Pumalín Park and Patagonia Park in Chile

Pumalín Park

If I were to have a bucket list, and I suppose I do, now that I mention Chile, it’s been on the top of the list for twenty years. Uruguay, Peru, Brazil and Venezuela but not Chile, Colombia, Bolivia and Argentina (yet). The love of Patagonia clothing company founders were the people who opened my mind to the idea of Chile and now learning about Pumalín Park in a new documentary, I’m enchanted with the wide-open and rugged spaces.

Huinay, Pumalín National Park, Chile
Huinay, Pumalín National Park, Chile


Pumalín Park is situated on the upper right corner of the map
Pumalín Park is situated on the upper right corner of the map

In 1991, Douglas Tompkins bought a large, semi-abandoned plot of land in the Reñihue River Valley of the Chilean province of Palena. A mountaineer and conservationist who had been visiting Patagonia since the early 1960s, Tompkins sought to protect the 16,996.6 ha (42,000 acres) tract, most of which was primeval Valdivian temperate rainforest, from future exploitation. After moving to Reñihué to live full-time, Tompkins began developing plans for a larger park, gradually acquiring additional adjacent properties from willing sellers. Ultimately, roughly 98 percent of the park acreage was bought from absentee landowners.

The Conservation Land Trust subsequently added approximately 283,280 ha (700,000 acres) in nearly contiguous parcels to form Pumalín Park, which was declared a Nature Sanctuary on August 19, 2005, by then-president Ricardo Lagos. This special designation by the Chilean government grants the land additional protections to secure its ecological values and prevent development. The Conservation Land Trust later donated the protected lands to Fundación Pumalín, a Chilean foundation, for their administration and ongoing preservation as a national park under private initiative.

While nature-related philanthropy has a long tradition in the United States, large-scale private land acquisition for parks was unfamiliar in Chile, and initially generated skepticism and political opposition. Over the years of the project’s development, confidence has been built, both locally and nationally, as Pumalín Park’s public access infrastructure began serving thousands of visitors annually.

Tourist Services of Pumalín and Patagonia parks in the process of concession

Tompkins Conservation recently donated more than 407,000 hectares to the state of Chile to help create 5 new national parks, including Pumalín Douglas Tompkins and Patagonia parks. The restaurants, lodge, cabins and information centers in these parks will be closed until the selection of a new concessionaire, a process that is being carried out by the National Forest Service (Conaf) through concessions. Meanwhile, visitors can still enjoy the trails.

For any questions about reservations in the cabins of Pumalín or the lodge at Valle Chacabuco of Parque Patagonia please write to the following emails: reservas@parquepumalin.cl or reservas@vallechacabuco.cl

Pumalín Park Photo credit: draculina_ak on VisualHunt / CC BY-NC-ND Photo credit: fotospagoda. on Visualhunt / CC BY-NC-SA

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