|BELIZE NATIONAL PARKS, NATURAL RESERVES, & WILDLIFE SANCTUARIES|
PAYNE'S CREEK NATIONAL PARK
WHAT TO SEE
Most of this site is impenetrable swamp, caught between
the banks of Monkey River, miles of beach ridge, inland savannah, and Port
Honduras to the South. With so much water around, it's no surprise the best
way to explore this site is by river.
Strictly speaking, Monkey River is
outside the National Park, but the
people of Monkey River village are
working to communally manage the
whole area as one reserve. This is a
place for the serious wildlife enthusiast.
There is no better chance of seeing big
game than here. Its named after the
troops of Black Howler Monkeys, that
hang out in the riverside forests
because of the high proportion of
fruiting bushes and trees. But if you are
lucky, a trip up river (especially at
dawn) may give a glimpse of one of the
big cats, or Tapir. There are
crocodiles, iguana and turtles too.
Trails into the river bank forest are also
good for birds. The village itself has a
fascinating history, and eco-tourism is
being used in an attempt to stave off its
Monkey River village can be reached either by road,
from the Southern Highway, or by boat from Placencia. The road is only
suitable for 4-wheel drive vehicles only. Tours to Monkey River are run
from Placencia, but be sure they pick up a Monkey River guide as they
know the area much better.
TIME TO GO
Any time, although there are fewer bugs in the dry season,
and more animals come to the river to drink.
Accommodations are available in Placencia, but
to get the best out of the area, overnight at Monkey River itself, where there
is a guest house suited to the rugged traveler or backpacker wanting to
experience life in a small fishing village (basic). Trails have been cut into the
surrounding forests, and guides can be hires from the village.
The actual park has no facilities, but the trail systems have been established in
the riparian forests of Monkey River by the villagers. Punta Ycacos is increasingly used for sports
fishing, estimated at 200 people annually.
Highlighted under the auspices of the FPMP, this site was
designated in May 1994 (SI 43). Its more detailed background is this: In the early
1990's leaders of Monkey River Village, near the northeast comer of the park, began searching for
economic development alternatives to arrest a decades-long decline. The Toledo North Fisherman's
Cooperative borrowed money (1990) to build 16 tourist cabanas in the village area. Villagers also
contacted the Ministry of Natural Resources and the United States Agency for International
Development (USAID), with the hopes of obtaining assistance in establishing a protected land base
and accompanying development program for locally-based ecotourism ventures combined with
traditional smallholder farming and fishing. Due to a complicated land tenure situation in the area,
the Minister of Natural Resources decided to utilise the area s a test case of a dormant provision of the
Land Subdivision and Utilization Act (McGill, 1994). In October, 1991, he declared a Special
Development Area (SDA) (SI 152), In so doing, a process was set in motion that would require
formulation of a development/land use zoning plan. The area that is now the park constitutes; about
60 percent of the Monkey River SDA's area. The BCES, under USAID contract, wrote a management
plan (1992) for the original SDA, whose area was expanded in 1993. A factor prompting the
expansion of the SDA was a proposal by a US developer to develop a cruise ship facility and resort at
Punta Ycacos. Part of the SDA to the south of the Monkey River has freshwater and saline swamps,
along with pine savannah. In 1993, a public announcement was made by the Minister of Natural
Resources that this area would be henceforth known as Payne's Creek Nature Reserve, following
preparatory work through FPMP but the ruling party did not pass the Statutory Instrument before
elections were held. In 1994, when a Statutory Instrument was finally issued (by Minister Juan of the
former opposition party) the designation had been changed to National Park.
CURRENT AREAWhilst its western boundary is defined by a river, the remainder is bordered by generally
unsurveyed properties. UTM co-ordinates have been calculated from the best available 1:50000
compilation of the parcels, but may include some discrepancies.
A high proportion of the boundary is defined by coastline, rivers and lagoons whose boundaries
change. This made lead to some discrepancies over time.
When considering the size of this site, it needs to be borne in mind that:
The area estimated in the SI is 29420 acres, and when calculated on GIS gives 31676 acres.
Designated to protect various wetland habitats and the unique physiographic
features, formed from a extensive sequence of storm-built coastal ridges.
Hypersaline, saline and brackish lagoons, mangrove, broadleaf forest and savanna.
HOLDRIDGE LIFE ZONE
is adjacent to Monkey River. The area is an important Manatee breeding ground.
It also contains an Ibis nesting site, a Hawksbill turtle nesting site, and a large wading bird population
(both resident and migrants). Punta Ycacos lagoon has Tarpon, and there are Howler Monkeys along
the Monkey River. Common game species include Brocket and White-tailed deer, and Armadillo. Jaguar
have been reported in the area, and Crocodiles have also been noted. There are live vegetation regions
in the park. In
north, there is remnants of riparian forest plus extensive secondary growth along
Monkey River. A large unit to the south of this is herbaceous marshland. All reports indicate that this
area is impenetrable and hostile to human travel, even in the dry season. Special vehicles were employed
to penetrate this area by petroleum exploration crews in the 1950's. Further south and to the west is pine
savannah and thicket. Pine was cut heavily in the 1950's and 1960's, so there are generally few pine trees
left so the landscape consists of grassland with groups of palmetto. The most southern unit is brackish
mangrove swamp associated with Punta Ycacos lagoon system. Finally, along the Caribbean shore
(mostly on private land outside the park), vegetation is dominated by littoral thicket species such as
Cocoplum and Sea-grape. Cashew has colonized some areas, and there are scattered Coconut palms.
This is the most extensive stretch of coastline in Belize not lined with mangrove.
Monkey River village is located just beyond the northeast comer of the park, a
fishing village with a population of 186. Punta Negra is the main permanent settlement on the mainland
coast associated with the park, located on its eastern fringe. It is also a fishing village with a population
of 55. There are scattered homesteads around New Haven, an isolated boat mooring area with a
population of less than 20. Off to the cast, at the tip of Placencia. Peninsula, is Placencia village
(population 367) (tourism and fishing), which is in day trip range of the park and Monkey River. Visitors
are brought to the site from here for eco-tourism trips.
PHYSICAL FEATURES & CLIMATE
Relief is mostly flat, with elevation ranging from sea level to a
maximum of 30 ft. Payne's Creek and the Punta Ycacos Lagoon form a small watershed and outlet system
within the park. Payne's Creek is seasonal in nature, rising in the park's interior. It expands during times
of high water, sometimes creating lake-like areas of still water. It flows southeast to the mouth of Punta
Ycacos Lagoon. Adjacent New Haven Lagoon is considered the best deep water harbour south of
Placencia. The area features an extensive series of storm ridges and intervening ponding areas, the only
such occurrence on such a scale in Belize, derived from sediment discharged by Monkey River, just to
the north of the park. Soils in the pine savannah area are leached and acid, with subsoil impermeability
and topsoil saturation in the wet season and low moisture in the dry season. These soils can support
only a low biomass regime such as a pine-grass savannah. Soils in the swamp forest region are poorly
drained, some with peaty surface layers. Subsoils are saturated and grey (King, et al. 1986). Rainfall is
approximately 97 inches annually at Monkey River. Climate is influenced by the trade winds; southeast
trades predominate from February to September, northeast from October to January The rainy season is
usually May through January peaking in July. Average annual humidity is 80% Monthly mean
maximum. temperature varies between 27C and 31C from May to December. Monthly mean minimum
varies from 17C in February to 22C in June.
Average daily bright sunshine is 6 hours in the dry season and 3 hours in the rainy season.
There are Maya sites under Punta Ycacos lagoon, believed to be associated
with salt manufacture. These sites are now underwater due to sea level rise over the last one thousand
Belize Parks Home /
Bacalar Chico /
Bird Sanctuaries /
Burdon Canal Nature Reserve /
Blue Hole National Park /
Great Blue Hole, Lighthouse Reef /
Chiquibul National Park and Caracol /
Cockscomb Wildlife Sanctuary /
Columbia River Forest Reserve /
Community Baboon Sanctuary /
Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary /
Five Blues Lake National Park /
Glover's Reef Marine Reserve / Guanacaste National Park /
Half Moon Caye Natural Monument /
Hol Chan Marine Reserve /
Laughing Bird Caye /
Marco Gonzales /
Mexico Rocks /
Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve /
Payne's Creek National Park /
Rio Bravo Conservation and Management Area /
Shark Ray Alley /
Shipstern Nature Reserve /
Turneffe Atoll /
|BELIZE NATIONAL PARKS, NATURAL RESERVES, & WILDLIFE SANCTUARIES|