Bernardo O'Higgins National Park is currently the largest protected area in Chile. Along with Torres del Paine National Park, it occupies over 90% of the Southern Patagonian Icefield; the remainder of it, in Argentina, is included within Los Glaciares National Park.
Bernardo O'Higgins National Park
Bernardo O'Higgins National Park is currently the largest protected area in Chile, covering an area of 3,525,901 ha (8,712,691 acres) in both the Aysén and Magallanes and Antártica Chilena regions.
The park is named after General Bernardo O'Higgins, the South American revolutionary leader and first head of state of the Republic of Chile who commanded the military forces that won independence from Spain. The area was given National Park status by successive decrees issued from 1959 through 1975.
Los Glaciares National Park (Argentina) and Torres del Paine National Park are its neighbors to the east. Laguna San Rafael National Park is located to the north, the Alacalufes National Reserve to the southwest and the Katalalixar National Reserve to the northwest.
Bernardo O'Higgins National Park is part of Chile's scenic 2,800-km (1,700-mi) "Route of Parks of Patagonia" that stretches from Puerto Montt in the north to Cape Horn in the south. Spanning 17 national parks, the Route of Parks encompasses one-third of Chile and protects over 11.8 million hectares (28 million acres).
Bernardo O'Higgins National Park, along with Torres del Paine National Park, occupies over 90% of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field; the remainder of it, across the border in Argentina, is included within Los Glaciares National Park.
Together, Bernardo O'Higgins National Park and Torres del Paine National Park are part of the UNESCO Tentative List of Sites, for inclusion into the World Heritage List.
The Pío XI glacier is the largest glacier in the southern hemisphere outside of Antarctica, covering an area of 1,265 sq km (488 sq mi). The ice face of the glacier is approximately 75 m (246 ft) in height. Other glaciers include Balmaceda, Serrano, Chico, O'Higgins, Jorge Montt, Bernardo, Témpano, Occidental, Greve, Penguin and Amalia.
The highest summit is the Lautaro volcano at 3,607 m (11,834 ft). Other summits include Mount Fitz Roy, the Cerro Torre and the Cerro Riso Patrón.
Bernardo O'Higgins National Park is part of the Magellanic subpolar forests ecoregion. Forest tree species include Nothofagus betuloides, Nothofagus pumilio, Nothofagus Antarctica and Drimys winteri.
The park is one of the last refuges for the Chilean huemul. In addition, species such as the Andean condor, marine otter and cormorant can be found here.