These two contiguous parks, in the desert region on the western border of the Sierra Pampeanas of central Argentina, contain the most complete continental fossil record known from the Triassic Period. Six geological formations contain fossils of a wide range of ancestors of mammals, dinosaurs and plants.
Ischigualasto / Talampaya Natural Parks are located in the northern part of central Argentina comprised of two adjoining protected areas: Ischigualasto Provincial Park (60,369 ha or 149,175 acres) in San Juan Province and Talampaya National Park (215,000 ha or 531,275 acres) in Rioja Province.
The two parks jointly cover 275,369 ha (680,450 acres) west of the Sierras Pampeanas. The property is located in an arid region in the rain shadow of the Andes and also contains important archaeological values, including 1500-year-old petroglyphs.
Ischigualasto Provincial Park: also called Valle de la Luna ("Valley of the Moon or "Moon Valley"). The park is part of the western border of the Central Sierras, and it features typical desert vegetation (bushes, cacti and some trees) which covers between 10% and 20% of the area. The climate is very dry, with rainfall mostly during the summer, and temperature extremes. There is a constant southern wind with a speed of 20-40 km/h (12-25 mph) after noon and until the evening, sometimes accompanied by the extremely strong Zonda wind.
Talampaya National Park: covers an area of 2,150 sq km (830 sq mi), at an altitude of 1,500 m (4,920 ft) above mean sea level. Its purpose is to protect important archaeological and palaeontological sites found in the area. The park is in a basin between the Cerro Los Colorados to the west and the Sierra de Sañagasta to the east. The landscape is the result of erosion by water and wind in a desert climate, with large ranges in temperature (high heat by day and low temperature at night) with torrential rain in summer and strong wind in spring.
The property is situated within Argentina's Monte ecoregion, a warm scrub desert along the Eastern Andean foothills. Against the backdrop of an attractive mountain landscape the property is a scientific treasure of global importance. It harbors the sedimentary Ischigualasto-Villa Union Triassic Basin, consisting of continental sediments deposited during the entire Triassic Period. This Basin boasts an exceptionally complete record and sequence of plant and animal life in the geological period from roughly 250 to 200 million years ago which represents the origin of both dinosaurs and mammals.
Six distinct sedimentary formations contain the fossilized remains of a wide range of ancestral animals and plants revealing the evolution of vertebrates and detailed information on palaeoenvironments over the approximately 50 million years of the Triassic Period, and the dawn of the "Age of the Dinosaurs." The ongoing scientific discoveries are invaluable for understanding palaeontology and evolutionary biology.
Exceptional landscape features include red sandstone cliffs reaching 200 m (656 ft) in height in Talampaya National Park and, in Ischigualasto Provincial Park, white and multicolored sediments creating a stark landscape. The site has sparse desert vegetation, characterized by xeric shrubs and cactus, with interspersed trees. The desert environment contains several rare and endemic species of flora and fauna.