In 1991, American Douglas Tompkins bought the Re√Īihue Estate with the idea to protect its 17,000 hectares (40,800 acres) of temperate rain forest from
any future exploitation. Today, the Park makes up a total of 300,000 hectares (720,000 acres), to become the largest private park in the world.
With these characteristics, the park is destined to become a Santuario de la Naturaleza (Nature's Sanctuary), a special nomination from the State of Chile in order to balance additional environmental protection, where industrial activity is prohibited. With the help of the Land Trust Environmental Conservation Foundation, this land will be donated to a Chilean entity, for its administration and development as a National Park with complete public access, but with a private initiative. The park is continuing to develop a tourist infrastructure, similar to what other National Parks around the world offer, but under much stricter conservation guidelines, with excursion trails, camping areas, information centers, cafes and restaurants, cabanas, and land and water excursions. Thousands of visitors are already enjoying these facilities.
Before Douglas Tompkins purchased the estate, the Re√Īihue property was nothing more than a field of acres destined for raising cattle, a landing strip due to its isolation, and almost 7,000 hectares (16,800 acres) covered with native forests. Some time later, Tompkins discovered that an anonymous organization was trying to sell a piece of land of approximately 185,000 hectares (444,000 acres), known as Pumalin, and which neighbored as much of the north as the south of the Re√Īihue Estate. Said property was found totally abandoned but the large majority of its surface area is made up of native forests without any commercial value, tall peaks, rivers, and fjords. It was here that the interest in creating a grand Ecological Park was born, and was named Pumalin.
Of the total surface area, approximately 95% was acquired by the Land Trust Conservation Foundation, known before as Pumalin Forest Foundation, a nonprofit public corporation constituted and presently abiding by the state laws of California, United States. In the foreseeable future, the property that makes up the Pumalin Project will be donated to a Chilean Foundation through an actual constitutional process before the Ministry of Justice.
Since then the land has been designated Pumalin Park and its fate is to be declared a Santuario de la Naturaleza (Sanctuary of Nature) by the Ministry of Education of the Government of Chile. Its main focus would be on the planning of land ordinances maintaining its perspective, in the long run, to attempt to organize the territory in a way that allows the preservation of natural resources which will generate conditions to maximize the quality of life for the local and global population.
Pumal√≠n Park Basic Information
Regi√≥n de Los Lagos, between Hornopiren and Chaiten, extending approximately 30 km (18.75 mi) south of Caleta Gonzalo.
How to get there
The Park has northern and southern entrances, making Caleta Gonzalo the place with hiking trails and access to the Loberia (Sea Lion colony). The northern sector of the park does not possess an infrastructure, but one can access it by taking the Carretera Austral (Southern Highway), 110 km (68.75 MI) to the south of Puerto Montt up to the Hornopiren area. By water, during the summertime (Jan. and Feb), one can arrive on the ferry boat that departs daily from Hornopiren to Caleta Gonzalo. During the rest of the year it is necessary to first arrive to the city of Chaiten (60 km/37.5 MI south of
Caleta Gonzalo) and from here travel by land towards the Park. There are two options for getting to Chaiten: you can take a ferry boat from Puerto Montt or from the Island of Chiloe, or you can catch a flight from Puerto Montt.
When to go
Other nearby attractions
Hornopir√©n National Park, Caleta Gonzalo, Hornopir√©n Volcano, Town of Hornopir√©n, Isla de los Ciervos (Deer Island), Fjords of Comau, Quintupeu and Cahuelm√≥, Hornopir√©n Park.
Fly fishing, bike tours, trekking, horseback riding, sea and white water kayaking, wildlife observation, photography
Free of charge
Infrastructure and Services in Pumal√≠n Park
Pumalin Park's administrative office is located in the city of Puerto Montt. Here you can find information on how to get to the park, informative material, and it is the center for archives about the entire history of Pumalin Park.
Park Ranger Office
There is a network of plain clothes park rangers in the park. They are there to manage the agricultural land adjacent to the Santuario de la Naturaleza (Sanctuary of Nature).
Caleta Gonzalo Information Center
Located 60 km (37.5 MI) north of Chaiten on the ferry boat ramp (Caleta Gonzalo-Hornopiren). Here you can find zones for camping and hiking as well as tourist information regarding other places along the Carretera Austral (Southern Highway).
Chaiten Information Center
Located on O'Higgins St. #62. The information modules consist of self-guided panels that permit the visitor to inform himself about the Park's establishments that are found just a few miles north of Chaiten. It is also possible to obtain tourist information for other places along the Austral Road: accommodations, places of interest, and information about the route towards the north and south.
There are diverse camping areas in Pumalin Park, located inside and in the surrounding areas of the park:
Camping Cahuelm√≥: There are 6 camp sites within the rain forest. Its popularity and fragile ecosystem make it necessary to provide a reserves system that assures the visitor a pleasant stay. The camp site also offers cooking ranges, baths and hot springs, and park rangers during the summer season. Camping is $1,500 pesos per person.
Huinay: This camp site does not belong to Pumalin Park, however, the owners allow travelers to camp in this area provided they throw away all trash and take care of the place. There are no camping facilities provided but it is free.
Vodudahue: In the Vodudahue Valley, the Park boasts productive land dedicated to organic farming, and everyone who wishes to visit and camp here is welcome. There are no camping facilities but there are many ample places to camp where one can also buy fresh bread.
Pill√°n: The Pill√°n property is located at the end of the Re√Īihue Fjord. It is private property although camping is permitted. To get here you must navigate from Caleta Gonzalo or travel the road that comes from Leptepu to the Largo Fjord. Consult the estate's administration, located close to the fjord. Someone will indicate to you where to go. Camping: $1,500 pesos per person.
Caleta Gonzalo Area
- Caleta Gonzalo Cabins: rustic but luxurious cabins are located in front of the Re√Īihue Fjord in Caleta Gonzalo and are open year-round. They are one room cabins with private bathroom, bunk beds for children, and a view of the sea. These cabins don't have a kitchen and the price does not include meals. They accommodate a maximum of 5 people. You can eat meals in the Caleta Gonzalo Cafe which offers exquisite homemade food, barbecue on a stick, and soft, fresh bread baked daily.
- Gonzalo River Cabins: These 2 cabins are located adjacent to the camp site on the Gonzalo River property, and have a firewood kitchen and hot water. The price includes the stay and the firewood for the stoves. To get to the cabins you need to cross the hanging bridge that leads to the camp site, 10 minutes from the parking area.
- Hobbitt Cabins: It is a cabin constructed of 4 independent modules. Two bedrooms that accommodate a maximum of 4 people. Cook over firewood.
- Gonzalo River Camping: The camp site is found 300 m (984 ft) south of the Caleta Gonzalo ramp, crossing the pedestrian bridge. There are bathrooms, cold water showers, cooking ranges, and firewood on sale. The cooking ranges are exclusively for cooking and not for camp accommodations. Camping: $1,500 pesos per person.
- Blanco River Cabin: In the Re√Īihue Valley, on the Blanco River, you will find a family-oriented cabin with light from generated electricity, hot water outdoor showers; all in a truly private environment with its own rustic, charming style. The cabin accommodates a maximum of 5 people and is rented out for periods of 3 days minimum. You have to bring your own provisions. The price includes transportation from and to Caleta Gonzalo with a minimum 3-day stay.
- Camping Cascadas Escondidas (Hidden Waterfalls): It is located 13 km (8 MI) south of Caleta Gonzalo and 45 km (28 MI) north of Chaiten. There are 4 indoor camping areas and bathrooms. The Cascadas Escondidas Trail is located next to this camp site. Camping $5,000 pesos per tent site.
- Camping Lago Negro and Punta del Lago: There are two camp zones with bathrooms located here: one on the side of the Austral Road that has 4 indoor camp sites, plus an ample shared camp area. 800 m (2624 ft and 15 minutes walking) from this place there are 2 very special areas that overlook the lake. This area is located 17 km (10.6 MI) south of Caleta Gonzalo and 41 km (25.6 MI) north of Chaiten. Excellent fly fishing, only with a license. Motorboats are prohibited. Indoor camping: $5,000 pesos per site. Individual camping: $1,500 pesos per person.
- Camping Lago Blanco: It is located 20 km 12.5 MI) south of Caleta Gonzalo and 36 km (22.5 MI) north of Chaiten. There are 6 indoor camp sites, all with a view of the lake. It has 2 public bathrooms, tables, benches, and tent sites. Excellent fly fishing in the lake, only with a license. Camping: $5,000 pesos per site.
- Camping Fog√≥n Michinmahuida: Located 29 km (18 MI) north of Chaiten and 33 km (20.6 MI) south of Caleta Gonzalo. This cooking area and camp area are communal, with no bathroom, but there is water 20 m (65 ft) from the place. It boasts a beautiful view of the Michinmahuida Volcano and it is the starting point of the future trail that runs along the foot of the volcano and will extend 12 km (7.5 MI). Camping: $1,500 pesos per person.
- Camping El Volc√°n: This is perhaps the most spectacular and largest of the camp areas of Pumalin Park. It possesses 12 individual sites for camping with sheltered tables and parking, and is also shared with cyclists and backpackers. There are magnificent views of the Michinmahuida Volcano. It is located 29 km (18 MI) south of Caleta Gonzalo and north of Chaiten. From the camp's entrance it is 2.5 km (1.5 MI) to the park administration. The camp site has been fully equipped since December, 2002 and there is a kiosk where nonperishable items and camp supplies are sold. Shared camping: $1,500 pesos per person. Camp sites: $5,000 pesos per site.
In Hornopir√©n and Chaiten it is possible to find accommodations in comfortable hotels and hostels:
- Hotel Hornopir√©n: This rustic hotel is run by its owner, Mrs. Oli, who also prepares delicious homemade foods.
- Hotel Termas de Llancahu√©: Located 30 minutes by boat from Hornopiren. Besides lodging, the hotel offers pools of thermal waters.
- Hoster√≠a Puna Verde: Located on O'Higgins St. 54, next to the Park Information Center, the Hosteria Puna Verde is an enchanting and friendly place. There are private rooms, shared rooms, and two apartments. Open year-round. Address: O'Higgins 54, Chait√©n.
The Park boasts a significant number and types of excursion trails, the following of which are described in detail according to sectors:
- Puelo-Ventisquero Trail: This trail is a track used by the locals that leads up to the marvelous Ventisquero Valley. This hike takes three days. To get there you need to take the Ensenada-R√≠o Puelo Route until the Tagua Tagua Lagoon. You can cross the lagoon in a ferry boat that takes 40 minutes to arrive to the La Murra sector. There are 35 km (21.8 MI) of gravel road on which vehicles can pass from La Murra to Llanada. From Llanada Grande go up towards the port in Puelo River (3 hours) and from there continue on to Pasarela del Puelo (3 1/2 hours). From Pasarela it takes another 5 or 6 hours to arrive to Rincon Bonito on a high difficulty hike.
- Cahuelm√≥-Laguna Abascal Trail: This path is found at the end of the Cahuelmo fjord. The beginning of the trail is not marked and is located on the northern side of the Cahuelmo River. It is a flat trail that takes approximately 2 hours to reach the impressive Abascal lagoon. It is possible to camp along the white, sandy shores of the beach here.
- Mirador Trail: This trail is located on the stretch of the Carretera Austral (Southern Highway), between Leptepu and Largo Fjord. The path takes approx. 2 1/2 hours, crossing through a luxuriant forest where it is possible to see larch trees. The first stage of the trail is authorized and the duration of the hike up to the Overlook Point is approx. 5 hours in total.
- Cascada Trail: The beginning of the trail is located only steps away from the Caleta Gonzalo Cafe and from the ramp. The path varies in slopes and inclines and it leads you through the abundant rain forest towards an impressive cascade of water. The hike takes approximately 3 hours and you can find an overlook point towards the Huequi peninsula and others towards the bottom of the hills covered in pristine forests.
- Tronador Trail: The starting point of the Tronador Trail is located 48 km (30 MI) north of Chaiten and 10 km (6.25 MI) south of Caleta Gonzalo. This section is located over burned larch trees in a stage of regrowth. It begins on a path made of "palafitos" (stilts above water) that reaches a cascade of water from the river. Tronador, goes uphill for an hour and a half, crossing a spectacular hanging bridge. There is a beautiful camping area at the base of an amphitheatrical lake.
- Sendero Alerces (Larch Trail): The beginning of this path is found 47 km (29 MI) north of Chaiten and 11 km (6.8 MI) south of Caleta Gonzalo. It is an easy level, circular trail only 1 km (62 MI) long. It is for any age and it passes through an old larch grove. There are signs along the trail that give information about the biology and history of the place. This hike provides a contemplative atmosphere for admiring these thousand year old trees.
- Sendero Cascadas Escondidas (Hidden Waterfalls Trail): The start of this trail is located 45 km (28 MI) north of Chaiten and 13 km (8 MI) south of Caleta Gonzalo. The path towards the three magnificent waterfalls begins in the self-camping area. The first waterfall is located 25 minutes from the starting point and the other two about 30 minutes further along. It varies in difficulty and inclination and takes approximately 2 hours to complete.
- Sendero Lago Negro-Punta del Lago (Black Lake-Lake Point Trail): This trail is 41 km (25.6 MI) north of Chaiten and 21 km (13 MI) south of Caleta Gonzalo. It is a short path, lasting 15 minutes, that leads to a scenic camping area, along the shores of the lake, called Punta del Lago. It is possible to find baths and cooking ranges here.
- Michinmahuida Trail: This trail, even though it is not completed, is found 29 km (18 MI) north of Chaiten and south of Caleta Gonzalo. It will be 12 km (7.5 MI) long, and will arrive to the foot of the Michinmahuida Volcano. It begins in a small camping area with cooking ranges and picnic tables. There is water about 20 m (65 ft) from the place. It has a beautiful panoramic view of the Michinmahuida Volcano.
¬†Attractions in Pumal√≠n Park¬†
What to see
The first thing that jumps out at you is the Sendero de los Alerces (Larch Trail), easy level. Journey through an old forest of larch trees where you can appreciate the thousands that populated our country long before the arrival of the Spanish. Tronador Trail is located 12 km (7.5 mi) from Caleta Gonzalo. Only 5 minutes from the path there is a designated overlook point where one can admire a series of waterfalls that form a natural and simply spectacular scenery. Water excursions to the Re√Īihue fjord, where it is possible to visit an amazing sea lion colony, can be organized from Caleta Gonzalo. One can also take an excursion to the Cascada Trail to observe a marvelous and lush environment.
What to do
- Fishing: You can fish in the Blanco (White) River or in the Pato (Duck) River. Go fly fishing in Lake Negro (Black) or Lake Blanco. A fishing license is required, which can be obtained in the Caleta Gonzalo Information Center.
- Other activities: sailing, water skiing, excursions, wildlife observation, rowing, mountain climbing, trekking, horseback riding, hiking trails, camping, environmental education.
Help us protect the natural resources of the area and make your visit to the park more pleasurable by considering the following recommendations:
- When visiting territory that does not belong to the Park, above all where the entrance is free, we ask that visitors always throw away any trash and that you take care of the place. The cleanliness of the place allows the owners to share their property with all the people that wish to camp in the Park and in its surroundings.
- When going on excursions it is essential that you register your trip with the Park Ranger of the sector.
- You may fish in the park's rivers, but a fishing license is required, which can be obtained in the Information Center close to the zone where you want to fish.
- Take caution touring the trails if they are wet.
- We recommend that visitors carry waterproof clothing, for its eventual use during the summer. The rest of the year demands warm clothing, adequate for rainy or snowy conditions, according to the places you visit.
- Avoid making your presence known by marking trees, rocks, or other resources. Do not alter the peace of the park with bothersome noises, because it pollutes the environment.
Nature in¬†Pumal√≠n Park¬†
Pumalin Park covers an extensive area of the Palena Province territory, essentially made up of farmland and properties. The predominant types of terrain are the elevated slopes, thin ground settled over rocks and covered with beautiful forests that offer solid protection. Without this vegetation covering the ground, it would degrade quickly and intensively.
The landscape of the Pumalin Park could be considered having been almost completely formed by glaciation. You can observe large rocky formations, with deeply carved cliffs cut by ice. Some valleys appear to have been formed in marshy areas where sandy, fine material has been deposited. In the middle sector of the mountains large hanging valleys and glacial valleys open up to the highest sector. The glaciers and lakes that are contained in these valleys form rivers that flow through the territory in a northwest direction until emptying out into the sea.
There are two main zones. The Coastal Sector, distinguished for the development of narrow and extensive beaches, bordered towards the east by a soft rolling terrain. In the fjords, the coastline is bordered by abrupt hills that form peaks of up to 1500 m (4,920 ft) above sea level. The beaches are very narrow and scarce in these regions. The depth of the sea in the fjords surpasses 300 m (984 ft). In general, the sea floor is very flat, which provokes tides spectacular in development and magnitude. This sector holds the Pumalin inlets and the Huequi peninsula.
The Elevated Mountainous Sector is characterized by its powerful terrain with sharply formed peaks and vertical summits. The region's most distinguished peaks are the Michinmahuida Volcano (2,404 m/7,885 ft) and the Chaiten Volcano (962 m/3,155 ft). The Michinmahuida Volcano makes up one of the three large snow caps or glacial plateaus of this sector of the continent. The snow is present beginning at 1700 m (5,576 ft) and is practically a permanent facet to the volcano. Surrounding this snowcapped massif are countless glacial spits that slide down towards the foot of it, at some 700 m (2296 ft) above sea level.
In relation to the hydrography of the zone, the main basins are those of the Puelo River to the north and the Yelcho River to the south. There are 12 other hydrographic basins of different sizes and importance among these. From north to south they are: Mariquita River, Ventisquero Stream, Cholgo River, Panquen River, Quintupeu River, Cahuelmo Estuary, Vodudahue River, River Negro (Black), Pillan River, Re√Īihue River, Gonzalo Estuary, and Rayas or White River.
The environmental diversity due to the climatic conditions, causes the park to possess different types of habitats for the animal wildlife. The most common mammals are the mountain monkey, coupu (beaver), zorro culpeo (Chilean large fox), ferret, wild cat, puma, river otter, guemul, Chilean mountain goat. As far as birds go, it is possible to see penguins, cormorants, herons, storks, swans, condors and hawks among others. There are a total of 39 registered families.
There are 3 predominant climates in the park: In the park's northern region the Marino Fresco (cool sea) climate is characterized by an average annual temperature of 10.9¬įC (51¬įF). In the Vodudahue River Valley, Leptepu, Pillan, Re√Īihue, Caleta Gonzalo, and the entire coast that borders the continent up to Chaiten, the humid patagonian sea climate in the wintertime presents average minimum temperatures between -2.9¬įC and -2.5¬įC (27¬įF and 28¬įF) during the coldest months. In the summertime, the maximum temperatures fluctuate between 10¬įC and 17¬įC (50¬įF and 62¬įF). The mountainous regions of the park experience a cold winter polar climate, with absolute average minimum temperatures between -29¬įC and -10¬įC (-20¬įF -14¬įF).
History and Culture
The territory that currently makes up Pumalin Park corresponds to Continental Chiloe, the zone that encompasses the region from the city of Hornopiren to the city of Chaiten. The first settlers of Chiloe, indigenous people that came to the island in search of wood, shells, and fish, came to the region known as "sea border", the land that is found between the hills and the sea. Presumably, the Huilliches, Payos or Poyas, Cuncos, and Chonos were among the natives that arrived. It is believed that all these people developed friendships and that there were family connections among them. However, they never established themselves fully on the coastal border due to the good quality of climate on Chiloe Island.
With the Spanish settlement on Chiloe Island and later the founding of Calbuco in 1602, people began visiting the sea border of continental Chiloe more frequently. Among other reasons, an important one was that the forests on the island were becoming scarce, and they were the main source of commerce between the natives and the Spanish. They went looking for wood, particularly larch, in the continental region to commercialize it in Calbuco.
During the period of Chile's independence, the situation did not change much and the zone was preserved as a place scarcely visited and removed from the concern of the new authorities. The first sign of interest from the Chilean government to know and explore the coastal region of continental Chiloe came at the root of the colonization of the Llanquihue Province, initiated by Bernardo Philippi and Vicente Perez Rosales in the year 1840.
The colonization of this territory, seemed spontaneous and disorganized, since laws were not carried out and there did not even exist a political willingness to want to populate the region. What took place throughout the years was that some families from the Island of Chiloe and Calbuco began to emigrate in search of new land and opportunities.
One of the objectives of Pumalin Park is to facilitate properly equipped, complete public access and in agreement with the constraints of the ecosystem. Another objective is to provide the visitor with opportunities and facilities for enjoying outdoor recreation, nature, and the landscape.