Of all the secrets locked away deep inside the Amazon rainforests, a flowing river of boiling water seems like one that couldn’t possibly be true. And yet, it is. Geoscientist Andrés Ruzo first heard the legend as a boy, growing up in Peru, and spent years looking for the unlikely body of water. Once he found it, he set about trying to save it.

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The tale of the boiling river involves rumors of Spanish conquistadors heading into the forest in search of gold, and few of them lived to tell. Those who did survive the dense jungle came back with incredible stories of the untamed wild, including one that sounded downright impossible – a river of boiling water. Now, Ruzo has penned a book describing his quest for the fantastic legendary river. The Boiling River: Adventure and Discovery in the Amazon details the story of Ruzo’s curiosity in a boyhood legend and the adventures that brought him to the river’s edge.

Related: Amazon deforestation leaps 16 percent in 2015

As a PhD student in geophysics at Southern Methodist University, Ruzo proposed creating a geothermal map that might reveal hotspots to narrow down the site of a river that could boil, but his colleagues scoffed. It didn’t seem possible that one area could generate enough geothermal energy to boil an entire river. After all, that was the stuff of legends.

Ruzo wasn’t deterred, and eventually his perseverance paid off. He found the river at Mayantuyacu, a sacred geothermal healing site, and it does indeed boil. A four-mile stretch of the river, which is up to 82 feet (25 meters) wide and 20 feet (six meters) deep, is hot enough to brew tea, and one small section bubbles just like a pot on the stove.

The first part of Ruzo’s adventure was tracking down the legendary river and documenting it in his book. Now, he’s embarked on a different kind of adventure – an ardent attempt to save the river, and what remains of the rainforests which surround it. Deforestation has devastated the region, and Ruzo hopes that confirmation of the fantastic river will inspire people to protect other secrets that may remain hidden in the Amazon for generations to come.

Via Gizmodo

Images via Sofia Ruzo and Devlin Gandy