Darién Gap

Coordinates:7°54′N 77°28′W / 7.90°N 77.46°W / 7.90; -77.46

The Darién Gap at the Colombia–Panama border

The Darién Gap (UK: /ˈdɛəriən, ˈdær-/,[1][2] US: /ˌdɛəriˈɛn, ˌdɑːr-, dɑːrˈjɛn/,[1][3][4] Spanish: Tapón del Darién [t̪a'põn ˈd̪el daˈɾjen], lit.'Darién plug')[5] is a geographic region between the North and South American continents within Central America, consisting of a large watershed, forest, and mountains in Panama's Darién Province and the northern portion of Colombia's Chocó Department.

The Pan-American Highway has a corresponding gap of 106 km (66 mi), between Turbo, Colombia, and Yaviza, Panama. Roadbuilding through this area is expensive and detrimental to the environment. Political consensus in favor of road construction collapsed after an initial attempt failed in the early 1970s, resuming in 1992 only to be halted by serious environmental concerns, and as of 2021 there are no calls for its completion. A ferry service around it has been proposed.

The Darién Gap was formerly a challenge for the traveler who sought adventure.[6] The completion of the Chepo–Yaviza highway in about 2008 has made its transit far easier. One can go by paved road and scheduled bus to Yaviza, within what was formerly a much larger Darién Gap.

In 2021, as many as 1,000 migrants a day, most of them Haitians, hike northwards across the now-smaller Darién Gap, heading for the United States. From Capurganá in Colombia to Yaviza in Panama there are some 60 miles (97 km). Up to the Panamanian border there is a marked trail, and no shortage of men ready to serve as guides or porters.[7] Dirt bike riders, for a fee, will transport migrants as far as a dirt bike can go.[8] As of 2021 the main industry in Capurganá is migrants: supplying them, guiding them, and temporarily housing and feeding them.

It is a steep, muddy, dangerous, and unpleasant hike, crossing rivers with no bridges, with many casualties, as well as robbery and rape. It is one of the rainiest locations on the planet. In 2017 Levison Wood found it "one of the most brutal, skin-tearing, lung-bursting jungle climbs I have ever endured".[6]: 261  All the cameras and other gear carried by his group were wrecked.[6]: 264  No police or medical support is available, nor is there anyone to bury the dead bodies.[9] The Panamanian side is safer, as Panama has created a special border police force, SENAFRONT (Servicio Nacional de Fronteras, National Border Service). Panama finds the number of migrants overwhelming, beyond their resources to deal with and more than Costa Rica will admit. Panama expels some migrants back to Colombia.

The geography of the Darién Gap on the Colombian side is dominated primarily by the river delta of the Atrato River, which creates a flat marshland at least 80 km (50 mi) wide. The Serranía del Baudó range extends along Colombia's Pacific coast and into Panama. The Panamanian side, in stark contrast, is a mountainous rainforest, with terrain reaching from 60 m (197 ft) in the valley floors to 1,845 m (6,053 ft) at the tallest peak (Cerro Tacarcuna, in the Serranía del Darién).

The Darién Gap is home to the Embera-Wounaan and Guna (as well as the Cueva before the 16th century). Travel is often conducted with specialized canoes (piraguas). On the Panamanian side, La Palma, the area's cultural center, is the capital of the province. Other population centers include Yaviza and El Real. The Darién Gap had a reported population of 8,000 in 1995 among five tribes.[10] Maize, cassava, plantains, and bananas are staple crops on local farms.

Pan-American Highway

Map of the Darién Gap and the break in the Pan-American Highway between Yaviza, Panama and Turbo, Colombia.

The Pan-American Highway is a system of roads measuring about 30,000 km (19,000 mi)[11] long that crosses through the entirety of North, Central, and South America, with the sole exception of the Darién Gap. On the South American side, the Highway terminates at Turbo, Colombia, near8°6′N 76°40′W / 8.100°N 76.667°W / 8.100; -76.667. On the Panamanian side, the road terminus is the town of Yaviza at8°9′N 77°41′W / 8.150°N 77.683°W / 8.150; -77.683. The Pan-American Highway is interrupted between Panama and Colombia by a 106 km (66 mi) stretch of marshland and mountains known as the Darién Gap.

Efforts were made for decades to remedy this missing link in the Pan-American Highway. Planning began in 1971 with the help of American funding, but this was halted in 1974 after concerns were raised by environmentalists.[12] US support was further blocked by the US Department of Agriculture in 1978, from its desire to stop the spread of hoof-and-mouth disease.[12] Another effort to build the road began in 1992, but by 1994 a United Nations agency reported that the road, and the subsequent development, would cause extensive environmental damage. Cited reasons include evidence that the Darién Gap has prevented the spread of diseased cattle into Central and North America, which have not seen foot-and-mouth disease since 1954, and since at least the 1970s this has been a substantial factor in preventing a road link through the Darién Gap.[13][14] The Embera-Wounaan and Guna are among five tribes, comprising 8,000 people, who have expressed concern that the road would bring about the potential erosion of their cultures by destroying their food sources.[12]

Many people, including local indigenous populations, groups, and governments are opposed to completing the Darién portion of the highway.[12] Reasons for opposition include protecting the rainforest, containing the spread of tropical diseases, protecting the livelihood of indigenous peoples in the area, preventing drug trafficking[15] and its associated violence, and preventing foot-and-mouth disease from entering North America. The extension of the highway as far as Yaviza resulted in severe deforestation alongside the highway route within a decade.[16]

An alternative to the Darien Gap highway would be a river ferry service between Turbo or Necoclí, Colombia, and one of several sites along Panama's Caribbean coast.[12] "At the moment it's a good option," said Juan Pablo Ruiz in 1995; he was director of Ecofondo, another Colombian environmental organization. "We see how England has been connected with Europe for years with a ferry."[12] As of 2021 nothing has come of this idea.[8]

Another idea is to use a combination of bridges and tunnels to avoid the environmentally sensitive regions. This is a futuristic concept, not a plan.[17]


Pre-Columbian history

Major areas of pre-Columbian civilization in the Americas:

Archaeological knowledge of this area has received relatively little attention compared to its adjoining neighbors to the north and south, despite the fact that in the early 20th century scholars such as Max Uhle, William Henry Holmes, C. V. Hartman, and George Grant MacCurdy undertook studies of archaeological sites and collections that were augmented by further research by Samuel Kirkland Lothrop, John Alden Mason, Doris Zemurray Stone, William Duncan Strong, Gordon Willey, and others. One of the reasons for the relative lack of attention is the lack of research by locals themselves in this regard. There is a large number of sites with impressive platform mounds, plazas, paved roads, stone sculpture, and artifacts made from jade, gold, and ceramic materials.

The Guna people lived in what is now Northern Colombia and the Darién Province of Panama at the time of the Spanish conquest and subsequently began to move westward due to a conflict with the Spanish and other indigenous groups. Centuries before the conquest, the Gunas arrived in South America as part of a Chibchan migration moving east from Central America. At the time of the Spanish invasion, they were living in the region of Uraba near the borders of what are now Antioquia and Caldas. The Guna themselves attribute their several migrations to conflicts with other chiefdoms and their migration to nearby islands to escape mosquito populations on the mainland.[18]

European settlement

"A New Map of the Isthmus of Darien in America, The Bay of Panama, The Gulph of Vallona or St. Michael, with its Islands and Countries Adjacent". In A letter giving a description of the Isthmus of Darian, Edinburgh: 1699.
Vasco Núñez de Balboa's travel route to the South Sea, 1513.

Vasco Núñez de Balboa and Alonso de Ojeda explored the coast of Colombia in 1500 and 1501. They spent the most time in the Gulf of Urabá, where they made contact with the Gunas. The regional border was initially created in 1508 after royal decree to separate the colonial governorships of Castilla de Oro and Nueva Andalucía, using the River Atrato as the boundary between the two governorships.[19][20]

Balboa heard of the "South Sea" from locals while sailing along the Caribbean coast. On 25 September 1513, he saw the Pacific.[21]

In 1519, the town of Panamá was founded near a small indigenous settlement on the Pacific coast. After the discovery of Peru, it subsequently developed into an important transshipment port as well as an administrative center.

In 1671, the Welsh pirate Henry Morgan crossed the Isthmus of Panamá from the Caribbean side and destroyed the city; the town was subsequently relocated a few kilometers to the west on a small peninsula. The ruins of the old town, Panamá Viejo, are preserved and were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997.[22]

Silver and gold from the viceroyalty of Peru were transported overland across the isthmus by Spanish Silver Train to Porto Bello, where Spanish treasure fleets shipped them to Seville and Cádiz from 1707. Lionel Wafer spent four years between 1680 and 1684 among the Gunas.

In 1698, Scotland tried to establish a settlement through the Darien scheme as part of its sole major attempt at colonialism. The first expedition of five ships (Saint Andrew, Caledonia, Unicorn, Dolphin, and Endeavor) set sail from Leith on 14 July 1698, with around 1,200 people on board.[23] Their orders were "to proceed to the Bay of Darien, and make the Isle called the Golden Island ... some few leagues to the leeward of the mouth of the great River of Darien ... and there make a settlement on the mainland".[24] After calling at Madeira and the West Indies, the fleet made landfall off the coast of Darien on November 2. The settlers christened their new home "New Caledonia".[25]

The aim was for the colony to have an overland route that connected the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. Since its inception, claims have been made that the undertaking was beset by poor planning and provisioning, divided leadership, a poor choice of trade goods, devastating epidemics of disease, reported attempts by the East India Company to frustrate it, as well as a failure to anticipate the Spanish Empire's military response. It was finally abandoned in March 1700 after a siege by Spanish forces, which also blockaded the harbor.[26]

As the Company of Scotland was backed by approximately 20% of all the money circulating in Scotland, its failure left the Scottish Lowlands in substantial financial ruin; in fact, English financial incentives were a factor in persuading those in power to support the 1707 Acts of Union.[26] According to this argument, the Scottish establishment (landed aristocracy and mercantile elites) considered that their best chance of being part of a major power would be to share the benefits of England's international trade and the growth of the English overseas possessions, so its future would have to lie in unity with England. Furthermore, Scotland's nobles were almost bankrupted by the Darien fiasco.[26]

Panamanian independence

Most of Panama was part of Colombia until it declared its independence in 1903, with encouragement and support from the United States. The geography of Darién, through which no troops could march, made its Departamento of Panamá harder to defend and control.

The current border is regulated by the Victoria-Velez Treaty, signed in Bogotá on 20 August 1924 by the Foreign Ministers of Panama, Nicolas Victoria; and Colombia, Jorge Velez.[27] This treaty is officially registered in the Register No. 814 of the Treaty League of Nations, on 17 August 1925; said border was based on the same Colombian law of 9 June 1855.[28]

Natural resources

A Ceiba tree makes Darien Gap crosser Gustavo Ross look tiny in comparison. Ceibas were considered sacred trees by ancient Mayan cultures.
A Ceiba tree in the Darien Gap.

Two major national parks exist in the Darién Gap: Darién National Park in Panama and Los Katíos National Park in Colombia. The Darién Gap forests had extensive cedrela and mahogany cover until many of these trees were removed by loggers.[29]

Darién National Park in Panama, the largest national park in Central America, covers roughly 5,790 km2 (2,240 sq mi) of land, and was established in 1980. The property includes a stretch of the Pacific Coast and almost the entire border with neighbouring Colombia.[29]

Copa Airlines Flight 201

On 6 June 1992, Copa Airlines Flight 201, a Boeing 737 jet airplane covering a flight between Panama City and Cali, Colombia, crashed in the Darién Gap, killing all 47 people on board.[30]

Adventure travellers

Embera girl

To travel between the continents through the Darién Gap has long been a challenge for adventure travellers.

The Gap can be transited by off-road vehicles attempting intercontinental journeys. The first post-colonial expedition to the Darién was the Marsh Darien Expedition[31] in 1924–25, supported by several major sponsors, including the Smithsonian Institution.

The first vehicular crossing of the Gap was made by three Brazilians in two Ford Model T cars. They left Rio de Janeiro in 1928 and arrived in the United States in 1938. The expedition intended to claim attention for the Panamerican highway, after an International Conference in Chile, in 1923. The participants were Leonidas Borges de Oliveira, a lieutenant from Brazilian army, Francisco Lopez da Cruz from Brazilian air force, and Mário Fava, a young mechanic. They took what appears to be the last photo of Augusto Sandino, who received them in Nicaragua, and were received by Henry Ford and Franklin Roosevelt in the United States. Their story is available with photos from the book O Brasil através das três Américas (Brazil Across the Three Americas) written by Beto Braga. Another crossing was completed by the Land Rover La Cucaracha Cariñosa (The Affectionate Cockroach) and a Jeep of the Trans-Darién Expedition of 1959–60, crewed by Amado Araúz (Panama), his wife Reina Torres de Araúz, former Special Air Service man Richard E. Bevir (UK), and engineer Terence John Whitfield (Australia).[32] They left Chepo, Panama, on 2 February 1960 and reached Quibdó, Colombia, on 17 June 1960, averaging 201 m (220 yd) per hour over 136 days. They traveled a great deal of the distance up the vast Atrato River.

The Pan-American Highway from Prudhoe Bay, U.S.A., to Quellón, Chile, and Ushuaia, Argentina, with official and unofficial routes shown in Mexico and Central and South America. A few selected unofficial routes shown through the United States and Canada as they existed in the early 1960s. In 1966, the new U.S. Interstate highway system brought official status to most previously unofficial routes in the lower 48 states.

In December 1960, on a motorcycle trip from Alaska to Argentina, adventurer Danny Liska[33] attempted to transit the Darién Gap from Panama to Colombia.[34] Liska was forced to abandon his motorcycle and proceed across the Gap by boat and foot. In 1961, a team of three 1961 Chevrolet Corvairs and several support vehicles departed from Panama. The group was sponsored by Dick Doane Chevrolet (a Chicago Chevrolet dealer) and the Chevrolet division of General Motors. After 109 days, they reached the Colombia Border with two Corvairs, the third having been abandoned in the jungle. It has been documented by a Jam Handy Productions film along with an article in Automobile Quarterly magazine (Volume 1 number 3, from the fall of 1962).

A pair of Range Rovers was used on the British Trans-Americas Expedition in 1972 led by John Blashford-Snell, which is claimed to be the first vehicle-based expedition to traverse both American continents north to south through the Darién Gap. The Expedition crossed the Atrato Swamp in Colombia with the cars on special inflatable rafts that were carried in the backs of the vehicles. However, they received substantial support from the British Army. Blashford-Snell's book, Something Lost Behind the Ranges (Harper Collins), has several chapters on the Darién expedition. The Hundred Days of Darien, a book written by Russell Braddon in 1974, also chronicles this expedition. In addition to the book, a video exists that was filmed by two Vancouver, BC–based cameramen, Alan Bibby and Eric Rankin. These cameramen were mentioned in the book several times and can be seen in some of the still photos in the book.[35]

The first fully overland wheeled crossing (others used boats for some sections) of the Gap was that of British cyclist Ian Hibell, who rode from Cape Horn to Alaska between 1971 and 1973. Hibell took the "direct" overland south-to-north route, including an overland crossing of the Atrato Swamp in Colombia. Hibell completed his crossing of the Gap accompanied by two New Zealand cycling companions who had ridden with him from Cape Horn, but neither of these continued with Hibell to Alaska.[36]

Ed Culberson's "Amigo" (a BMW R80G/S motorcycle) was the first motor vehicle to fully navigate the Pan-American Highway by land.

The first motorcycle crossing was by Robert L. Webb in March 1975. Another four-wheel drive crossing was in 1978–1979 by Mark A. Smith and his team. They drove the 400 km (250 mi) stretch of the gap in 30 days using five stock Jeep CJ-7s, traveling many kilometres up the Atrato River on barges.[37]

The first all-land auto crossing was in 1985–87 by Loren Upton and Patty Mercier in a CJ-5 Jeep, taking 741 days to travel 200 kilometres (125 miles). This crossing is documented in the 1992 Guinness Book of Records. Ed Culberson was the first one to follow the entire Pan-American highway including the Darién Gap proposed route on a motorcycle, a BMW R80G/S. From Yaviza, he first followed the Loren Upton team but went solo just before Pucuru, hiring his own guides.[38]

In the 1990s, the gap was briefly joined by ferry service, provided by Crucero Express, until it ceased operations in 1997.

A number of notable crossings have been made on foot. Sebastian Snow crossed the Gap with Wade Davis in 1975 as part of his unbroken walk from Tierra del Fuego to Costa Rica. The trip is documented in his 1976 book The Rucksack Man and in Wade Davis's 1985 book The Serpent and the Rainbow. In 1981, George Meegan crossed the gap on a similar journey. He too started in Tierra del Fuego and eventually ended in Alaska. His 1988 biography, The Longest Walk, describes the trip and includes a 25-page chapter on his foray through the Gap. In 2001, as a part of his Goliath Expedition—a trek to forge an unbroken footpath from the tip of South America to the Bering Strait and back to his home in England—Karl Bushby (UK) crossed the gap on foot, using no transport or boats, from Colombia to Panama.

In July 1996, as part of their hitchhiking trip to Ushuaia through 17 Latin American countries, Walter Bläs, Ana Cravioto, Albrecht von der Recke and Gustavo Ross crossed from Panama to Colombia, becoming the first Mexicans to cross the Gap on foot, according to the visitors log kept since 1946 in Púcuro. The night of 28 July, they survived the Hurricane Cesar–Douglas in the jungle somewhere between Paya and Palo de las Letras. Accompanied by 11- and 13-year-old Lico and Juan from Paya, the survivors reported several big trees falling around them and river levels rising up to 3 meters (10 feet) that night.

First Mexican by-foot crossers take a rest by the "Lost Corvair" abandoned 1961 by failed caravan from Chicago.
First Mexican by-foot crossers take a rest by the "Lost Corvair" abandoned 1961 by a caravan from Chicago.

In 1979, evangelist Arthur Blessitt traversed the gap while carrying a 3.7-metre (12 ft) wooden cross, a trek confirmed by Guinness World Records as part of "the longest round the world pilgrimage" for Christ. Traveling alone with a machete plus one backpack crammed with water bottles, a hammock, Bible, notepad, lemon drops, and Blessitt's signature Jesus stickers saying "Smile! God Loves you", Blessitt describes his experience in a book, The Cross, and in a full-length movie with the same title.[39][40][41][42]

Most crossings of the Darién Gap region have been from Panama to Colombia. In July 1961, three college students, Carl Adler, James Wirth, and Joseph Bellina, crossed from the Bay of San Miguel to Puerto Obaldia on the Gulf of Parita (near Colombia) and ultimately to Mulatupu in what was then known as San Blas and now identified as Kuna Yala. The trip across the Darién was by banana boat, piragua, and foot via the Tuira river (La Palma and El Real de Santa Maria), Río Chucunaque (Yaviza), Rio Tuquesa (Chaua's (General Choco Chief) Trading Post—Choco Indian village) and Serranía del Darién.[43][44]

In 1985, Project Raleigh, which evolved from Project Drake in 1984 and in 1989 became Raleigh International, sponsored an expedition which also crossed the Darién coast to coast.[45] Their path was similar to the 1961 route above, but in reverse. The expedition started in the Bay of Caledonia at the Serranía del Darién, following the Río Membrillo ultimately to the Río Chucunaque and Yaviza, roughly following the route taken by Balboa in 1513.

Between the early 1980s and mid-1990s, Encounter Overland, a British adventure travel company, organized 2–3 week trekking trips through the Darién Gap from Panama to Colombia or vice versa. These trips used a combination of whatever transport was available: jeeps, bus, boats, and plenty of walking, with travelers carrying their own supplies. These groups were made up of male and female participants from any number of nationalities and age groups and were led by experienced trek leaders. One leader went on to do nine Darién Gap trips and later acted as a logistics guide and coordinator for the BBC Natural History Unit during the production of a documentary called A Tramp in the Darien, which screened on BBC in 1990–91.

A complete overland crossing of the Darién rainforest on foot and riverboat (i.e., from the last road in Panama to the first road in Colombia) became more dangerous in the 1990s because of the Colombian conflict. The Colombian portion of the Darién rainforest in the Katios Park region eventually fell under control of armed groups. Furthermore, combatants from Colombia even entered Panama, occupied some Panamanian jungle villages and kidnapped or killed inhabitants and travelers. Just as hostilities were starting to worsen, 18-year-old Andrew Egan traversed the Darién Rainforest, detailing the excursion in the book Crossing the Darien Gap.

Migrants travelling northwards

As of 2013, the coastal route on the east side of the Darién Isthmus has become relatively safe. This is accomplished by taking a motorboat across the Gulf of Uraba from Turbo to Capurganá and then hopping the coast to Sapzurro and hiking from there to La Miel, Panama. Any inland routes through the Darién remain highly dangerous.[46] In June 2017, CBS journalist Adam Yamaguchi filmed smugglers leading refugees on a nine-day journey from Colombia to Panama through the Darién.[47]

Migrants from Africa, South Asia, the Middle East, and the Caribbean have been known to cross the Darién Gap as a method of migrating to the United States. This route may entail flying to Ecuador (taking advantage of that nation's liberal visa policy) and attempting to cross the gap on foot.[48] A group of about 25-30 people from Asia and Africa traveled through the Darién Gap on foot over mountains and through rivers from Colombia to Panama.[49] They were led by guides through Colombia and then on their own through Panama until reaching La Peñita, a small village with immigrant processing facilities. This trek was described in an article that won the Pulitzer Prize in June 2021.[49] The journalist Jason Motlagh was interviewed by Sacha Pfeiffer on NPR's nationally syndicated radio show On Point in 2016 concerning his work following migrants through the Darién Gap.[50] Journalists Nadja Drost and Bruno Federico were interviewed by Nick Schifrin about their work following migrants through the Darién Gap in mid-2019 and the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic a year later, as part of a series on migration to the United States for PBS NewsHour.[51][52][53]

The route in the 21st century

Several video teams have traveled with migrants and thus the conditions of the route have become better known. It is possible to hike from Colombia to Panama.

By boat

At various times scheduled boats, including sailboats, have sailed between Cartagena, Turbo, Necoclî, and Capurganá, Colombia, and El Porvenir or Colón, Panama. Chartering a small boat is also an option. Sea conditions make it a sometimes hazardous trip and schedules can change frequently. Any of these options are more expensive than flying.

By land

It is possible to hike from Colombia to Panama, or vice versa, but the conditions are very difficult and often underestimated by those setting out on this trip. It is one of the rainiest and most dangerous places on the planet, a lawless, unpoliced region, full of drug smugglers and sometimes political rebels. Exact figures are not kept, but many migrants die on this trip.

The hiking trail is not easy, ascending abruptly over a mountain, and the four days of hiking are a challenge even for a person in good physical shape with good shoes. Most migrants are in mediocre physical shape or worse, and without equipment for hiking and camping. Women carrying babies, or pregnant women, are not unusual. Three babies have been born in the Darién to migrants between 2013 and 2021, with no medical help or supplies available.

The Darién Gap is one of the rainiest places on the planet. The rainfall produces flash floods that can carry sleepers to their deaths. One must cross several rivers where there are neither bridges nor boats. No services of any kind are available; one must carry food, a tent, and water purification materials sufficient for a hike of several days. Remains of deceased migrants are often encountered. They die because they are too exhausted to continue, or have a problem (such as blisters) that require treatment. There is no medical help available at all and no way to evacuate someone ill, injured, or simply exhausted. A broken leg is usually fatal. Insects are heavy and there is no shortage of snakes and carnivorous mammals. Numerous migrants report that they were robbed; women may be raped. There is no police presence and no cell phone signal.

In Capurganá, Colombia, and Yaviza, Panama, there is no shortage of young men who offer, for a fee, to serve as guides and to provide "protection". There is no easy way to determine if those who offer these services are knowledgeable and trustworthy, or criminals looking for victims.

Armed conflict

FARC insurgents in 1998.

The Darién Gap was subject to the Marxist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), which has led an insurgency against the Colombian government.[54] FARC rebels were present on both the Colombian and Panamanian sides of the border.[55]

In 2000, two British travelers, Tom Hart Dyke and Paul Winder, were kidnapped by FARC in the Darién Gap while hunting for exotic orchids, plants for which Dyke has a particular passion. The two were held captive for nine months and threatened with death before eventually being released unharmed and without a ransom being paid. Dyke and Winder later documented their experience in the book The Cloud Garden and in an episode of Locked Up Abroad.

Other political victims include three New Tribes missionaries, who disappeared from the Panamanian side in 1993.[56]

In 2003, Robert Young Pelton, on assignment for National Geographic Adventure magazine, and two traveling companions, Mark Wedeven and Megan Smaker, were detained for one week by the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, a far-right paramilitary organization, in a highly publicized incident.[57][58]

In May 2013, Swedish backpacker Jan Philip Braunisch disappeared in the area after leaving the Colombian town of Riosucio with the intention of attempting a crossing on foot to Panama, via the Cuenca Cacarica. The FARC admitted to killing him, having mistaken him for a foreign spy.[59]


  • What migrants face as they journey through the deadly Darien Gap. 10:20. Public Broadcasting System (PBS). Aug 12, 2020.CS1 maint: others in cite AV media (notes) (link)

See also


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  11. ^ "A Gap in the Andes : Image of the Day". NASA. Retrieved 2017-09-17.
  12. ^ a b c d e f Ward, Logan (August 20, 1995). "Colombia-Panama Plan to Build Rain Forest Road Draws Fire : Latin America: Controversial project would span the 60-mile Darien Gap, the only missing segment in the 16,000-mile Pan-American Highway linking Alaska to Chile. Environmentalists and native peoples object". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved August 24, 2021. Plans were suspended, however, because of pressure from the Sierra Club and other environmental groups.
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  24. ^ Pratt Insh, George (1924). Papers Relating to the Ships and Voyages of the Company of Scotland Trading to Africa and the Indies, 1696–1707 (PDF). Edinburgh: Scottish History Society. pp. 64–65.
  25. ^ Hidalgo, Dennis R. (2001). "To Get Rich for Our Homeland: The Company of Scotland and the Colonization of the Darién". CLAHR: Colonial Latin American Historical Review. 10 (3): 311–350.
  26. ^ a b c Brocklehurst, Steven (August 21, 2010). "The Banker who Led Scotland to Disaster". Retrieved August 24, 2021. Inspired by banker William Paterson, Scotland invested a large proportion of its wealth in setting up a colony in Central America in 1698.
  27. ^ "International Boundary Study No. 62 - Colombia – Panama Boundary" (PDF). US Department of State. 30 January 1966. Retrieved 24 August 2021.
  28. ^ De Leon, Raquel Maria (1965). Boundaries and Borders -Panama.
  29. ^ a b "Darien National Park". UNESCO World Heritage List. 1981. Retrieved August 24, 2021. The expanding agricultural frontier and related colonization near the property have resulted in major deforestation and timber extraction and continue to occur in poorly controlled fashion.
  30. ^ "El misterioso vuelo 201 de Copa que se desintegró en Darién". El Siglo.
  31. ^ "Register to the Papers of Richard O. Marsh". www.nmnh.si.edu. Archived from the original on 2014-04-21. Retrieved 2017-01-10.
  32. ^ "Trans Darien Expedition". 2009-10-27. Archived from the original on 2009-10-27. Retrieved 2017-01-10.
  33. ^ Danny Liska Archived September 30, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  34. ^ Danny Liska "Across the Darien Gap by River and Trail II", Peruvian Times, Vol XXI, Num. 1068(June 2, 1961), pg. 10
  35. ^ This video is available online as Darien Conquest, presented by Forces Network.
  36. ^ Hibell's "Cape Horn to Alaska" expedition forms part of his 1984 book Into the Remote Places.
  37. ^ Smith has since released his book, Driven by a Dream, which documents the crossing.
  38. ^ Obsessions Die Hard
  39. ^ "Guinness World Records". www.guinnessworldrecords.com. Archived from the original on 2013-01-25. Retrieved 2017-01-10.
  40. ^ Blessitt, Arthur (2008-01-01). The Cross. Trinity Broadcasting Network.
  41. ^ "The Cross". www.thecrossfilm.com. Archived from the original on 2009-03-16. Retrieved 2017-01-10.
  42. ^ "The Official Website of Arthur Blessitt". The Official Website of Arthur Blessitt. Retrieved 2017-01-10.
  43. ^ "Brought Back Darien Bush", Panama Star & Herald], July 9, 1961, pg. 1
  44. ^ Carl Adler, "A Trip to Panama", The Scholastic, Vol. 104, No. 11, January 18, 1963, pg. 18
  45. ^ "After Trek Through the Jungle Youth's Ready to Go Again". Raleigh The News & Observer, June 25, 1985
  46. ^ Crossing the Darien Gap, documentary film (2013, 2016), March 2013.
  47. ^ Yamaguchi, Adam (Oct 9, 2017). "The Darien Gap — A Desperate Journey". CBS News. Retrieved 2017-10-10.
  48. ^ Kahn, Carrie (22 June 2016). "ia Cargo Ships and Jungle Treks, Africans Dream Of Reaching The U.S. 5:02 Queue Download Embed Transcript Facebook Twitter Google+ Email June 22, 20165:27 PM ET". NPR. Retrieved 2016-06-23.
  49. ^ a b Drost, Nadja (April 2, 2020). "When can we really rest?" More migrants than ever are crossing the Colombia-Panama border to reach the U.S. Five days inside the Darién Gap, one of the most dangerous journeys in the world". The California Sunday Magazine. Retrieved August 24, 2021. This has not stopped thousands of migrants from Africa, South Asia, the Middle East, and the Caribbean from traversing it in the hope that they will reach the United States.
  50. ^ "Stories From The Dangerous Darién Gap | On Point". WBUR. Retrieved 2016-08-08.
  51. ^ Drost, Nadja; Federico, Bruno (11 January 2020). "Yielding to U.S. pressure, Mexico clamps down on migrants". PBS NewsHour. PBS. Retrieved 13 August 2020.
  52. ^ Drost, Nadja; Federico, Bruno (12 August 2020). "What migrants face as they journey through the deadly Darien Gap". PBS NewsHour. PBS. Retrieved 13 August 2020.
  53. ^ Drost, Nadja; Federico, Bruno; Schifrin, Nick (13 August 2020). "How U.S. immigration policy affects fate of migrants braving the deadly Darien Gap". PBS NewsHour. PBS. Retrieved 14 August 2020.
  54. ^ Refugees, United Nations High Commissioner for. "Refworld | Amnesty International Report 2005 - Colombia". Refworld. Retrieved 2017-01-10.
  55. ^ "Panama's Darien teems with FARC drug runners". Reuters. 26 May 2010.
  56. ^ Alford, Deann (1 September 2001). "New Tribes Missionaries Kidnapped in 1993 Declared Dead". Christianity Today. Retrieved 2011-09-27.
  57. ^ "3 Americans freed, 2 journalists still captive in Colombia". CNN.com. 2003-01-24. Retrieved 2007-05-22.
  58. ^ Markey, Sean (2003-01-22). "Adventure Writer Reportedly Kidnapped in Panama". National Geographic News. Retrieved 2007-05-15.
  59. ^ "FARC admits to killing Swedish tourist in northwest Colombia". ColombiaReports.com. Retrieved 2015-10-06.

Further reading

External links

Media files used on this page

North America (orthographic projection).svg
Author/Creator: Heraldry, Licence: CC-BY-SA-3.0
North America (orthographic projection)
Waves in pacifica 1.jpg
Author/Creator: Brocken Inaglory, Licence: CC BY-SA 4.0
Sea Storm in Pacifica, w:California
The Earth seen from Apollo 17.jpg
"The Blue Marble" is a famous photograph of the Earth taken on December 7, 1972, by the crew of the Apollo 17 spacecraft en route to the Moon at a distance of about 29,000 kilometres (18,000 mi). It shows Africa, Antarctica, and the Arabian Peninsula.
Abandoned car testifies failure of one of the few attempts to cross the Darien Gap by transport.jpg
Author/Creator: Gustavo.ross, Licence: CC BY-SA 4.0
Mexican by-foot expeditioners Ana Cravioto, Walter Bläs, Albi von der Recke and Gustavo Ross with guides Juan and Lico from Paya take a rest at the Corvair abandoned in 1961 by the caravan of three from Chicago.
Ceiba tree in the Darien Jungle.jpg
Author/Creator: Gustavo.ross, Licence: CC BY-SA 4.0
A Ceiba tree makes Darien Gap crosser Gustavo Ross look tiny in comparison. Ceibas are considered sacred trees by ancient Mayan cultures.
Author/Creator: Created by en:User:Seaweege and released to PD, Licence: Copyrighted free use
Route of the Pan-American Highway. Includes original route and unofficial extensions but doesn't reflect official designation of U.S. interstate highway system. Hotine Oblique Mercator Two Point Natural Origin Projection.
PreColumbian American cultures.png
Author/Creator: unknown, Licence: CC-BY-SA-3.0
Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) insurgents.GIF
Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) insurgents.
Map of Darién Gap-en.svg
Author/Creator: Milenioscuro, Licence: CC BY-SA 4.0
Map of Darien Gap
Panama Embera0607.jpg
Author/Creator: Yves Picq http://veton.picq.fr, Licence: CC BY-SA 3.0
Panama, Darien, fillette Embera habillée pour la danse
Author/Creator: Porsche997SBS, Licence: CC BY 3.0
Ed Culberson's BMW R80G/S (nicknamed "Amigo"), the first vehicle to cross the Darién Gap en route to completing a full navigation of the Pan-American Highway
Darien Gap OSM.svg
Author/Creator: cmglee, OpenStreetMap contributors, Licence: CC BY-SA 4.0
Map of the Darien Gap by CMG Lee. The background map is by OpenStreetMap contributors.
Balboa Voyage 1513.PNG
Author/Creator: No machine-readable author provided. Taichi assumed (based on copyright claims)., Licence: CC BY 2.5
Voyage of Vasco Núñez de Balboa in 1513.
Darien in Panama.svg
Author/Creator: TUBSEmail Silk.svg Gallery, Licence: CC BY-SA 3.0
Location of province xy (see filename) in Panama.