Nature of Lago Gatun: Barro Colorado

Lago Gatun Fincas is located near Barro Colorado Island, an area in the middle of Gatun Lake. Read more below about Panama City, Tours to Barro Colorado and Malls near  Lago Gatun Fincas.

Panama City

Lago Gatun Fincas is just a 2 hours drive away from Panama City, the capital of Panama. With approximately 1 million inhabitants, Panama City is a true metropolis by western standards. Tourists in Panama City often forget they are in Panama due to its strong city similarities with western counterparts. Here you can find all the amenities you need, whilst remaining close to  Lago Gatun Fincas.

Aside from Panama City, there is a small town called Arenosa just 10 minutes away from  Lago Gatun Fincas, being the small town around the corner.

Barro Colorado Island

The rare and beautiful island Barro Colorado with its lush tropical rainforest is located in the middle of Gatun Lake. It is one of the most studied rainforests in the world and officially registered by the Smithsonian Institute, which has a research center on the island as well. The island boasts an extremely diverse ecosystem with many unique species and a spectacular exotic environment. It is possible to visit Barro Colorado Island, which offers you the opportunity to discover the splendor of this fascinating forest.

The making of Barro Colorado Island

Barro Colorado was formed in 1913. During the construction of the new canal the Chagres River was dammed to form a man-made basin, named Gatun Lake. As the waters of the new lake rose, a small mountain became isolated from the mainland. Thus creating Barro Colorado Island, which is with 15.6 km² the largest island in the lake.

Animals and vegetation

The fully protected national biological reserve of Barro Colorado Nature Monument is a home for thousands of plants and insect species and more than 115 different types of mammals, such as sloths, bats, spider monkeys, Geoffrey’s tamarin, collared peccaries and Central-American agoutis. Rarer species are Baird’s tapir, the puma, jaguar, and margay.

Smithsonian Institute

The first person to acknowledge the importance of Barro Colorado was the scientist James Zetek. He declared the island to be a rare biological reserve and in 1923 the island was officially established as a biological reserve. The island gained an international reputation and became a leading field station for tropical biology studies, with its own research center and laboratory.

As from 1946, the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) was made responsible for maintaining the island and the laboratory. In 1979 Barro Colorado was declared a Nature Monument and in addition, the adjacent peninsulas, Buena Vista, Frijoles, Peña Blanca, Gigante and Bohio, were incorporated. Together they form the Barro Colorado Nature Monument (BCNM), totaling 54 km².

Barro Colorado Nature Monument has been researched for almost a century. The rainforest provides us with unequaled scientific and biological information. Many groundbreaking discoveries of the tropical animal and plant kingdom originate from here. Every year 240 international scientists visit the BCNM to share their knowledge, conduct research projects and enjoy the amazing island, the peninsulas and the area surrounding Lake Gatun.

Projects on Colorado Island

Many projects are conducted and researched, both short and long term. Some of the projects are:

  • Bee Biology: bee communication in equatorial forests of the world
  • Studies of figs and fig-associated organisms
  • Case studies of bat species interacting with other organisms
  • Why are there so many kinds of tropical trees?
  • Genetics of BCI howler monkey
  • Flight energetics of migratory butterflies

Day Visit Program

A day trip includes transportation by boat, a guided tour, and lunch. You will depart from the docks at Gamboa early in the morning. The 45-minute boat ride provides you with views on the canal and the breathtaking shores. At Barro Colorado, a guide will explain much about the island and will also lead a trail walk, which takes up to three hours. Afterward, you will find more information in the (new) Visitor’s Center, followed with lunch. In the afternoon you will depart the island by boat back to Gamboa. On the website of the Smithsonian, you can find a list of items you should bring in case of visiting.

Prices Day Program

Individuals visiting the island need to pay a contribution. Prices range from $20.00 to $80.00 depending on your status. Visitors should be at least 8 years old.


Barro Colorado is accessible from Gamboa through a boat service, operated by STRI. You can find more information on how to reach the island and how to make a reservation for the Day Visit Program on the website of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute.

Visit Barro Colorado and enjoy the amazing world of this ancient rainforest and its special inhabitants

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