Province of Rio Negro
On the 6th November
1903 Francisco P. Moreno gave back to the Nation the 7500ha he had been
awarded in recognition of his efforts on behalf of the country in settling
the frontier with neighbouring Chile. This parcel of land was to form
the nucleus for the creation of Nahuel Huapi National Park in 1934. Thus
a large area (705,000ha) of scenic and biologically valuable northern
Patagonia passed under the protection of the National Parks Administration.
THE NATURE OF NAHUEL
Within the borders of the
park three major biomes are represented: the high andean, the Patagonian
Andes woods (including a sector of Valdivian forest) and a portion of
Above the 1600m (5000ft) elevation vegetation is sparse and composed of
"alpine" species adapted to the rigours of cold, snow and wind.
Below this the lesser mountains and valleys are mostly cloaked in cool
temperate Patagonian Andes woods. In this, at different elevations, different
species of tree dominate -Tall Deciduous Southern Beech (Nothofagus pumilio)
at higher elevations, Evergreen Southern Beech (N. dombeyi) below this
belt at middle elevations, and the deciduous Antractic Southern Beech
(N. antarctica) in the bottomlands. In autumn these woods offer one of
the most colourful spectacles to be seen in Argentina with their fall
colours. In spring the new foliage is highlighted by the flowering of
lesser species such as th Firebush (Embothrium coccineum) or the pink
or orange flowers of the two local Mutisias (M. retusa and M. decurrens),
or the yellow-orange Amancay Lilly (Alstroemeria aurantiaca) covering
large areas of the ground.
At Puerto Blest, near the Chilean border due west of Bariloche, rainfall
reaches some 150 to 200 inches per annum and it is here that the Valdivian
forest reigns, with its particular species of cypress (Pilgerodendron
uviferum), some Redwood-like Fitzroyas and Maniú Macho and Hembra
(Podocarpus nubigenus and Saxegothaea conspicua -endemic podocarps), and
Fuinque (Lomatia ferruginea), a proteaceous tree.
Many lakes line the valley floors, the largest being Nahuel Huapi itself,
with its area of 560 sq. Km and a maximum depth of 454 metres. Lesser
lakes are Traful, Gutiérrez, Mascardi, Guillelmo and others. On
their damp shores such trees as the Arrayán myrtle (Myrceugenella
apiculata) and the Patagua (M. exsucca) grow.
On certain cliffs by the water are to be found colonies of the Imperial
(Blue-eyed) Cormorant (Phalacrocorax atriceps) -strange, as this is a
species which is usually marine coastal found much further south and in
the Antarctic. The Kelp Gull (Larus dominicanus) is also on the lake and
follows tour boats.
A special mammal is the South Andean Otter (Lutra provocax) in its main
though vestigial population. Another interesting mammal is the Colonial
Tuco-tuco (Ctenomys sociabilis), a subterranean rodent with a distribution
limited to the park.
The eastern reaches of the park are a transition ecotone with the open,
drier woods of Southern Cypress (Austrocedrus chilensis), the Radal (Lomatia
hirsuta -a proteaceous tree), the Maitén (Maytenus boaria -Celastraceae);
but the dominant species is the cypress, so classical in shape, growing
on rocky slopes such as in the Valle Encantado of such scenic beauty.
Still further east are the steppes where the rainshadowïs influence
reduces precipitation most markedly, a semi-arid land of mesas, rolling
hills and canyons. This is the domain of the dry, yellowing grasses. Pumas,
foxes and guanacos, together with birds of prey such as the Black-chested
Buzzard-eagle (Geranoaetus melanoleucus), the Cinereus Harrier (Circus
cinereus) and the American Kestrel (Falco sparverius), are characteristic
of the wildlife of this steppe.
HOW TO GET THERE
The town of Bariloche
is almost surrounded by the Nahuel Huapi National Park and is reached
from San Martín de los Andes to the north along routes 234 and
231 (known as the Seven Lakes Circuit - Siete Lagos) or along rt. 63
From Neuquén take rt. 237; from the south rt. 258.
Airline services from Buenos Aires and other places go to Bariloche.
There are two international crossings to Chile, one along rt. 231 over
Puyehue Pass, the other using ground and lake transport over Perez Rosales
POINTS OF INTEREST
The park´s head-office
is in Bariloche (San Martin 24). There are some 100,000 inhabitants in
this town, situated on the south shores of Nahuel Huapi lake. Other settlements
are at Villa Angostura on the northwest shores of the lake and Villa Traful
on the lake of the same name, both with tourist services and facilities.
Within the park proper there are several camp-grounds, both organized
and "free", hotels, cabins for rent, inns, etc.
The fishing season is from November to April when introduced trout (brook,
rainbow and brown) and salmon can be caught - but procure a permit and
read carefully the yearly regulations.
Kayaking, boating, canoing and sailing, windsurf and floating are other
There are many trails for hiking, cycling or horse-riding. Find out more
about these from Park HQ or from Ranger Stations.
o Crossing from Refugio Frey and Refugio
San Martín, along the Catedral crest, Rucaco valley and Brecha
Negra crest. This is a fairly tough 8-hour hike.
o Descent from Refugio San Martín
along Casalata river to the area of Tronador Hotel, via the Schweitzer
pass - fairly tough, 8 hours.
o Hike from the area of Refugio Segre
and Refugio López to Laguna La Carne. From here it descends to
Pampa Linda (nr. Mt. Tronador), passing by the Laguna CAB, Las Vueltas
bog and Laguna Cretón. Fairly tough. From Segre and López
it takes 2.5 days to Laguna La Carne.
o From the area of Tronador Hotel to
Laguna Cretón where it joins the trail mentioned immediately above
via Laguna Azul - an easy three-hour walk. From Lag. Azul to Lag. Cretón
it is another slightly more difficult three hours.
o From the watershed to Tronador Hotel
where the Upper Manso river starts, via Llum and the crest of mount Mora.
The last stretch joins up with the descent down Casalata stream. Not difficult
- 1.5 days.
o Trail between Segre and San Martín
Refugios over the crest of Mt. López, Goye bottomlands and Mt.
Bailley Willis. Difficult; 5 hours.
o Crossing between Segre and San Martín
Refugios; very difficult, 12 hrs. Requires a mountain guide.
oDescent from Laguna La Carne to Pampa
Linda; easy three hours.
o From Pampa Linda to Lake Frías
over Paso de las Nubes - easy, two days.
Pampa linda is the starting point for
several long or short hikes. Some of these are:
o Trail to Las Nalcas waterfall; starts
500m from the Ranger Station, along the path to the base of Mt. Tronador.
o Ventisquero Negro trail. Starts 7Kms
from the Ranger Station on the road to the base of Mt. Tronador, reaching
the Ventisquero Negro ("black galcier") overlook.
o Trail to the base of Mt. Tronador
which starts at the end of the road from the viewpoint of Garganta del
o Trail to Laguna Ilón starting
300m from the Ranger Station towards Otto Meiling Refugio, to the turn-off
which is marked to the right. The climb takes about 6 hours.
o Trail to the Bariloche Mountain Club´s
Refugio Otto Meiling. Starts from the Ranger Station towards the Castaño
Overo river. Once over the river, climb to the bare-rock area. 5 hour
o Paso de las Nubes trail: starts from
the Otto Meiling trail. This high mountain pass offers condor-viewing
and ends at Lago Frías in the Puerto Blest Valdivian Forests. Two
Information on these and other trails
can be had at any National Parks dependency.
Interpretation on the boat trips on
the lake deals with the history, nature and traditions of the park. Trips
to Isla Victoria, Los Arrayanes, Blest, Lake Mascardi are offered by local
More than 500km of internal roads lead
to the many points of interest.
o The northern part of the park has
The Valle Encantado on the road to Confluencia of the Traful and Limay
rivers has spectacular rock formations.
The Siete Lagos (seven lakes) circuit takes in a part of the neighbouring
Lanín National Park and offers lake and mountain scenery as magnificent
as it is varied.
o South from Bariloche rt. 258 (paved)
leads to Lago Mascardi. A gravel road forks off to the Manso river rapids,
Lago Roca and the Alerces waterfall, eventually leading to Mt. Tronador
and its glaciers. The paved road continues south past Lago Guillelmo to
El Bolsón. A small road heads off from it westward, descending
to Lago Steffen and passing Hualahué lake on the way. This is a
good place for watching waterfowl.
Thanks to APN - Administración
de Parques Nacionales