Beautiful lenga forests, part of the Patagonian steppe, two lake systems, fossil remains, and rich fauna, make up the treasures of this Park…
Created in 1937 under the name of the Argentine pioneer in protected areas, the Perito Francisco P. Moreno National Park covers 115,000 hectares in the northwest of the province of Santa Cruz, in a mountainous region cut by valleys, some of which are located more than 900 meters above sea level The difficult access and the inclement weather caused this Reserve to remain forgotten for many years.
The region is devastated by icy westerly winds that, after sweeping the high peaks, descend to the plain, keeping temperatures below 15º C in summer. In winter they get down to -30º C.
The harshness of the landscape, formed by a series of mountain ranges stretching from west to east and from north to south, outlines a magnanimous natural amphitheater, located on the plain that goes from the entrance of the National Park, an environment of the Patagonian steppe, to the Eastern limit of the first lakes, sector of the Andean-Patagonian forests.
Most of the Reserve is occupied by two important lacustrine basins, made up of eight lakes. The Belgrano Lake basin empties into the Pacific Ocean through an intricate hydrographic network that unites the Mogote, Peninsula, Volcán, Azara, Escondido and Nansen lakes, as well as the Volcán, Cabrera, San Lorenzo, Penitente and Lácteo rivers, among others. .
Instead, the Lake Burmeister basin empties into the Atlantic Ocean through the Santa Cruz River estuary, which it reaches after passing through the Roble, Belgrano, and Chico rivers, and crossing all of Patagonia.
Beyond protecting beautiful landscapes, full of native wildlife, the Perito Moreno National Park is one of the most valuable archaeological sites.
The eaves and caverns of Cerro Casa de Piedra shelter cave paintings belonging to the ancestors of the Tehuelches, the main aborigines of these lands.
The Park’s flora occurs in clearly defined environments: the steppe to the east, with dense coironales and crooked bushes; a transition sector, represented by the stunted vegetation of ñire and lenga; and the forest, almost exclusively of lengas that border the Nansen and Azara lakes. The sour cherry tree also grows in places with higher temperatures, a tree that is more sensitive to cold.
The faunal heritage of this Park is a good representation of the entire southern zone. Guanacos abound that roam the plains in herds, the shorty rhea or rhea, the orange pilquín or chinchillón, which is a species with a distribution restricted to the Santa Cruz area, different from the pilquines of the rest of Patagonia. The puma and the red and gray foxes are the major predators in this region. The huemul, a native deer declared a natural monument, finds a protective shelter in this reserve. In the winter season, it descends from the high slopes to shelter in the forests and look for food in the valleys. It has a robust brown body and the adult males, which can reach about a meter in height, have small forked antlers.
Flamingos, hualas, black-necked swans, steam ducks, and numerous cauquenes, stop at the small and innumerable lagoons formed by melting ice. They also nest in the Perito Moreno, the Andean condor, the Mora eagle, and a large owl called ñacurutú.
Fortunately, in the waters of this National Park, no exotic species have been introduced, as has happened in most of the Patagonian lakes. For this reason, it has a rich native fish fauna.
Following the course of the Roble River, which rises in Lake Burmeister, is the Casa de Piedra hill, where there are seven caverns and two shelters or eaves. In these natural refuges, the testimonies of the life, customs, and beliefs of the ancestors of the Tehuelches are expressed. The cave paintings, located on the walls of the deep caves used as dwellings, reproduce images of human hands, guanacos, geometric shapes, and the figure of the sun. Its mythical-religious meanings respond to different times and are classified as representative (animals), abstract (geometric designs), and symbolic (hands). The hypothesis holds that these manifestations belong to the Upper Paleolithic period, between 15,000 and 10,000 years BC. and to the Lower Mesolithic, between 9,000 and 2,000 years BC.
The symbolic expressions of the hands left by the first inhabitants are samples of the so-called Desert Culture, and the geometric and animal testimonies belong to the Superior Hunters stage. The prints of the hands in a negative were achieved by painting the surface with a color, commonly the red obtained from a type of rock called hematite, and once the palms were pressed on the background, they torched the paint with another color, which could be white from limestone, black extracted from manganese or charcoal, and yellow, from lomonite or yellow ochre.
The populations formed by groups of hunter-gatherers had an organized system of periodic occupations that moved from the steppe to the forest and vice versa, according to the use of natural resources. The basis of this use was the guanaco, disposing of their young or chulengos in the central steppe first and a month later, in this region, being able to carry out two “chulengueadas” in the same year.
Adjacent to the cave art caves, on the southern bank of the Roble River itself, at the eastern end of Lake Burmeister, there are fossil deposits of large vertebrates and petrified trees over 10 meters long and up to 1.10 meters in diameter. According to archaeological investigations, the Park was abandoned in the 18th century, probably due to the rigor of the climate of a “little ice age”, recorded according to paleoclimatic studies, around the year 1750.
Due to its anthropological and biological value, the Perito Moreno National Park is one of the most remote and beautiful refuges in the southern plains.
Close to the information office of the Park, you can visit the Alero Ranger Detachment, which has cave paintings and archaeological remains over 6,000 years old.
-Ascension of Cerro León: offers a panoramic view and the sighting of condors in flight. It begins at Estancia La Oriental. Approximate duration: 4 hours, round trip.
-Peninsula Belgrano Nature Trail: begins at the isthmus of Lake Belgrano and runs through the steppe-forest transition area. Approximate duration: 2 hours.
-Laguna del Mié: ideal for bird watching, it is 6 km away, on the way to Lake Burmeister.
-Laguna Roble: it begins at the footbridge of the Roble River and crosses the steppe. Approximate duration: 2 to 3 hours.
One or two-day excursions:
-To Lake Burmeister: stormy waters and lenga forests.
-To the Volcano Lake: almost in the heart of the Park. You can leave the car 3 km from El Rincón, and continue walking 5 km to the shore of the lake.
Hikes of three or four days:
-To Puesto del Nueve and Lake Azara: in front of Cerro Mié, at the end of the vehicular road and bordering the east and south coast of Lake Belgrano. At 5 o’clock we arrive at an old sheepdog post that offers shelter and serves as a base to explore the surroundings. The view offers the intense blue of Lake Azara and the waterfall of Lake Belgrano.
-To the Valle del Cerro San Lorenzo: from El Rincón, you reach a wild camping area along the road. From this point, 9 km more through the valley without crossing the river, we arrive at the old post.