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Reserva Nacional Jeínemeni

Reserva Nacional (RN) Lago Jeínemeni – frequently just called RN Jeínemeni – was created in 1967. Covering 161,100 hectares that reach all the way to the Argentine border, it is Regíon de Aysén’s third largest national reserve and the country’s fifth largest. Besides conserving a large area of Aysén-Patagonia steppe, it also preserves an important archaeological site, Cuieva de las Manos.


The land of RN Lago Jeínemeni is sculpted into sheer-rising mountains draped with glaciers. Many peaks are over 1500 meters (4921 ft). The highest is Cerro Jeínemeni at 2600 meters (8530 ft). The largest river is Jeínemeni which flows out of Lago Jeínemeni. Other waterways are the Guisoca, Verde and Amarillo Rivers. Scattered across the steppe are other lakes and lagoons, like Verde, Guisoca, Ventisquero and Escondida. Precipitation in the reserve varies from 600 millimeters (24 in) in the northeast section to 2000 millimeters (79 in) at higher altitudes. The average yearly temperature is 4ºC (39ºF).


The eastern part of RN Lago Jeínemeni is characterized by Aysén-Patagonia steppe. Common plants here are neneo (Mulinum espinoso), coirón (Festuca pallescens), cadillo (Acaena splendens), llareta (Azorella monatha), orquídea de flor dorada (yellow dog orchid, Chloraea alpina) and pico de loro (Magellan's orchid, Choloraea magellanica). In the more humid western zone of the reserve is Aysén Caducifolio forest. Here the dominant flora are coigüe común (Nothofagus dombeyi), lenga (lenga beech, Nothofagus pumilio), ñire (Antarctic beech, Nothofagus antarctica), calafate (Magellan barberry, Berberis buxifolia) and chaura (prickly heath, Pernettya mucronata). Birds are abundant. Among those to be seen are Condor (Vultur gryphus), Águila (Black-chested Buzzard-eagle, Geranoetus melanoleucus), Cernícalo (American Kestrel, Falco sparverius), Tordo (Austral Blackbird, Curaeus curaeus), Carpintero Negro, (Magellanic Woodpecker, Campephilus magellanicus), Cachaña (Austral Parakeet, Enicognathus ferrugineus), Carpinterito (Striped Woodpecker, Picoides lignarius), Zorzal (Austral Thrush, Turdua falklandii), Huet-huet (Black-throated Huet-Huet, Pteroptochos tarnii) and Pato Anteojillo (Spectacled Duck, Anas specularis). Common mammals are huemul (South Andean deer, Hippocamelus bisulcus), puma (Puma concolor), guanaco (Lama guanicoe), chingue de la Patagonia (Patagonian skunk, Conepatus humboldti), gato de Geofroy (Geoffroy's Cat, Oncifelis geoffroyi), vizcacha austral (Wolffsohn's viscacha, Lagidium wolffshonni), ratita de pie sedoso (highland gerbil Mouse, Eligmodontia typus) and ratoncito oliváceo (olive grass mouse, Abrothrix olivaceus). Scurrying in the underbrush are the tree lizard Liolaemus zullyi and the sapito de cuatro ojos (Chilean four-eyed frog, Pleurodema thaul).


The park is divided into two access points. The first, 25 kilometers (15.5 mi) from Chile Chico is Sector Piedra Clavada. This enigmatic 40-meter (131 ft) tall free-standing rock polished by the wind rises out of the pampa. Here is a trail to the archaeological site Cueva de las Manos (not to be confused with a site of the same name near Perito Moreno, Argentina) (Distance: 6 km / 3.6 mi, Difficulty: medium, Duration: 1 day round trip). Upon the walls of this cave, the Aónikenk (Tehuelche) people who once roamed these plains left hundreds of handprints. These cave paintings are estimated to be as old as 7000 years.


The road continues southwestward to the main entry into RN Lago Jeínemeni (60 km/36 mi from Chile Chico). On the east shore of Lago Jeínemeni, the ranger station has boating and camping facilities. From here leave three trails:

  • La Leona (Distance: 20 km/12 mi, difficulty: medium-hard, duration: 2 days)– From Lago Jeínemeni this path follows the Estero San Antonio to Valle Chacabuco, where a new private reserve is being established northeast of Cochrane
  • Estero Ventisquero (Distance: 15 km/9.3 mi, difficulty: medium-hard, duration: 3 days round trip)– This trail leads to the northwest corner of Lago Verde, up Estero Ventisquero to the glaciers in the deep interior of the reserve
  • Lago Verde (Distance: 5 km/3 mi, difficulty: medium, duration: 3 hours round trip) Hiking througn an undulating land, from the sapphire-blue Lago Jeínemeni to the emerald-green Lago Verde.

Entry into the reserve for foreigners is $2. To camp at the sites established along Sendero Valle Hermoso on the northeast and southwest shores of Lago Jeínemeni costs $5. The only way to arrive to either Sector Piedra Clavada or the Administration center is in a private, double-traction vehicle or on tour with a guide, since at the main entry into the park (administration office) there are no bridges; streams must be forded, hence a 4x4 is needed.. To hire a car in Chile Chico costs about $80 round trip. You’ll have to tell the driver when to come back to pick you up.


Other places nearby Reserva Nacional Jeínemeni: Bahía Exploradores, Palena, Villa Cerro Castillo, Chaitén, Parque Nacional Queulat, Hornopirén Village, Puerto Cisnes, La Junta, Puerto Chacabuco and Puerto Bertrand.

By Lorraine Caputo

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

08 Jul 2009

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