NAHUEL HUAPI NATIONAL PARK - GATEWAY TO PATAGONIA
the Pleistocene glaciers retreated from the grassy plains
into the heights of the Andean Cordillera of northern
Patagonia, they left behind an enormous, irregularly
shaped lake. The lake was deep, but the caprice of glacial
sculpture left a narrow island anchored in the center of
Centuries ago, Mapuche
Indians gave this island a revealing name: Nahuel Huapi
(Tiger Island). Much later, a man named O´Conner
re-christened the island, giving it a much less
imaginative name: Isla Victoria (Victoria Island).Although
O'Conner's choice remained stuck to the island, Nahuel
Huapi has prevailed to the extent that the entire park, of
which the lake is the main feature, has now taken that
Today Nahuel Huapi is one of the oldest and most popular
national parks in South America and it has something for
everyone. Nahuel Huapi is to Argentines what Banff National Park
is to Canadians: a honey-moon destination which offers winter
ski races, summer music festivals, regional museums as well as
elegant Old World hotels and restaurants, all set against a
backdrop of breathtaking mountain scenery.
Its rugged mountains, alpine glaciers and well established
trails attract hordes of high mountain hikers every summer.
Likewise, serious anglers from around the world come to fish in
the park's plentiful streams and clear, cold lakes, seeking
trout and salmon.
Nahuel Huapi´s dense and silent forest beckons those who seek
respite from the frenetic business world of Buenos Aires, while
Bariloche's sophisticated tourist community and Villa la
Angostura's enchanting resort attract those who seek to be seen
in fashionable places.
The highest mountain in the park is the extinct 11.722 foot
high volcano, Tronador (Thunderer). Its name refers to the
frequent rumbles caused by ice falling from the face of several
glaciers (ventisqueros) that cling to the mountain's three
peaks. According to an ancient Mapuche legend, the rumbling is a
warning sent by pigmy-like creatures who are the mountain's
custodians and who will slay with tiny arrows those who venture
too close to Tronador.
The park contains six large lakes and dozens of smaller ones,
but the immensity of Lago Nahuel Huapi dominates the entire
region and even moderates the climate. Sixty miles long, with
more than 200 square miles of surface, the lake has several
major arms (brazos) and boats regularly cross it on the way to
or from Chile. In fact, Lago Nahuel Huapi is the final link in
one of the most unusual short journeys in South America:
travelers can cross the Andes by taking a series of ferry trips
across alpine lakes and bus trips over mountain passes.
The western part of the park is the region between the Chilean
border and the western margins of Lagos Nahuel Huapi, Traful,
Mascardi, and Gutierrez. Annual rainfall is high in this area
(120 to 160 inches per year) and vegetation is lush and dense.
Xerophytic shrubs predominate in the dry eastern zone, at the
edge of the plains. The Valle Encantado (Enchanted Valley) lies
within this arid zone. The valley extends for 25 miles along the
Río Limay, the powerful river that drains Lago Nahuel Huapi.
Trout and salmon were introduced into the waters of Nahuel Huapi
just after the turn of the century and the fishing is now world
renowned. Virtually every lake and stream in the park contain
brown, rainbow, or brook trout, and several contain landlocked
salmon. Trolling is the preferred method of fishing in the
larger lakes, but fly fishing is effective in the smaller lakes
and in the streams.
Nahuel Huapi is one of the few national parks in South America
with a well developed network of good trails and alpine refuges,
so backpacking and mountaineering are popular activities. The
main hiking areas are Península de Quetrihué, Bosque de
Arrayanes, Puerto Blest, Cerro Bayo, Tronador, Cerro Catedral
and Cerro Dormilón.
history of Nahuel Huapi National Park is intimately
associated with the development of trout fishing in
Patagonia. On November 6, 1903, Francisco
"Perito" Moreno (the same man who pressed the
Argentine government to introduce salmonid into
Patagonian waters) decided to donate about 75.000 acres
of land he owned in the vicinity of Laguna Frías to the
government of Argentina. He made his offer contingent
upon a single condition and that condition altered
Argentine History and firmly established Perito Moreno
as the father of his country´s park system. He insisted
that the land be set aside for the enjoyment of all
Such a notion was unheard of in those days and the government
took several months to think it over. Eventually the offer was
accepted and in 1934 Nahuel Huapi the first national park to be
established in South America and the third in the western
hemisphere- was born.
Nahuel Huapi National Park is situated in the Andean region of
Neuquén and Río Negro Provinces, well into northern Patagonia.