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CHILE NATURE

Yerba Loca Natural Sanctuary

SANTIAGO DE CHILE

- Yerba Loca Nature Sanctuary (25 kilometers east of Santiago)

Embedded in the Central Andean Cordillera, Yerba Loca Nature Sanctuary possesses a surface of 39 thousand hectares, of which 11,575 are administered by the National Forestry Corporation (Conaf). This protected area features several interesting places, among them Villa Paulina, Piedra Carvajal and La Paloma and El Altar glaciers.

Beyond the administration sector, there are 4 kilometers of gravel track which is in relatively good condition before one gets to the place known as Villa Paulina. Here are the campsites, the basic services and picnic areas equipped with tables, benches, small ovens and parking.

To visit the reserve safely, all one must do is follow the pathways signaled by Conaf. The most interesting one is that which leads from Villa Paulina to La Paloma and El Altar glaciers. It is a 14-kilometer walk through the Yerba Loca estuary. Along the way one may admire the ranges of hills limiting the estuary on either side: the El Plomo-La Parva range on the east and the Yerba Loca range on the west.

At the foot of the estuary canyon, and forming a backdrop to the trek are the peaks of La Paloma, El Falso Altar and El Altar (5222 meters above sea level). However, El Altar only comes to view after one has climbed to the top of the Piedra Carvajal sector, and the mountain you see first is the Falso Altar.

The pathway follows the main watercourse upstream, this is the Yerba Loca, whose source is at 3,900 meters above sea level, on the slopes of Mt La Paloma. Its waters contain large quantities of sulfate, which both give it a deep turquoise color and make it unfit for use as drinking water.
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    Its tributaries are the streams La Leonera and Chorrillo del Plomo ,as well as a number of springs that well up near the main river bed and not only contribute water volume, but also form numerous cascades.

    Since the Yerba Loca area varies in altitude from 900 to 5,500 meters above sea level, the flora is richly varied (actually, the Sanctuary's name derives from a herb which is found in great quantities in the area). Forestry species such as bollen, litre, quillay and lun are abundant up to 1,300 meters above sea level.

    Between 1,300 and 2,000 meters above sea level is found the olivillo de la cordillera (miniature olive tree of the Cordillera), which is in danger of extinction in the Metropolitan Region. Also, in the Villa Paulina sector there are woods with introduced species (introduced both by the local inhabitants and Conaf) which have adapted to Andean conditions. These are certain conifers such as cypresses and Oregon pines, as well as poplars, elms and eucalyptus trees.

    There can be no doubt that birds are everywhere to be seen in the Sanctuary. The most common species are turtle doves and the peucos and cernicalos, among the birds of prey. At higher altitudes, the eagles and condors are lords of the sky.

    The rest of the representatives of the animal world, namely mammals and reptiles, are not so abundant. The animal genus most widely represented in the Sanctuary is Rodentia, whose most representative specimens are the cururo, the degu and Darwin's "large eared" mouse. ("Nature Sanctuary" D.S. Nº 937)

    Activities that are possible to do are:

    - Horseriding in different natural settings.

    - Bird Watching, including migration, behavior and habitats.

    - Photography, including shots of interior and exterior views in authorized places.

    - Flora and fauna observation - different animal and plant species native to the area may be admired.

    Source: www.sernatur.cl



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