ECOLOGICAL TOURISM IN THE REGION OF O’HIGGINSCreated in 1985, this reserve is, at present, part of a program of CONAF(National Forest Corporation), which is trying to boost the development ofecological tourism in the protected wild areas of Chile. This organization,within its Policy for the Development of the Ecological Tourism, is fosteringthe participation of the private sector for the construction and operation ofinfrastructure, and the development of ecological tourism through a grantssystem.

40 of the 92 protected areas were selected to start this program. What elements were important to choose ‘Río de los Cipreses’?

Where and how to get there

Located 50 kilometers to the east of Rancagua City, capital of the sixth Region of O'Higgins, it is a typical environment of the central cordilleran area. This reserve includes 36,882 hectares of woods and native fauna, besides important anthropological and archeological remains.

Los Maitenes area

To get there from Rancagua, you have to drive one hour and a half on a first paved and then dirt road; it is 50 kilometers up to the reserve. The first part of it corresponds to the ‘Presidente Eduardo Frei Montalva’ road, also called ‘the copper highway’, and there are 30 kilometers of paved road up to Coya town. From there up to ‘Termas de Cauquenes’, there are 5 kilometers of a recent paved road in excellent conditions, to continue for 15 kilometers on a cordilleran dirt road, suitable for any type of car.

The best time to visit it is between September – December, and between February – April, due to the good weather and few visitors. Nevertheless, if you want to behold an impressive snowed landscape, the best time is between June and July.

The reserve landscape, typical of a zone ranging from pre-cordilleran to cordilleran type, contains a valley and ‘Los Cipreses’ river: a long and narrow valley, surrounded by heights varying between 3,000 and 4,900 meters above sea level, the last corresponding to ‘El Palomo’ volcano.

Generalities and features of a reserve

‘Río de los Cipreses’ reserve was created, as all the parks, reserve and natural monuments of Chile; firstly, to protect and maintain representatives samples of the biological variety of the country, and secondly, to create environmental conscience within the community.

When mentioning the protected fauna in this area, you cannot miss, in the first place, the tricahue parrot, an endangered species, because it was massively chased due to its great beauty and color. If you want to watch them, you have to wait until dusk, when the parrots flocks return to their nests, located in the cliffs of the ‘Cachapoal’ river.

Guancao skeleton

The guanaco is another species living in the reserve, in its less reachable points, being thus very difficult to watch. Nevertheless, culpeo and chilla foxes can be found in public places. Among birds, condors and eagles can be seen near summits; in lagoons and streams, we find correntino ducks and magellan geese, which are the most characteristic species.

Flora in the reserve is as rich and attractive as its fauna. In ‘Río de los Cipreses’ valley, we can find peumo, litre and soapbark tree woods, species that generate the necessary conditions for the tricahue parrot habitat, reproduction and protection. In the area called ‘Urriola’, located at a medium height, there are small cordilleran cypress forests, a beautiful and long-lived species. If you wish to know them, you must endure a 10 hour round trek.

More than a wildlife reserve

Important historical, archeological and anthropological remains, expressed mainly by petroglyphs and ancient constructions, make up one more attraction of the reserve.
Indian stone petroglyph

‘La Piedra del Indio’, ‘Carrizal’, ‘Cotón’, ‘Agua de la Vida’, and ‘Rincón de los Guanacos’ are some of the places where these petroglyphs are located. It is a pity to point out that many of these places have suffered the visitors’ action, leaving their traces on the rocks, as the ancient inhabitants of these areas. In this way, there is a mixture of symbols whose age dates 6,000 and 3,500 years back, and some others are fairly more recent. For this reason, some of the places with petroglyphs are not signaled.

What you can’t miss...

There are many places in the reserve worth to visit: hills, waterfalls, rivers, lagoons, glaciers, and valleys, are the main course. As side dishes ... ‘Las Loreras’, - places where tricahue parrots nest – are very attractive. The trail called ‘Los Peumos’, located in the ‘Ranchillo’ area, will take you along small forests, remains of mining activity and waterfalls.
Urriola and a cypress forest

‘Urriola’ – a sector where there are cordilleran cypress forests– is a place where you can camp, after obtaining Conaf’s authorization. Getting there implies a long trek along ‘Río de los Cipreses’ valley, crossing ‘Piedra del Indio’, going through the mountain lion country, and watching the wonders of a rough and wild landscape.

... and do

In ‘Río de los Cipreses’, the most attractive activity to carry out is, undoubtedly, trekking, going through signaled trails, discovering beautiful places and getting surprised with the biological variety of it, include one of the objectives to create such a reserve. Besides, you can practice horseback riding, swim in ‘Ranchillo’, ‘Maitenes’, and ‘Agua de la Vida’ sectors (where you can also have curative baths), watching the flora and fauna of the place in all its magnificence, and riding a mountain bike.

Chile has become an attractive destination point for foreign tourists looking for a full contact with nature. The rational utilization of the resources the county has in this area not only means an economic benefit for the country, but also benefits these areas directly in its environment conservation task.