Nahuel Huapi National Park is dominated by the high mountain chain of the Andes and includes many lakes, rapid rivers, waterfalls, snow-clad peaks, glaciers and extensive forests. The largest national park in the region, it encompasses Lake Nahuel Huapí adjacent to the Chilean border.
Lake Nahuel Huapi
Lake Nahuel Huapi is the largest and deepest clear water lake in the lake district of Argentina. It lies within northern Patagonia, with a depth of 425 m (1,394 ft).
Located at the foot of the Andes Mountains at an altitude of 767 m (2,516 ft), it measures 544 sq ha (210 sq mi). The lake extends 100 km (62 mi) across the border with Chile and includes many fjords as well as the Valdivian temperate rain forest.
Nahuel Huapí (Araucanian for "island of the jaguars") was discovered by the Jesuit priest Nicolás Mascardi in 1670. He built a church on the lake’s Huemul Peninsula and established a reducción (work mission) where he and his fellow Jesuits engaged in missionary activity among the Poyas, Pehuenches and Puelches.
The lake depression consists of several glacial valleys carved out along faults and Miocene valleys that were later dammed by moraines. The deep-blue waters hold a number of islands, most notably Isla Victoria with an area of 31 sq km (12 sq mi) and Isla Huemul.
The lake's seven branches are:
- Blest (36 sq km or 14 sq mi)
- Huemul (21 sq km or 8 sq mi)
- De la Tristeza (18 sq km or 7 sq mi)
- Campanario (8 sq km or 3 sq mi)
- Del Rincón
- Última Esperanza
Nahuel Huapí is connected to other smaller lakes such as Gutiérrez, Moreno, Espejo and Correntoso.
The lake region was designated the Nahuel Huapí National Park in 1934. The park has facilities for boating, fishing, and mountaineering.
Nahuel Huapi National Park
Nahuel Huapi National Park is the oldest national park in Argentina, established in 1934. It surrounds Nahuel Huapi Lake in the foothills of the Patagonian Andes.
The largest of the national parks in the region, it has an area of 7,050 sq km (2,720 sq mi), or nearly two million acres. Along with four other national parks, it comprises a part of the Andino Norpatagónica Biosphere Reserve.
Located in Río Negro and Neuquén provinces, the National Park encompasses Lake Nahuel Huapí in the Andes adjacent to the Chilean border. The park is dominated by the high Andes Mountain chain, many lakes, rapid rivers, waterfalls, snow-clad peaks, glaciers and extensive forests. It is bordered by Chile on its western side.
Originated as a reserve in 1903, with a private donation of 7,500 ha (18,500 acres), Nahuel Huapi became Argentina’s first national park in 1934 and has an area of 7,581 sq km (2,927 sq mi).
Nahuel Huapi National Park has two zones: the park and the natural reserve with development concentrated in the reserve. The largest city and a base for tourism is San Carlos de Bariloche, which is surrounded by the park.
The park and adjacent nature reserve include a region of dense forests, numerous lakes, rapid rivers, waterfalls, and glaciers (including Perito Moreno). Among its peaks are the 3,554-m (11,660-ft) El Tronador ("The Thunderer") and Mount Catedral, the latter being noted for its skiing.
The park's landscapes are representative of the north Patagonian Andean Zone and is subdivided into three types: Altoandino, above 1,600 m (5,250 ft) with eternal snows, the Andino-Patagónico (in the lower parts of the mountains) and finally the Patagonian steppe.
The park's ecology consists of Patagonian steppe at lower elevations and Valdivian temperate forests at higher elevations. It is notable for its rich wildlife due to its many biotopes, attributed to the varied altitude and precipitation range.
Nahuel Huapi has a cold temperate climate. Winters are cold and rainy with frequent snowfalls while summers are dry.
Xerophytic Patagonian flora is dominant in the eastern half of the park while the western half is covered profusely with temperate rain forests. The dominant tree species in the park are the lengas, coihue, and the ñires.
Animals include river otters (Lontra longicaudis), southern Andean huemuls (Hippocamelus bisulcus), pudus (small deer), foxes, cougars, guanacos and maras. Huillin (Lontra provocax), an endangered native otter, has been reported in the park.
Birds reported include Magellanic woodpeckers, green austral parakeets, geese, ducks, swans, blue-eyed cormorants, Andean condors (Vultur gryphus) and green-backed firecrowns (Saphonoides sephaniodes).