PUNTA NORTE RESERVE
Punta Norte is at the extreme northwestern tip of Península Valdés. The traveler deciding to make a stop at this delightful corner of Chubut will marvel at the magnificent setting of cliffs, a worthy backdrop scenario for the walrus and sea lion colonies on the shore.
The reserve possesses a wildlife ranger cabin, a guest house for visiting researchers, a store that sells drinks, snacks and souvenirs, an observation deck looking over the sea lion colonies, restrooms, and a small information center.
The latter is in good condition, displaying some photos of killer whales hunting sea lions and other showing birds and marine and land mammals, as well as a small collection, including a herbarium, fossil invertebrates, etc.
This Provincial Fauna Reserve was created to protect walruses. Occasionally one can see one of them from the observation deck, or further south, with the aid of binoculars.
Facing the observation deck there is an important mating area for sea lions. This colony, together with those facing the lighthouse and on Medina bay, totals some 3,000 adults and an average of 1,350 pups in the breeding season.
On the channel, at high tide, this stretch of rocks is totally covered, leaving the sea lions and their pups at the mercy of predators as they swim along the coast.
The lighthouse area is interesting to watch the beaching and training of the pups, and Medina bay is apparently a resting area. The only place authorized for viewing by tourists is the information trail and the observation deck. Access to the channel and the Medina bay area is BANNED.
Two kilometers northward, there is a small colony of Magellan penguins.
The whole year round there is a chance of seeing killer whales, increasing in the months of February, March and April.
If you decide to do this trip, you are recommended to tank up in Puerto Pirámides, since you will travel a long distance and there are almost no other service stations on the way. The other recommendation would be to drive at not over 60 kilometers an hour.
You can get there by Provincial Route Nº 3, gravel track, 72 kilometers out of Puerto Pirámides.
On the way you will see specimens of the local steppe fauna, such as tinamous, armadillos, cuis, tucu-tucus, gatos del pajonal, wild cats, southern gray foxes, maras, guanacos and lesser rheas, as well as marine and land-based birds, several species of lizard and the yarará ñata snake.
The reserve has an information center and trails that allow you to view the sea lions and walruses all year round at sea level, contrasting with Punta Pirámides.
The rangers are always at hand to give you detailed information. There are also brochures available.
The vegetation in Punta Norte is represented by a bushy herbaceous steppe, including Chuquiraga erinacea and Stipa tenuis. The stratum formed by bushes covers 40 to 70% of the total area at an average height of 80 centimeters, and consists mostly of Chuquiraga erinacea, accompanied by Schinus polygamus.
The underbrush species Acantholippia seriphioides, Baccharis darwinii and B. melanopotamica cover less than 5% of the ground area, reaching a height of 10 cm. These underbrush specimens are accompanied by Hoffmanseggia trifoliata and Boopis anthemoides. The herbaceous stratum covers 10 to 30% of the ground area at a height of 10 cm. It is formed by Stipa tenuis, Hordeum euclaston, Stipa neaei, and Poa ligularis.
Physiographically, the area is situated somewhere between the so-called coastal range type and the sea-cliff type.
The ranges that reach Punta Norte from Caleta Valdés are shorelines in formation featuring the absence of cliffs, and wide sandy and rocky beaches.
From Punta Norte, in Medina bay, towards the west (Golfo San Matías), an area begins that is formed by sandy beaches interspersed with medium-height cliffs. In the environs of the reserve there are some active dunes facing the cliffs.
PUNTA NORTE LIGHTHOUSE
This is on the point of the same name, in Península Valdés. It was built in 1925. It is a cylindrical steel tower with an upper deck, guardrail and watch-post. It is 16.5 meters above ground level, with an inner stairwell to tend the light.
Experimentally, on November 20, 1982 a new, wind-energy fed battery system was installed that operated until late 1990, when it was replaced with a photovoltaic (solar cell) panel system.
Currently, it has a 14.5 nautical mile range of illumination.