Los Glaciares


Brief Description

The Los Glaciares National Park is an area of exceptional natural beauty, with rugged, towering mountains and numerous glacial lakes, including Lake Argentino, which is 160 km long. At its farthest end, three glaciers meet to dump their effluvia into the milky grey glacial water, launching massive igloo icebergs into the lake with thunderous splashes.

Long Description

Los Glaciers National Park is an area of exceptional natural beauty, with rugged, towering mountains and numerous glacial lakes, including the great Lago Argentino. This vast alpine area includes the Patagonian ice field which occupies about half of the park. Extending over 14,000 km2, the ice field is the largest ice mantle outside Antarctica. It has a total of 47 glaciers and a further 200 smaller glaciers are independent of the main ice field.

It is the best place in South America to see glaciers in action. Glacial activity is concentrated around two main lakes, Argentino and Viedma. Lake Argentino is particularly spectacular with three glaciers dumping their effluvia into its milky glacial waters. Massive blue icebergs are launched into the lake with a thunderous splash.

Los Glaciers contains some of the few glaciers in the world that are actually advancing. The effects of retreating and advancing glaciers can be clearly seen. The advancing Mereno glacier in the park often advances so far that its snout cuts off the normal escape stream of Lake Rico, forming a natural dam which inundates vast areas. When the glacier retreats in the heat of summer a wall of water roars down the valley.

The park contains two distinct vegetation types: subantarctic Patagonian forest and Patagonian steppe. The most impressive wildlife in the park is the birds. The many lakes offer an ideal habitat to black-necked swans and a variety of ducks and geese, and Chilean flamingos wade along the shore. Overhead glides the Andean condor, the largest bird in the world in terms of wing area, and the high grasslands are dotted with Darwin’s rhea, South America’s version of the ostrich.

Mammals include an isolated population of southern Andean huemul, and mountain viscacha probably lives in some sectors of the park, but its presence remains to be confirmed. Other species of interest are the guanaco, Argentine grey fox and Austral hog-nosed skunk.

The site suffers from introduced species, notably the European hare, whose voracious appetite is having a major impact on the natural ecosystem, and two species of trout, which have taken up residence in the rushing streams of the park.

Mammals include an isolated population of southern Andean huemul, and mountain viscacha probably lives in some sectors of the park, but its presence remains to be confirmed. Other species of interest are the guanaco, Argentine grey fox and Austral hog-nosed skunk.

Prehistoric inhabitants of the area were hunter-gatherers who relied on guanaco for their subsistence. These were followed by the Tehuelchian culture. The park includes at least 14 sites of archaeological interest which are related to these cultures. Tehuelches Indians were almost exterminated during the process of European colonization.

Source: UNESCO/CLT/WHC

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One Response

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