- 1 Introduction to Lago Puelo National Park
- 2 Biodiversity: Flora and Fauna
- 3 Geography and Natural Features
- 4 Main Activities and Attractions
- 5 Practical Information for Visitors
- 6 Accommodation and Nearby Services
- 7 Local Culture and Heritage
- 8 Tourist Routes and Nearby Points of Interest
- 9 Photo Gallery
In Argentine Patagonia, the Lago Puelo National Park is a haven of tranquility that offers breathtaking landscapes and abundant biodiversity, being part of the Andean North Patagonian Biosphere Reserve. This natural paradise is a must-visit destination for nature lovers and those seeking outdoor adventure. We invite you to immerse yourself in the beauty and wonder of this unique place.
Introduction to Lago Puelo National Park
Located in the Chubut Province in southern Argentina, Lago Puelo National Park covers an area of over 27,674 hectares in the Valdivian Forest ecoregion. It borders Chile to the west and is situated 30 km from the city of El Bolsón. It can be geographically pinpointed with coordinates: 42°11′00″S 71°41′00″W / -42.183333333333, -71.683333333333.
National Park Background
Before the creation of Lago Puelo National Park, measures were taken to protect and preserve the region. In 1937, President Agustín Pedro Justo issued Decree No. 105,433, which established national reserves intended for national parks in four territories of Patagonia, including the Los Alerces national reserve in the National Territory of Chubut and its annex located approximately 115 km north at Lake Puelo. According to Article 2 of this decree, the boundaries of these reserves were established, and a portion of lot 8, the southern half of lot 7, lot 13, the western half of lot 14, the northwestern league of lot 17, and the northern half of lot 18, fraction A, were designated as an annex to Los Alerces National Park.
Subsequently, in 1945, Decree Law No. 9,504, under the presidency of Edelmiro Julián Farrell, transformed the national reserve into Los Alerces National Park, including the Puelo Annex. This was established in Article 7, which declared the national parks, including Los Alerces, with the boundaries established in Decree No. 105,433 and modifications made by previous decrees.
It is worth noting that, since the decree law was issued by a de facto government, it was ratified as Law No. 13,895 on September 30, 1949. These measures laid the foundation for the creation of the national park, thus preserving its natural beauty and biodiversity.
History and Park Creation
The park was created on October 11, 1971 under the Spanish name "Parque Nacional Lago Puelo" with the objective of protecting one of the most beautiful and representative areas of the Andean-Patagonian forests and the Puelo Lake basin.
The history of the Lago Puelo National Park region has deep and diverse roots. The name "Puelo" comes from the Mapuche word "puelco," which means "water from the east." This beautiful area received its name from Chilean Mapuche communities, who referred to this place as both the river and the lake. The Puelo River originates in Argentine territory and flows to the Pacific Ocean, crossing the Cordillera and flowing into the Reloncaví estuary.
In 1621, Spanish conqueror Juan Fernández sailed around Chiloé Island and navigated up the Puelo River in search of the legendary "City of the Caesars." Although he didn’t find the mythical city, which was believed to be inhabited by survivors of Don Pedro Sarmiento de Gamboa’s expedition and filled with incredible riches, he was the first man to reach the region and establish contact with the Poya indigenous people. However, these indigenous people were later exterminated by the Mapuche invasion that dominated Patagonia, although they didn’t settle in this area due to their nomadic lifestyle.
After Fernández’s visit, the region had no colonizers or Creoles until 1884 when Chilean Pedro "Motoco" Cárdenas settled in the area he called "Valle Nuevo." Cárdenas was the first white man to inhabit what he believed was a pastoral valley with good grasslands in Chilean territory.
In 1885, the expedition to the Cordillera of the 29 riflemen from Chubut took place, organized by Governor Luis Jorge Fontana. These riflemen, mostly Welsh volunteers, explored the territory and discovered the fertile valley of October 16. This area was disputed between Argentina and Chile until the arbitration award of 1902, when the Welsh settlers who were already in the place unanimously proclaimed Argentine sovereignty over the region.
In 1928, Remigio Nogues, a teacher sent by the governor of Chubut, proposed the creation of a development commission. On April 2 of the same year, the commission was formed, mostly consisting of teachers, and covered the valleys of Lago Puelo, Cerro Radal, Las Golondrinas, El Hoyo de Epuyén, El Turbio, and Lago Esperanza.
The first wave of immigrants in the area was that of Chilean livestock herders, who brought Mapuche laborers that later had Argentine descendants. The children of these first pioneers regularized land tenure. Later, Lebanese immigrants arrived, crossing the Patagonian plateau, followed by a group of Ukrainians who engaged in agriculture, bringing new techniques for working the land, especially in hop cultivation. Subsequently, Argentines and other Europeans settled. By 1920, 95% of the region’s population was foreign, and teachers played a crucial role in teaching the language and Argentine history to promote unity in the region.
In 1936, an exploratory commission was conducted that toured the area with the aim of identifying new places to be incorporated into protected areas of national parks.
Finally, in 1971, the small settlement of Lago Puelo became Lago Puelo National Park. After the major forest fire in 1987, a group of residents began organizing the National Forest and Environment Festival, with the aim of raising awareness about the protection of native forests. This annual celebration includes various activities such as folk festivals, sports competitions, and talks about forest conservation, featuring national artists and the selection of a queen.
Biodiversity: Flora and Fauna
In comparison to other protected areas in Argentina, Lago Puelo stands out for its remarkable diversity and unique species compared to other protected areas in Argentina. Among them are the hazelnut, ulmo, tique or olivillo, and lingue trees. Additionally, the park is home to pure stands of pitra or patagua trees, as well as extensive cypress forests. It also stands out as one of the three national parks protecting the alerce tree, an emblematic species of the region.
Among the animal species present in the park are birds such as the ruby-throated hummingbird and torrent duck, as well as mammals like the huemul deer and monito del monte. Regarding fish, the presence of the listed peladilla is notable, and among amphibians are the golden green frog and the Pugin’s toad (Eupsophus emiliopugini), an endemic species exclusively found in Lago Puelo National Park in Argentina.
Protection and Conservation
The protection and conservation of these species and their habitat are among the main missions of the park, actively working to safeguard and preserve its biodiversity and promote environmental education.
Geography and Natural Features
It harbors a unique and diverse ecosystem amidst volcanoes, glaciers, and lakes. Situated within the Patagonian Forest ecoregion, it is named after the lake that flows into the Pacific Ocean. This protected area is characterized by being one of the lowest points in the mountain range, with an altitude of only 200 meters above sea level.
The climate in the park is particularly influenced by rainfall and its proximity to the sea, creating ideal conditions for the development of the Valdivian rainforest. This lush rainforest, typically found in the Chilean mountains, extends majestically in this area.
Lake Puelo: Origin and Characteristics
Lake Puelo, which gives the park its name, is a glacier-originated lake with a deep blue hue, surrounded by forests and mountains. It is an ideal spot for water activities and offers unparalleled panoramic views.
Located in the northwest of Chubut Province, Argentina, it belongs to the national park that bears its name. It occupies an area of fluvio-glacial origin and has a depth of 180 meters. Surrounded by forests, rivers, and mountains, Lake Puelo provides a stunning landscape and attracts around 20,000 tourists every summer. Within the Lago Puelo National Park and Reserve, this area offers lodge complexes and cabins for visitor comfort. Additionally, Lake Puelo is perfect for fishing and water sports, providing a unique experience for nature and water activity enthusiasts.
Mountains and Landscapes
The park’s landscape is a breathtaking blend of mountains, forests, rivers, and lakes. Visitors can enjoy spectacular views, especially from lookout points located atop the high mountain peaks.
The climate in Lago Puelo National Park is cold and humid, but more moderate compared to other parks in the region. Average temperatures range between 17°C in summer, with highs that can exceed 35°C, and 5°C in winter, with lows that can drop to -9°C. The area experiences around 1,400 mm of annual precipitation, concentrated mainly between the months of May and August, and occasional snowfall can occur during the colder months.
The ideal season to visit the park is late spring, summer, and early autumn, from November to April. During this period, temperatures are milder, and there is a lower likelihood of heavy rainfall. It’s important to consider these factors when planning a visit to fully enjoy outdoor activities and the park’s landscapes.
Main Activities and Attractions
Hiking and Climbing Routes
Lago Puelo National Park boasts an extensive network of trails that traverse forests, mountains, and lake shores. These trails are ideal for hiking, nature observation, and rock climbing.
Water Activities on the Lake
Lake Puelo is the perfect place to enjoy water activities such as swimming, boating, and fishing. Its calm and crystalline waters are a refreshing haven during hot summer days.
Wildlife and Flora Observation
The park is an excellent spot for observing wildlife and flora. Various species of birds, mammals, and plants, many of them endemic to the region, can be spotted here.
Practical Information for Visitors
How to Get to Lago Puelo National Park
The park is located about 30 km from the city of El Bolsón, which is accessible by road from other points in Patagonia. Regular bus and taxi services are available from El Bolsón to the park.
Entry Points to the Park
Lago Puelo National Park is accessed via RP 16, an asphalted route that leads to the main entrance (see map).
By Car and Private Vehicle
From San Carlos de Bariloche, you can reach the park by taking RN 40 to the town of El Bolsón and then connecting to RP 16 to the park’s recreational area (145 km in total).
From Esquel, you can reach the park by taking RN 40, passing through El Hoyo, and then taking a left turn at the "Cerro Radal" spot to connect with RP 16 (155 km in total).
The only available parking is located at the main entrance after passing through the National Park entrance.
The cities of Bariloche and Esquel have flights from major Argentine cities like Buenos Aires, Córdoba, Rosario, and El Calafate, depending on the time of year. Additionally, there are international connections from São Paulo, Brazil.
Numerous bus options are available in Argentina, and most of them offer services to and from Bariloche or Esquel. From these cities, it’s possible to reach Lago Puelo by bus, taxi, or remis (a private hired car with driver).
The only access to Lago Puelo National Park by bicycle is through RP 16.
Opening Hours and Fees
Lago Puelo National Park is open year-round, although the hours may vary according to the season. A small entrance fee is applied, which is used for the park’s maintenance and conservation.
- Opening Time: 09:00 AM
- Closing Time: 07:00 PM
Park Rules and Regulations
It’s important to respect the park’s rules and regulations to ensure the conservation of its rich biodiversity. These include not littering, not making fires, and not disturbing the local fauna.
Facilities and Available Services
The park offers basic facilities such as restrooms, picnic tables, and camping areas. There is also a visitor center where you can obtain information about the park and its biodiversity.
Accommodation and Nearby Services
Campgrounds and Shelters in the Park
There are several camping areas and shelters within the park where visitors can spend the night. These offer a unique experience of being in the midst of nature.
Lodging Near the Park
In the vicinity of the park, especially in the city of El Bolsón, there’s a wide range of lodging options, from hostels to luxury hotels.
Restaurants and Regional Cuisine
The region is famous for its Patagonian cuisine, which can be enjoyed in the restaurants of El Bolsón and the surrounding areas. Local dishes include Patagonian lamb and trout, accompanied by Argentine wines.
Local Culture and Heritage
Indigenous Communities in the Area
The region around Lago Puelo National Park is home to diverse indigenous communities, including the Mapuches. These communities keep their rich cultural traditions alive and offer a unique perspective on the region.
Festivals and Annual Events
Throughout the year, various festivals and events are celebrated in the region, including the National Forest Festival in El Bolsón, which highlights the importance of the Patagonian forests.
Tourist Routes and Nearby Points of Interest
Other National Parks in the Region
In addition to Lago Puelo National Park, the Argentine Patagonia boasts other stunning national parks such as Los Alerces National Park and Nahuel Huapi National Park, which are worth a visit.
Day Trips from Lago Puelo National Park
From the park, you can take day trips to nearby points of interest such as the city of El Bolsón, known for its vibrant craft market, and the Seven Lakes Route, a scenic road passing through some of the most beautiful lakes in Patagonia.