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CHILE NATURE

PUMALIN PARK - PRIVATE RESERVE

The wild beauty of nature imposes itself in Pumalín Park, a refuge of centenarian forests of Patagonia cypress (Fitzroya cupressoides), lenga beeches (Nothofagus pumilio) and cypresses (Cupressus sempervivens), which seem to be the guardians of a space of unsettling beauty, with glaciers, fiords, hidden lakes and noisy waterfalls.

Nature has resorted to all of its magic on the 317 thousand hectares of Pumalín, the largest private park in Chile, to create places that move travellers hiking along the zigzagging trails of this protected area due to its delicate prettiness. It is located in the 10th Region of the Lakes, on continental Chiloé, one of the less populated zones in Chile.

The origins of the Park go back to 1991 when Douglas Tompkins, a wealthy North American philanthropist, acquired the Reñihué Ranch, located in a zone hard to access with pastures for cattle and 7 thousand hectares of native trees.

Some time later the Conservation Land Trust Foundation, led by Tompkins, would buy 300 thousand hectares of land, including the neighbouring area of Reñihué called Pumalín, a true outflow of native forests, frozen summits, pristine rivers and amazing fiords.

The imposing nature of Pumalín nourished the idea of creating a private protected zone as a means of guaranteeing the conservation of a delicate ecosystem created by glaciations, in a process that generated or gave life to superb cliffs highly unstable, impressive lakes and restless rivers that form deltas and moisture abrupt valleys.

The Park would open to the public in 1994 after arduous research work, recuperation of degraded soils and the construction of a tourist infrastructure (camping areas, trails and cabins amongst other facilities). Currently the process for granting it the category of Natural Sanctuary is on its final stages.
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    The protection of the forest

    Pumalín is an important eco-tourist project conceived by private capitals in the Communes of Hualaihué and Chaitén (Province of Palena), and a small part of the Commune of Cachamó (Province of Llanquihue). The purpose of its promoters is to preserve the fragile ecosystem of the forests, the lake and marine zones, as well as the fauna related to it.

    The protection plan also involves the colonists of communities such as Cholgo, Vodudahue and Liptepu, amongst other populations dispersed along the fiords, canals and isles.

    This is done with the aim of having conservation as an economically viable activity for the population, instilling in them the need to protect the environment and the biodiversity.

    One of these activities is eco-tourism and in order to achieve its development, information centres have been built along with camping areas, cabins and cafeterias (under strict conservationist outlines), mainly on Gonzalo's Cove, the starting point for adventurers visiting the Park.

    Excursions bound for the fiord of Reñihué and a nearby concentration of seals depart from Gonzalo's Cove. It is also the starting point for the spectacular trekking circuits in Pumalín, which present different levels of difficulty and which lead to the 60 thousand hectares of leafy forests of Patagonian cypress, lenga beeches and cypresses.

    One of the easiest routes is the so-called Trail of the Patagonian cypress (1 kilometre long), which allows enjoying the richness of the forest and learning more about its biology and history. The route is well signalised.

    The Thundering Trail presents more complications; however, the ride is extremely amusing and includes the crossing of a hanging bridge. The hike ends at a fascinating lake. Another option is the Unexplored Trail, a complicated three-day circuit that should be toured by skilled trekkers alone.

    Whatever route you choose, you will fully contemplate the natural settings of this region whose prodigal geography presents marine corners, marshes and wetlands that seem to perfectly compete with the prairies and forests adorning Pumalín.

    After the exhausting trekking journeys, hikers will find in the thermal baths of Cahuelmó the best way of conceiting their bodies worn-out from excessive walking.

    Hand in hand with the eco-tourist adventures, the production of cheese and honey has been encouraged for a while now amongst the populations in Pumalín, along with the manufacturing of woollen textiles, livestock breeding and the cultivation of organic market gardens, activities orientated towards the conservation of the environment and a sustainable development.

    On the route to Pumalin

    The way of accessing Pumalín varies according to the time of the year. It has to be accessed by sea in January and February, being the starting point Hornopirén, which in turn is accessed from Puerto Montt. The boats anchor at Gonzalo's Cove after a 30-kilometre ride.

    The rest of the year it is accessed by land. The distance between Gonzalo's Cove and Chaitén, the nearest Commune, is of 60 kilometres. This locality is connected to the City of Puerto Montt and the Isle of Chiloé.

    On the other hand, those visiting the Park should take into consideration that four types of climate have been identified in here: Cool Marine in the northern zone; Patagonian Misty Marine, characteristic of the valleys and coastal plains; Polar Alpine Tundra on the mountain sectors; and the Misty of Cool Summer, proper of the Valley of the Ventisquero Stream.

    Provided with a marvellous setting, Pumalín Park offers travellers the chance to discover its huge forests, its glaciers, rivers and fiords; though most important of all, will sprinkle in their conscience the idea of preserving and protecting the natural areas on the planet.




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