We visited Los Alerces National Park and sailed its lakes on a boat tour.
We were at Esquel
when we resolved to set out towards the wonderful lakes treasured by Los Alerces National Park
. To reach this area, we crossed the transition territory between the Patagonian steppe and the Andean forest.
The first stretch must be completed by following paved National Route 259 and then Provincial Route 71, made of gravel and dwelled by sheldgeese and black-faced ibis.
At the 70th kilometer marker, history and fable become entwined in the logs of the house where people swear the mythical Butch Cassidy used for his adventures in Argentina. The Andean-Patagonian forest begins to occupy everything around and the mountains become multiplied until the park is accessed.
Los Alerces National Park –whose name in Spanish stands for Patagonian cypress- was created in 1937 to preserve this ancient highly praised tree species which takes so long to grow. Furthermore, it includes a sequence of lakes of matchless beauty.
From this point onwards, our eyes were dazzled by a wide range of green hues in the water and the vegetation, viewpoints, creeks, dreamed-of nooks and the entire magic of nature.
On the left shore of Lake Futalaufquen, certainly the most outstanding of all the water bodies in the park, we found the village bearing the same name, the main services center in the area.
The most outstanding buildings made of stone and wood are the Park Intendancy and the Interpretation Center, where we were provided detailed information about the various trails in the area, as well as about tours to visit Alto Dedal Hill, Los Pumas, Cinco Saltos, Tío Mindo Cascade, cave paintings, native flora and the like, typical in the area.
There are choices for all tastes. At the southern end of the eastern arm (one of the three arms of the lake, all of which are surrounded by multicolored forests), 4 kilometers away from the village, there stands port Limonao, the main local port, where visitors may embark on a lake tour as the spectacular architecture of Futalaufquen inn lies behind them.
There are two tours which should not be missed: the Patagonian cypress grove and Lake Kruger. Both are available in the summer. The former is an all-day tour around Lake Futalaufquen, the Arrayanes River, Lakes Verde and Menéndez, and it accesses the ancient Patagonian cypress woodland, including a hiking tour to Lake Cisne and impressive views of the glaciers located on Torrecillas Hill.
When the waters are low and the Arrayanes River is not navigable, the tour is done by land and a motorboat is taken at port Chucao, on Lake Menéndez. It is recommended that schedules should be checked in advance. Also, visitors should arrive in the port an hour before the outing and take a lunch box. It goes beyond saying that they should bring the rubbish back.
The trees that make up the Patagonian cypress grove sometimes reach three meters in diameter and from 60 to 70 meters of height. They are around 3,000 years old. This woodland lies right on the limit of the so-called Valdivian rainforest. In the early twentieth century, its timber was highly coveted and used for construction. An example of this are the tiles used for roofs and carpentry, especially in Chile, where this wood would be considered the forest’s “gold”.
On the right shore of Lake Futalaufquen, mingled with cascades, springs and sandy beaches, there are inns, bungalows, cabins, camping sites and convenience stores that complete the varied offer of services in this unique nook in Patagonia. This certainly provides visitors the chance to stay longer.