In 1961, Tijuca Forest was declared a National Park and a Brazil Federal Conservation Area. Tijuca Forest is a true oasis within the city of Rio de Janeiro. The preservation of the Tijuca National Park is critical to maintaining quality of life in the city, this is the largest urban forest in the world and greatest heterogeneous (mixed) species of tropical trees planted by the hand of man.
The forest shares its name with bairros or neighborhoods of Tijuca and Barra da Tijuca that contain its the entrances. Tijuca came from an obscure term from Tupi language which means marsh, and is a reference to the Tijuca lagoon in the contemporary Barra da Tijuca. The mountains were called Tijuca after it, as well the neighbourhood on the other side of it. It is a natural boundary that separates the West Zone of the city from the South, Central and North ones, and the North Zone from the South one.
One favela named Mata Machado exists in the Tijuca Forest. Its inhabitants are mainly the descendants of those who migrated to the region in the 1930s to take part in the replanting effort. Though conditions have improved recently under the Favela-Bairro Project, Mata Machado still contributes to environmental degradation in the forest.
The Tijuca Forest is home to hundreds of species of plants and wildlife, many threatened by extinction, found only in the Atlantic Rainforest (Mata Atlântica in Portuguese). After all the original forest had been destroyed to make way for coffee farms, Tijuca was replanted by Major Manuel Gomes Archer in the second half of the 19th century in a successful effort to protect Rio’s water supply.
The Forest contains a number of attractions, most notably the colossal sculpture of Christ the Redeemer atop Corcovado mountain. Other attractions include the Cascatinha Waterfall; the Mayrink Chapel, with murals painted by Cândido Portinari; the light pagoda-style gazebo at Vista Chinesa outlook; and the giant granite picnic table called the Mesa do Imperador. Among its impressive peaks is the Pedra da Gávea.