Kawésqar National Park is one of the largest parks in the world and the second-largest in Chile. It includes large swaths of the archipelagos in the provinces of Magallanes and Última Esperanza, as well as half of Isla Riesco. Its landscapes are a mosaic of cordilleras, forests, glaciers, fjords, lakes, wetlands, and valleys––virgin ecosystems of unmatched beauty––and are home to a wide variety of plant and animal species. The Montañas Fjord and the Sarmiento Range are just a few of the natural wonders in this park that draw visitors from around the world.

Can’t Miss

  • Go to Isla Riesco to bird watch and spot a wide diversity of marine and land species. You can also take part in various agritourism activities offered by locals.
  • Fish for sport in the Grande River.
  • Take a boat from Puerto Natales to the Resi and Montañas fjords, which end at the entrance to Bernardo O’Higgins National Park.
  • See the Sarmiento Range, where you can watch icefalls from the glaciers, some of which reach the waters of the fjords, including the Kiara, Alsina, and Paredes. You can also visit the Bernal Glacier.
  • Visit nearby marine park Francisco Coloane, which lies southeast of Isla Carlos III, to spot Humpback Whales.

Open

From October to April

Area

6,165,040 acres

Climate

Trans-Andean Climate with Degenerated Steppe (forest area) and Cold Steppe Climate (near the coast)

Rainfall

3.000 mm al año

Ecosystem

Patagonian Steppe, Patagonian Andean Forest with Degenerated Steppe, Evergreen Forest, Marine Coastline

Founded

In process

“Nature is not a place to visit. It is home”,

Gary Snyder

Flora

Magellanic Rainforest rules the landscape with species including Coigües de Magallanes, Ciprés de las Guaitecas (Pilgerodendron), and Canelo trees, although there are fewer of the latter. You can also find Lengas and Ñirres, along with species common to peat bogs, in addition to bushes like Chilcos (Hardy Fuchsia), Calafates (Magellan Barberry), Zarzaparrillas, and Murtillas, along with scrubland and coastal grassland made up of strips of coastal grasses.

Fauna

The park is home to around 24 mammal species. Highlights include the Huemul (South Andean Deer), the Puma, the Gato Montés, the Zorro Culpeo (Andean Fox), and the Zorro Chilla (South American Gray Fox). There are also 136 distinct species of birds, including the Condor, the Fio, the Churrín del Sur (Magellanic Tapaculo), and the Magellanic Woodpecker. Kawésqar is also home to marine birds, such as the Black-Browed Albatross, the Golondrina del Mar, and Cormorants. Along the park’s coasts, you can find four types of Dolphins, Sea Lions, Elephant Seals, Penguins, and Whales––including the Humpback Whale––along with Leopard Seals, Southern River Otters, and Marine Otters.

Culture

Seven thousand years ago, the Kawésqar people sailed between the south of the Gulf of Penas and the Strait of Magellan in boats known as the «queens of American canoes» because of their perfect construction. Made from Coigüe bark and covered with plant fibers, the canoes were a central feature of the Kawésqar peoples’ lives. The men spent much of their time rowing in them, hunting and exploring the labyrinthine fjords, while the women were expert divers. The Kawésqar people stood an average of 5 feet, 5 inches tall, and their name means «people rational in skin and bones.» It’s estimated their population reached over 3,000. In 2006, cave paintings were found on Madre de Dios Island, south of Puerto Edén, suggesting that the Kawésqar developed some type of writing or symbology.

infrastructure

  • Bathrooms
  • Lodging
  • Camping
  • Restaurants
  • Information Center
  • Trails
  • Trekking Circuits
  • Picnic Area

How to Get There

The road from Punta Arenas to the entrance to the National Park (via Isla Riesco) is approximately 93 miles. Take Route 9 north to Puerto Natales and, after around 30 miles, merge left onto Route Y-50. At mile 25 (kilometer 40), you’ll arrive at Villa Ponsomby, the only town along the road. There, ferries run from the Río Verde Municipality across the Fitz Roy Channel to Isla Riesco. The route continues along the northern border of the island, on Route Y-500.

You can also take Route 9 from Punta Arenas and travel 154 miles until you arrive at Puerto Natales. In Puerto Natales, there are various options available for exploring the Montañas Channel.

Boat expeditions for exploring the Montañas Fjord are available in Puerto Natales. The trip takes around two days.

In Punta Arenas, you can also organize boat trips to visit Kawésqar National Park.

Various airlines offer daily flights to Punta Arenas, and LATAM Airlines flies to Puerto Natales during tourist high season. DAP offers twice-weekly flights between Balmaceda and Punta Arenas.

Trails

At the moment, Kawésqar National Park has no official trails, although various local guides offer expeditions along paths long used by native peoples.

  • Difficulty

  • Duration

  • Distance

  • Open

Tips

  • Villa Ponsomby has a bus terminal that offers routes to Punta Arenas and to the ferry crossing to Isla Riesco. The terminal also offers general and tourist information, bathrooms, showers, a café, and Internet access. Find out more about its hours of operation at: http://www.rioverde.cl/newsite/turismo/transporte.
  • There are various options for lodging and agritourism in the area. Find out more at: http://www.rioverde.cl/newsite/turismo/alojamiento.
  • The median annual temperature in the area fluctuates between 43.7 and 45 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Skorpios offers twice-weekly trips to and from Puerto Natales, where you can explore the Montañas Channel: (http://www.skorpios.cl/itinerario-ruta-kaweskar/).
  • The Kauyeken Foundation created a virtual route of approximately 93 miles, from Punta Arenas to the Isla Riesco entrance to the park: http://www.miparquealsur.cl/index.php/recorrido-virtual-2/.
  • To the front of Isla Riesco and 40 miles north of Punta Arenas lies the Otway Sound, where in October and April you can find around 6,000 Magellanic Penguins. Trips can be organized from Punta Arenas.

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