larger drops at Big Rock Falls on the Privassion Creek and Hidden Valley Falls.

Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve