Before the construction of the BR-262, there was only one land route that connected Campo Grande  with Corumbá : a dirt road winding through the southern edge of the Pantanal  that was laid by the intrepid Cândido Rondon in the early 1900s, as part of his mission to extend telegraph lines all the way to Brazil ’s border with Paraguay.
With the inauguration of the highway, Rondon’s route was abandoned and forgotten until nascent ecotourism brought it back to life, rebaptized as the Estrada Parque do Pantanal.
The Estrada consists of 120 kilometers (75 miles) of dirt road linked by 87 precarious wooden bridges that cut through a wild and beautiful patch of the wetlands teeming with wildlife.
On the shores of the Rio Miranda, Passo do Lontra Parque Hotel (tel. 67/3231-6569, www.passodolontra.com.br , R$140–240) offers a quintessential Pantanal  experience. A multitude of wooden walkways stretched over the marshes and bogs make you feel as if you’re walking on water, and the accommodations themselves, in wooden chalets, are all on stilts. The budget prices make this the definitive backpackers’ choice—aside from the main bungalows, an apart-hotel complex offers more basic rooms that can house up to six.
For those who don’t mind roughing it, there is a redário (where you can crash in a rented hammock) on a nearby farm along with camping facilities. There are activities and packages geared both towards ecotourism and fishing here. This hotel is 120 kilometers (75 miles) from Corumbá  (access is from Km 8 of Estrada Parque via Buraco das Piranhas). There is also a landing strip for planes.
Serious birders will have a field day at the
Pousada Arara Azul (tel. 67/9987-1430, São Paulo tel. 11/3865-5131, www.fazendaararaazul.com.br , R$230–350), which is flooded with feathered creatures including the hotel’s namesake, the brilliant blue hyacinth macaw. Other mammals—including rarely seen wolves and jaguars—can also be spotted. Located deep in the Pantanal  between two bays, in a region known as Nhecolândia, this is an ideal place to see wildlife—which you can do on foot, horseback, or by boat with guides.
Accommodations, while simple, are pleasant—all apartments feature wonderful views—and the home-cooked regional food served buffet style is notoriously good. This pousada is 148 kilometers from Corumbá  (access is from Km 35 of the Estrada Parque via Buraco das Piranhas).
The Estrada Parque do Pantanal extends from Buraco das Piranhas, a settlement located at Km 664 of the BR-262 (100 kilometers/62 miles northwest of Miranda ), to Porto da Manga, a fishing village on the banks of the Rio Paraguai (where a raft transports vehicles daily at 6 a.m. and 6 p.m.), which is close to Corumbá .
Although a four-wheel-drive is essential during the rainy season (and even so, you should always check weather conditions beforehand), the Estrada Parque is the only portion of the southern Pantanal  that you can explore on your own. Along the route, there are various pousadas and some of the best fazenda lodges  in the southern Pantanal.