Once upon a time A贸nikenk (Tehuelche) tolder铆as (teepees) dotted this is Southern Patagonia landscape scattered with 3000-year-old archaeological remains. Later European colonists came to establish the large sheep estancia in the region here. Hernando de Magallanes and Charles Darwin explored these shores, hunters killed sea lions for oil and miners scraped the rocks of millennia guano.
From Ruta Nacional 3, a road cuts eastward across steppe lands where guanaco, rhea, puma and fox reign. It ends at the South Atlantic coast laced with coves, rocky outcrops, islands, beaches and deep low-tide flats. This is Parque Nacional Monte Le贸n, the first coastal national park in Argentina. This reserve contains 62,175 hectares of Patagonian steppe and shore, including 40 kilometers (24 mi) of coastline. The land is covered by two types of vegetation: mata negra (Junellia tridens) and mata verde (Lepidophyllum cupressiforme).
On route to Parque Nacional Monte Le贸n is Ca帽ad贸n de los Guanacos, a prime spot for spotting Choique (Lesser Rhea, Pterocnemia pennata), guanaco (Lama guanicoe), peludo (hairy armadillo, Chaetophractus villosus) and zorro colorado (Andean fox, Pseudalopex culpaeus). Also along the way is a trail to the ping眉inera where 75,000 pairs of Ping眉ino de Magallanes (Magellanic Penguin, Spheniscus magellanicus) breed (1.5 hr walk round trip). Near the end of the main road is a path leading to a viewpoint of the lober铆a on Cabeza de Le贸n. Here reproduce lobo marino de un pelo (South American sea lion, Otaria flavescens) (20 min round trip). Offshore is Isla Monte Le贸n. It is for this rock formation looking like a giant lion resting that the park owes its name. This island, once exploited for guano, is a nesting ground for three varieties of cormorants: Cormor谩n Gris (Red-legged Cormorant, Phalacrocorax gaimardi), Cormor谩n Roquero (Rock Shag, Phalacrocorax magellanicus) and Cormor谩n Imperial (Imperial Shag, Phalacrocorax atriceps). Another attraction of Parque Nacional Monte Le贸n is La Gruta. Although this geologic formation collapsed in 2006, at low tide you can still walk to where it was (45 min round trip; consult with the ranger about conditions before striking out).
Aside from the star attractions, the sea lions and penguins, Parque Nacional Monte Le贸n also boasts over 70 species of birds, including the three cormorants, rhea, Gaviot铆n Sudamericana (South American Tern, Sterna hirundinacea), and Ostrero Negro (Blackish Oystercatcher, Haematopus ater). Sometimes ballena franca austral (Southern right whale, Eubalaena australis), delfin austral (Peale's dolphin, Lagenorhynchus australis) and tonina overa (Commerson's Dolphin Cephalorhynchus commersonii) are sighted the coast. As well, five reptiles, including the matuasto (Diplolaemus darwini) call this land home.
The park experiences a South Ocean Climate. Its annual precipitation totals 255 millimeters (10 in). Temperatures average 1.8潞C (35潞F) in winter and 14.6潞C (58潞F) in summer. Always carry warm clothing when visiting here.
Parque Nacional Monte Le贸n is open October-March. Entry is free. Camping is allowed within the reserve at designated areas. The main ranger station is in the former estancia鈥檚 main building. However, the main administration office, or Intendencia del Parque Monte Le贸n, is in Puerto Santa Cruz (Monday-Friday 9 a.m.-4 p.m. San Martin 112, Tel.: 49-8184, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, URL: boletinmonteleon.blogspot.com / www.parquesnacionales.gov.ar).