TIERRA DEL FUEGO NATIONAL PARK
This park was set up in 1960 and contains a representative sample of the southernmost Patagonian Andes woods, bordering on the Beagle Channel.
It covers an area of 63,000 hectares and is located in the southwest corner of the province of Tierra del Fuego.
The mountainous landscape presents glacial features where deep valleys with lakes and rivers are divided by high mountain ridges, all oriented in a NW-SE direction. The southern border gives onto Lapataia and Ensenada bays with steep shores and placid beaches, ideal habitat for coastal birds.
Two types of woods dominate the area: deciduous lenga (Nothofagus pumilio) and evergreen guindo (N. betuloides), the latter in the damper areas and on the coast. The understory is open with an abundance of mosses and ferns. Orchids, Berberis with their yellow flowers and puffballs are to be found in spring. Between the woods, in the valley bottoms, are extensive peat bogs dominated by Sphagnum. On the edges are reeds, insectivorous sundews and small specimens of the ņire tree (N. antarctica).
Birds are varied and easy to see. On the shores Magellan oystercatchers, kelp geese, crested ducks and flightless steamer ducks, while out over the water black-browed albatrosses on their six-foot wingspan glide by, or tiny diving-petrels pop in and out of the waves and ripples. Other birds, which are found in the park, are the great grebe, which prefers the tranquil bays, upland and ashy-headed geese on the lawn-like grasses, or the Magellan woodpecker in the dense woods.
Among the mammals are the guanaco, and the large local red fox endemic to this island. On the shore the rare Magellan sea otter has been reported occasionally.
Introduced (exotic) species include the rabbit, the muskrat and beavers. This last causes much damage to the woods with its felling of trees, its dams flood large areas where the trees are "drowned". The seashore is home to mussels and other shellfish.
Piles of mussel shells overgrown with short grasses are the remains of ancient middens, near the shore, where the Yamana Indians had their primitive shelters. They were canoe Indians living from the sea.
Research has dated a site on Salmon Island at 250 AD.
How to get there
The park is at the end of route 3, 11 km west of the town of Ushuaia. One can also reach Ushuaia by 'plane or by sea.
Of interest to the visitor
Park HQ is in the town of Ushuaia.
Within the park there is an organized campsite at Lago Roca and various areas where camping is free: Lapataia, Ensenada bay, Pipo river, etc.
There are several short trails off route 3:
Tierra del Fuego National Park
- Paseo de la Isla - 800 meters over the Cormoranes archipelago, along the shores of Lapataia River;
- To Laguna Negra: 400 meters to the peat-bog lake with its characteristic dark-stained water;
- To the lookout (Mirador): 500 m to a lookout over Lapataia bay through lenga woods;
- Paseo del Turbal (Peat-bog): 400 m through lenga woods, past an abandoned beaver dam;
- To a beaver dam (Castorera): 400 m to a beaver dam to see the series of ponds created by these rodents on Arroyo Los Castores. Here one can clearly see the damage caused by this exotic species.
- Pampa Alta trail: this connects the Pipo River and Ensenada capsites, through lenga and guindo woods. From Pampa Alta there is a panoramic view of the Beagle Channel. Somewhat tiring, it is 5 km long.
- Coastal trail: from Ensenada to the Lapataia area, not too difficult, 8 km long;
- Trail to Hito (Border marker) XXIV: along the north shore of Lago Roca of glacial origin: 10 km, fairly easy.
- Trail up Cerro Guanaco (970 meters above sea level) along a steep path, a tiring 8 km walk.
Superintendent: Daniel Ramos
Address: San Martin 1395
(9410) Usuahia, Tierra del Fuego
Telephone: (054) 02901-421315
Fax: (054) 02901-424235
Web site: http://www.parquesnacionales.gov.ar