A new park inspired by Yellowstone
The Tompkins Foundation is now finalising work on its second major Chilean conservation project, Patagonia Park. Set in a colossal valley that transitions between Patagonian steppe and Andean forest encircled by glaciated mountains and snowfields, this private nature reserve is being billed as South America’s Yellowstone for its epic scenery and high-density of flagship wildlife species, including Chilean flamingos, pumas and critically endangered huemul deer.
The park currently encompasses 80,000 hectares, though the aim is to combine it with two neighbouring government parcels – Jeinimeni and Tamango national reserves – to create a new mega-national park totalling 300,000 hectares. This would make it larger than Chile’s world-famous, World Heritage-listed Torres del Paine National Park (240,000 hectares).
“The bigger the parks are, the higher the chances the threatened species that live there will thrive,” Morgado said.
Compared to Pumalin, Patagonia Park receives relatively few visitors, seeing just 330 campers between January and April this year. The reason is its remoteness: Patagonia Park lies on the far end of the mostly unpaved roads some 800km south of Pumalin Park. To get there, visitors must follow the Austral Highway to a turnoff marked Villa Chacabuco (the name of the former sheep station that occupied the park) that marks route X-83, a spectacularly scenic 73km dirt road that runs to the Argentinian border. It passes the confluence of the turquoise-coloured Chacabuco and Baker rivers; the flamingo-filled waters of Lago Seco; and the clay-red snow-capped Kristine Mountain, named after Doug’s widow Kristine McDivitt Tompkins, former CEO of outdoor apparel brand Patagonia.