The Atuel Circuit comprises El Nihuil Reservoir, Valle Grande Dam and the Atuel River, which reaches the City of San Rafael. A must visit indeed.
The Atuel River source lies 3,500 meters above sea level and is fed by a series of glacial tongues that descend from the Andes between Mounts Morado and Paso de las Leñas.
The volume of the Atuel River is actually formed by the Atuel itself and by its only tributary, namely: the Salado River. About 500 meters downstream from El Nihuil Reservoir, the river goes across the place known as Sierra Pintada (Painted Mountain Range), giving shape to a 50-kilometers-long canyon which has come to be called “Cañón del Atuel”.
This formation ends at the last foothills of San Rafael Mountain Range, a few minutes away from the city.
The Valle Grande reservoir
The famous rafting of the Grande valley
The village El Nihuil
The Atuel Canyon
El Nihuil Tourist Village
El Nihuil tourist village lies around the largest reservoir in the province of Mendoza. At this location, almost ten thousand hectares of water give lodging to silverside and trout. These species succeed in captivating hundreds of anglers that gather on these shores every weekend.
The lake enables everyone to admire a matchless colorful show during the summer weekends when windsurfing and kitesurfing enthusiasts unfold their multicolored sails and make the most of the wind.
There is an incredible field of sand dunes around this eye-catching dam. These formations are over 300 meters high and they invite adventurers to reach their tops, something the Dakar has been doing for quite a while now.
Valle Grande and its Wind Formations
Going down from El Nihuil Village to Valle Grande, a winding rubble road goes across geologic scenes that make up the celebrated Atuel Canyon. Those who get deep in this place are dazzled by the countless and varied figures the wind, the water and time have carved.
Formations such as Museo de Cera (Wax Museum), Sillón de Rivadavia (Rivadavia’s Armchair), El Lagarto (the Alligator), Los Viejos (the Old People), Los Monstruos (the Monsters), la Ciudad Encantada (the Charmed City), El Mendigo (the Beggar), Los Jardines Colgantes (the Hanging Gardens), Los Monjes (the Monks), in addition to the various reservoirs and small hydroelectric power stations that feed the Atuel River itself, give life to a dreamed-of landscape.
This circuit reaches its maximum splendor when Valle Grande Dam is accessed. This construction shelters millions of liters of water featuring an emerald hue that invites adventurers to practice nautical activities and other sports practiced even on the very walls of the dam.
A large number of tourist operators ranging from accommodation in resorts and cabins to real local and regional cuisine oases can be found going on downstream getting past the dam. Entertainment options include adventure sports such as hiking, rappelling, trekking, climbing and Tyrolean crossing. As well, visitors can hire paraglide flights, photographic safaris, rafting tours, kayaking and cool river practiced on the Atuel rapids and its surroundings.
Downstream, Rafting and the City
This circuit lies just 37 kilometers away from the City of San Rafael within a fascinating region that has lured tourists from the Province of Mendoza and multiplied new steady residents. Today, the Atuel Canyon attracts everyone who wish to enjoy the natural formations and the adventure sports as well as scientists that come in search of prehistoric deposit they will describe in their archeological research.
The Atuel River runs slowly across the plains of San Rafael and ends in the Desagüadero-Salado River, already in the Province of La Pampa, after providing a wide range of adventure options and memorable anecdotes to all of us who have been lucky enough to visit it.
Pablo Etchevers Eduardo Epifanio
See more points of interest in San Rafael