Managed by Belize City–based Programme for Belize, a not-for-profit organization whose mission is the wise use and conservation of Belize's natural resources, the Río Bravo Conservation Area contains some 400 species of birds, 70 species of mammals, and 200 types of trees. About half of Río Bravo is managed as a nature reserve, and the rest is managed to generate income, from forestry and other activities, including tourism. Programme for Belize is actively involved in research and conservation programs to protect endangered species including the Yellow Headed Parrot.
Within the reserve's borders are more than 60 Mayan sites; many have yet to be explored. The most important is La Milpa, Belize's largest site beside Caracol and Lamanai. At its height between AD 400 and 830, La Milpa was home to almost 50,000 people. The suburbs of this city spread out some 3 miles (5 km) from the city center, and the entire city encompassed some 30 square miles (78 square km) in area.
So far, archaeologists have discovered 20 large courtyards and 19 stelae.
Visiting Río Bravo, like the other areas of northwestern Orange Walk, is best done in a four-wheel-drive vehicle. You must make arrangements to visit in advance with Programme for Belize (227/5616 in Belize City, www.pfbelize.org), as the entire Río Bravo conservation area is managed by this private, nonprofit organization, and the main road through its lands is gated. You also need advance reservations to stay at La Milpa Field Station. Staying overnight or longer at this field station is the best way to see Río Bravo, but you can visit it briefly on a day trip. Another field station, at Hill Bank, primarily serves as a research base for sustainable forest management but visitors with an interest in forest research can be accommodated in two cabañas and a dorm that sleeps six. Contact Programme for Belize for information.
Guides and information are available at La Milpa Field Station. Chan Chich Lodge, Lamanai Outpost Lodge, and other hotels also can arrange visits with guides to La Milpa and the Río Bravo Conservation & Management Area.