LAGUNA BLANCA NATIONAL
Province of Neuquén
in 1945, this park's main object is the protection of an important area
where the black-necked swan nests. It covers an area of 11,250 ha in western
Neuquen province some 30 km from Zapala.
The area has been declared a wetland of international importance (RAMSAR
site) for its importance to waterbirds.
IN THE PARK
most important feature of the park is the Laguna Blanca itself, a body
of water amid patagonian grassy steppe and framed by conical hills. The
surface of the lake is of some 1700 ha and it is fed by two temporary
streams; the del Llano Blanco and the Pichi-Ñireco
The waterfowl is spectacular in its variety and abundance and is the principal
attraction of the park; the black-necked swan is the main actor here.
There are also flamingos which have been known to nest there; ducks of
many species, waders, grebes (especially the silvery). With the arrival
of spring these last form several breeding colonies which provide the
visitor with excellent opportunities to study their behaviour.
There is an endemic frog which with the unwise and illegal, clandestine
introduction of exotic perch and trout has vanished from the main lake
but still survives in the smaller bodies of water nearby which the exotic
fish have not reached.
A geological feature of interest lies in the basalt flow which borders
the north shore of the lake as on its cliff-like face nest raptors such
as the red-backed hawk, the peregrine falcon, home also to the mountain
viscacha which sports along the vertical drop. The rest of the park is
typically patagonian steppe with a preponderance of grasses and bushes.
the trail around the Laguna Blanca itself there is a cave (Salamanca)
which was inhabited in prehistoric times. Research is going on there where
the local hunter-gatherers worked out their living. One of the walls has
examples of the typical rock paintings of northern Patagonia.
TO GET THERE
Neuquen to Zapala along route 22, thence south a stretch along 40 to a
turn off along route 46 which crosses the park. There are about 32 km
from Zapala to Laguna Blanca. The park can also be reached from the south
(Aluminé and Junin de los Andes) or from Mendoza in the north,
always along the main N/S arterial route 40.
Of interest to the visitor
There is a picnic
and camping area in the park though the rough weather and windy conditions
combined with lack of shelter make overnighting difficult. Zapala has
all manner of lodging. The best time to visit the park is between November
and March. There is a lovely trail bordering the del Llano Blanco stream.
With permission from the ranger (stationed on the south shore of the lake),
one can drive to Laguna Verde where there is an observatory for bird-watching.
Thanks to APN - Administración
de Parques Nacionales