Caleta Tortel is a picturesque lumber town in Capitán Prat Province, Chile's eighth-largest and fourth-least-populated province. With no conventional streets, the town features an intricate walkway system made of cypress wood, which has become part of the town's culture and a local tourist attraction.
Caleta Tortel is a picturesque lumber town that consists mainly of stilt houses of typical Chilean architecture, located between the mouth of the Baker River and a small embayment of the Baker Channel along the country's southern Pacific coast.
The town has been declared a heritage site, with architecture that tells the story of the first settlers to arrive in the area.
There are no conventional streets. Instead, the village's inhabitants built an intricate walkway system out of the native Guaytecas Cypress wood that runs about 8 km (5 mi) around the cove ("caleta").
Without these walkways, the only way to communicate and travel between houses would be by boat, given the density of the vegetation and the steepness of the hills around the cove.
The wooden walkways, winding through the fjords at the mouth of the Baker River, give the village its distinctive look and unique culture. The walkway system has become part of the town's culture and a local tourist attraction.
The original settlers came from Chiloé and were known for their woodworking skills, especially with axes. In 1904, the Baker Exploitation Society (Sociedad Explotadora del Baker) began logging in the area, bringing along workers who settled in the basins of the Baker, Bravo and Pascua rivers.
The town was founded in 1955 to exploit the abundant wood of Guaytecas Cypress (Pilgerodendron uviferum). The timber business still accounts for most of the economy in Tortel.
Caleta Tortel is the administrative center of the commune of Tortel and is located between the mouth of the Baker River and a small embayment of the Baker Channel. It lies between the Northern Patagonian Ice Field and the Southern Patagonian Ice Field in Capitán Prat Province, Aysén Region. The town's population was 523 as of the 2017 census.
The surrounding geography is rugged, formed by many islands, fjords, channels, and estuaries. The village had only air and boat access for most of its history. In 2003, a road was constructed that connects Caleta Tortel with the Carretera Austral, Chile's Route 7.
Capitán Prat Province
Capitán Prat Province is one of four provinces in the southern Chilean region of Aisén (XI), Chile's third largest but most sparsely populated region. Its capital is Cochrane. The province is named after the naval hero Arturo Prat.
Capitán Prat is Chile's eighth largest and fourth least populated province, as well as the most sparsely populated province in continental Chile. According to the 2002 census by the National Statistics Institute (INE), the province spanned an area of 37,043 sq km (14,300 sq mi) and had a population of 3,837.