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LAGUNA BLANCA NATIONAL PARK
Created in 1945, this park's main object is the protection of an important area where the black-necked swan nests. It covers an area of 11,250 ha in western Neuquén province some 30 km from Zapala.
The area has been declared a wetland of international importance (RAMSAR site) for its importance to waterbirds.
The most important feature of the park is the Laguna Blanca itself, a body of water amid Patagonian grassy steppe and framed by conical hills. The surface of the lake is of some 1700 ha and two temporary streams; the Llano Blanco and the Pichi-Ñireco feed it.
Waterfowl are spectacular in their variety and abundance and are the principal attraction of the park; the black-necked swan is the main attraction here. Flamingos have also been known to nest; ducks of many species, waders, grebes (especially the silvery). With the arrival of spring these last form several breeding colonies, which provide the visitor with excellent opportunities to study their behavior.
There is an endemic frog which with the unwise and illegal, clandestine introduction of exotic perch has vanished from the main lake but still survives in the smaller bodies of water nearby which the exotic fish have not reached.
A geological feature of interest lies in the basalt flow, which borders the north shore of the lake: on its cliff-like face nest raptors such as the red-backed hawk, the peregrine falcon; it is home also to the mountain viscacha which sports along the vertical drop. The rest of the park is typically Patagonian Steppe with a preponderance of grasses and bushes.
On the trail around the Laguna Blanca itself there is a cave (Salamanca), which was inhabited in prehistoric times. Research is going on there where the local hunter-gatherers worked out their living. One of the walls has examples of the typical rock paintings of northern Patagonia.
How to get there
From Neuquén to Zapala along route 22, thence south a stretch along 40 to a turn off along route 46 which crosses the park. There are about 32 km between Zapala and Laguna Blanca. The park can also be reached from the south (Aluminé and Junín de los Andes) or from Mendoza in the north, always along the main N/S arterial route 40.
Of interest to the visitor
There is a picnic and camping area in the park though the rough weather and windy conditions combined with lack of shelter make overnight difficult. Zapala has all manner of lodging. The best time to visit the park is between November and March. There is a lovely trail bordering the Llano Blanco stream.
With permission from the ranger (stationed on the south shore of the lake), one can drive to Laguna Verde where there is an observatory for bird watching.
Laguna Blanca National Park
Superintendent: Sergio Domber
Address: C.C. N° 216
(8340) Zapala, Neuquén.
Telephone / Fax: (054) 02942-431982
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