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Reserva Natural Ría Deseado

Some 160 million years ago, during the Jurassic Period, this earth was quickly changing. To the west the massive ice fields were melting, feeding a large river, the Deseado. In its rush to the Atlantic Ocean, it carved deep canyons into the volcanic rock. But once that glacier melted, Lago Buenos Aires began to flow into to newly formed Baker River coursing to the Pacific Ocean. Now fed only by the Fénix Grande and Pinturas Rivers, the Deseado’s weakened stream could barely reach the sea. The Atlantic flowed over 40 kilometers (24 mi) up its broad delta to meet the now-thin river. This geology formed the fascinating landscape of Ría Deseado, an environment inviting to a wide variety of marine life. Here is the greatest biodiversity along the entire Atlantic Patagonian coast.

Since 1977, this unique environment has been protected as the 10,000-hectare Reserva Natural Ría Deseado. It is an important nesting and resting ground for dozens of species of marine birds. Five species of cormorant hang out here. Many types of terns, skuas, oystercatchers, swans, ducks and gulls come as well. All the fauna here, though, isn’t just of the feathered varieties. In the water are also lobo marino de dos pelos (South American Fur Seal) and lobo marino de un pelo (South American sea lion). Wandering through the scrub bush on land are guanaco (Lama guanacoe), mara (Patagonian mara), Choique (Lesser Rhea) and many other denizens.

From near Puerto Deseado to the very end of Ría Deseado, wildlife has staked out their claim on the various islands and inlets. Heading upriver, from Cañadón Giménez to Paso Marsicano are:– Isla Chaffer, with a large colony of Magellanic Penguins, as well as Paloma Antárctica (Snowy Sheathbill, Chionis alba) and sea gulls.

– Barranca de los Cormoranes, which – as its names suggests – is where Red-legged Cormorant and Rock shag (Cormorán de cuello negro) nest.

– Isla Larga, a small, rocky island with a sea lion colony. Bird residents are Magellanic Penguin, Kelp Gull (Gaviota Cocinera) and Black Oystercatcher (Ostrero Negro).

– Isla Quinta, which is so close to the coast you can walk to it at low tide

– Isla Quiroga, with more nesting Magellanic Penguins. Also hanging out here are Kelp Gull and Imperial, or Blue-eyed Shag(Cormorán Imperial).

– Isla de los Pájaros where you can walk amongst Magellanic Penguins, Black Oystercatchers and Neotropic Cormorant (Cormorán Biguá). This island is just offshore from Cañadón Torcido, which has a Red-legged Cormorant colony.

Frequently waiting at Cañadón del Puerto, the entry into Bahía Uruguay, are Commerson’s dolphins and South American Terns (Gaviotín Sudamericano). The ría widens to Bahía Uruguay where the large island Punta Viedma is (cormorant colony) and the smaller Isla del Rey. Further upstream is Bahía Concordia where is another cormorant village on Punta Stokes. In this area are several small canyons and inlets that are easily reached by the land road: La Olla, Caleta Zar, La Trampa, La Mina and Cuevas de Picinini. In these areas crested duck (pato crestón), Magellan Goose (Cauquén), Crested Tinamou (Martineta), flamingos, Patagonian mara and guanaco are often spotted.

The end of Ría Deseado is marked by Paso Marsicano. This is where the Miradores de Darwin begin.

The best way to explore the 40 kilometers of navigable waterways of the Reserva Natural Ría Deseado is on a nautical excursion or by kayak. Delfín austral (Peale's Dolphin) and tonina overa (Commerson's Dolphin) often greet these tourists. Ballena franca (Southern right whale) are sighted more and more frequented, especially during the late winter to early spring. The undersea world can be explored by scuba diving. One can also enter the reserve by way of the road. This passes through various ravines (cañadones): Giménez, del Indio and del Puerto, all great places for trekking, horseback riding, mountain biking and fauna watching. About7.5 kilometers (4.5 mi) into reserve is a zona de pesca where brótola (Brazilian codling), pez elefante (basking shark), róbalo (common snook), palometa and pejerrey (hardhead halfbeak) can be caught year-round.

The best time to visit Reserve Natural Ría Deseado is September-April. No wild camping is allowed within the reserve itself. Several authorized campsites are open all year. Just before the entrance into the park is Camping Vial Cañadón Giménez (Ruta 281, access to Reserva Natural Ría Deseado, Tel.: 0297-154-663-815). About 7 kilometers (4.2 mi) into reserve is Camping Paraguayito.


Other places nearby Reserva Natural Ría Deseado: Puerto Piramides, Bahía San Blas , Puerto Santa Cruz, Puerto Madryn, Monumento Natural Bosques Petrificados, Comodoro Rivadavia, Trelew, Gaiman, Cabo Dos Bahías And Parque Marítimo Costero Patagonia Austral and Rawson .

By Lorraine Caputo

Upon re-declaring her independence at age 29, Lorraine Caputo packed her trusty Rocinante (so her knapsack's called) and began...

01 Apr 2011

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