Llanos de Challe National Park is located along the coast of northern Chile's Atacama Region and features a coastal desert ecosystem which is habitat for rare and threatened plant species. It is one of the southernmost locations of the coastal desert lomas.
Llanos de Challe National Park
Llanos de Challe National Park is a protected natural area that is located along the coast of northern Chile's Atacama Region (Región de Atacama). Created in 1994 and consisting of 45,708 ha (112,947 acres), the national park features a coastal desert ecosystem.
The fragile ecosystem is habitat for rare plant species, including the threatened Leontochir ovallei (known locally as Garra de León or "Lion Claw"), which is often eaten by guanacos. Plants survive by growing through spiny shrubs and on rocky cliffs.
The flora constitutes one of the main attractions of the park and includes abundant cactus. The flora is made up of more than 220 different species, of which 206 are native to Chile and 14 are endemic to the Atacama Region. The natural phenomenon known as desierto florido (flowery desert) occurs here occasionally as a consequence of El Niño-Southern Oscillation.
The mountains in Llanos de Challe National Park are moistened by the Camanchaca (marine stratocumulus cloud banks that form on the coast), creating a fog and mist-fed ecosystem called lomas. The park is one of the southernmost locations of the lomas which are scattered along the coastal desert from northern Chile to northern Peru. The highest elevation in the park is Cerro Negro at 950 m (3,116 ft). Vegetation is more abundant along the coast than in the interior.
Llanos de Challe National Park has the largest population of guanacos (Lama guanicoe) in the region. The guanaco is the largest wild mammal in Chile and can adapt to various environmental conditions, surviving extreme weather. Guanacos are one of two wild South American camelids, the other being the vicuña, which lives at higher elevations. Other mammals include the chilla and culpeo foxes.
The coastal area features unspoiled white sand beaches and a coastal wetland, which shelters common moorhens, red-gartered coots, black-necked swans and flamingos. Peregrine falcons and condors are also found in the area of the national park.