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Reserva Nacional Río Simpson

Río Simpson was originally founded as a national park in 1967, but was reclassified in 1999 as a national reserve, now encompassing 41,620 hectares (101.3 acres). Reserva Nacional (RN) Río Simpson has a landscape characterized by gorges and valleys. The highest peaks are the cerros (hills) Cordillerano (1697 m / 5568 ft), Cono Negro (1594 m / 5230 ft) and La Glaoria (1493 m / 4898 ft). The Río Simpson, classified as the word’s fourth best fly fishing river, runs east-west through the park. Another major waterway is the Río Correntoso, a tributary of the Simpson. Waterfalls lace the cliffs within the park, the most notable being Cascada de la Virgen and Velo de la Novia. Both can be seen from the main highway.


RN Río Simpson has a cold temperate maritime climate. It receives precipitation in all seasons, totaling 1500-2000 millimeters annually (59-79 in). The mean temperature is 6ºC (43ºF), with summer highs reaching 16ºC (61ºF). This environment is perfect for the reserve’s mountain evergreen forests, composed of coigüe común (Nothofagus dombeyi), tepa (Laurelia philippiana), canelo (winter's bark, Drimys winteri) and notro or ciruelillo (Chilean fire bush, Embothrium coccineum). Also present are lenga (lenga beech, Nothofagus pumilio), ñire (Antarctic beech, Nothofagus antarctica), calafate (Magellan barberry, Berberis buxifolia) and chilco (bush fuchsia, Fuchsia magellanica). Common fauna in RN Río Simpson are huemul (South Andean deer, Hippocamelus bisulcus), pudú (Chilean miniature deer, Pudu pudu), pumas (Puma concolor), zorro colorado (Patagonian fox, Lycalopex culpaeus) and the introduced species liebre (common hare, Lepus capensis) and visón (American mink, Mustela vison). Among the bird denizens are the condor (Vultur gryphus), águila (Black-chested Buzzard-eagle, Geranoetus melanoleucus), cernícalo (American Kestrel, Falco sparverius), Martín Pescador (Ringed Kingfisher, Ceryle torquata), Chucao (Scelorchilus rubecula) and Tordo (Austral Blackbird, Curaeus curaeus).


The main sector, or Sector Administrativo, of RN Río Simpson is on the road between Coyhaique and Puerto Aysén. There is a Centro de Interpretación Ambiental (Environmental Education Center) located here. Keep an eye out for pudu at Casacada La Virgen. Adjacent to this part of the park is Sector San Sebastián, five kilometers (three mi) east. Both have several trails you can follow along the river to see the waterfalls.

Other activities include fishing and horseback riding, and, in winter, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.


Associated with RN Río Simpson is the Área de Protección Río Claro on Cerro Huemules, 16 kilometers (10 mi) northwest of Coyhaique. The main purpose of this 298-hectare (736-acre) zone is to protect a small population of huemul and condor. It also has a 2.5 kilometer (1.5 mi) interpretive path that connects with the Lago Atravezado leg of the Sendero de Chile (for more information, see


Entry into the Administrativo and San Sebastián Sectors is $2 for foreign adults and $1.60 for Chileans. All children are allowed in for free. The Área de Protección Río Claro has a separate entry fee: foreigners – adults $6, children $2; nationals – adults $3, children $0.60. If you wish to visit this sector, phone the ranger first to arrange a guide (Tel.: 067-21-2139). The park is open all year.


San Sebstián has 10 campsites equipped with pavilions, fire pits, bathhouses with hot showers and wash basins ($9 per tent, up to six persons). Outside the park, along the highway, is Camping Correntoso (Camino Puerto Aysén – Coyhaique, Río Correntoso, Tel.: 067-21-6912, E-mail:, URL:


Other places nearby Reserva Nacional Río Simpson: Parque Nacional Queulat, Puerto Aysén, La Junta, Puerto Puyuhuapi, Puerto Sánchez, Puerto Bertrand, Bahía Exploradores, Villa Santa Lucía , Villa Cerro Castillo and Puerto Guadal.

By Lorraine Caputo

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

07 Jul 2009

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