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Laguna San Rafael National Park

Laguna San Rafael National Park

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Laguna San Rafael National Park is a park located on the Pacific coast of southern Chile
Chile
Chile ,officially the Republic of Chile , is a country in South America occupying a long, narrow coastal strip between the Andes mountains to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west. It borders Peru to the north, Bolivia to the northeast, Argentina to the east, and the Drake Passage in the far...

. The park is named for the San Rafael Lagoon
San Rafael Lagoon
San Rafael Lagoon is an arc-shaped coastal lake located in the Aisén Region of Chile, within the national park that bears its name. To the north the lagoon is connected to the Moraleda Channel, to the south lies the Ofqui Isthmus...

 formed by the retreat of the San Rafael Glacier
San Rafael Glacier
The San Rafael Glacier is one of the major outlet glaciers of the Northern Patagonian Ice Field in southern Chile and is the tidewater glacier nearest the equator. It calves into the Laguna San Rafael and is contained within Laguna San Rafael National Park....

. Created in 1959, it covers an area of 17420 sqkm and includes the Northern Patagonian Ice Field
Northern Patagonian Ice Field
The Northern Patagonian Ice Field, located in southern Chile, is the smaller of two remnant parts in which the Patagonian Ice Sheet in the Andes Mountains of lower South America can be divided. It is completely contained within the boundaries of Laguna San Rafael National Park...

. A fjord
Fjord
Geologically, a fjord is a long, narrow inlet with steep sides or cliffs, created in a valley carved by glacial activity.-Formation:A fjord is formed when a glacier cuts a U-shaped valley by abrasion of the surrounding bedrock. Glacial melting is accompanied by rebound of Earth's crust as the ice...

 more than 16 km (10 mi) long is one of the park's principal attractions.

History


Non-indigenous people first explored the area of Laguna San Rafael in the year 1675. The glacier
Glacier
A glacier is a large persistent body of ice that forms where the accumulation of snow exceeds its ablation over many years, often centuries. At least 0.1 km² in area and 50 m thick, but often much larger, a glacier slowly deforms and flows due to stresses induced by its weight...

 of the same name was a land-terminating glacier during that time. It probably reached again the lagoon at some time between 1741 and 1766, and it has been a tidewater glacier since that date.

The park was designated a World Biosphere Reserve
Biosphere reserve
The Man and the Biosphere Programme of UNESCO was established in 1971 to promote interdisciplinary approaches to management, research and education in ecosystem conservation and sustainable use of natural resources.-Development:...

 by UNESCO
UNESCO
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization is a specialized agency of the United Nations...

 in 1979.

Geography


The park comprises some of the higher Andes
Andes
The Andes is the world's longest continental mountain range. It is a continual range of highlands along the western coast of South America. This range is about long, about to wide , and of an average height of about .Along its length, the Andes is split into several ranges, which are separated...

 mountains of Patagonia
Patagonia
Patagonia is a region located in Argentina and Chile, integrating the southernmost section of the Andes mountains to the southwest towards the Pacific ocean and from the east of the cordillera to the valleys it follows south through Colorado River towards Carmen de Patagones in the Atlantic Ocean...

, such as the Monte San Valentín
Monte San Valentin
Monte San Valentin, also known as Monte San Clemente, is the highest mountain in Chilean Patagonia and the highest mountain south of 40°S outside Antarctica. It stands at the north end of the North Patagonian Icefield....

, Cerro Arenales
Cerro Arenales
Cerro Arenales is a heavily ice-covered stratovolcano located in the Aisén Region of Chile, within Laguna San Rafael National Park. It towers over the southern part of the Northern Patagonian Ice Field....

, Cerro Hyades and Cerro Pared Norte
Cerro Pared Norte
Cerro Pared Norte is a mountain located in the Aisén Region of Chile. It lies on the Northern Patagonian Ice Field, at the center of a mountain ridge with steep slopes and sheer cliffs, at whose southern and northern tips lie, respectively, Cerro Pared Sur and an unnamed summit. A glacier named...

.

This park contains a number of rivers. San Tadeo River is located in the Isthmus of Ofqui
Isthmus of Ofqui
Isthmus of Ofqui is a narrow isthmus that connects the Taitao Peninsula with the Chilean mainland. The isthmus is bounded in the south by the Gulf of Penas, in the north by the San Rafael Lagoon, in the west by the Taitao Peninsula and in the east by the Northern Patagonia Ice Field.Geologically...

 and flows into San Quintín Bay in the north part of the Gulf of Penas
Gulf of Penas
The Gulf of Penas is a body of water located south of Taitao Peninsula, Chile. It is open to the westerly storms of the Pacific Ocean, but it affords entrance to several natural harbours. Among these are the Gulfs of Tres Montes and San Esteban, and Tarn Bay at the entrance to Messier...

. Also there are various rivers bordering the park, such as the Baker River
Baker River (Chile)
The Baker River is a river located in the Aisén Region of the Chilean Patagonia. It is Chile's largest river in terms of volume of water. The river flows out of Bertrand Lake, which is fed by General Carrera Lake. It runs along the east side of the Northern Patagonian Ice Field and empties into the...

 and the Exploradores River. Témpanos River (not really a river) connects San Rafael Lagoon with the Gulf Elefantes, the southern part of Moraleda Channel
Moraleda Channel
Moraleda Channel is a body of water separating the Chonos Archipelago from the mainland of Chile. It is located at . Southward from the mouth of the Aisén Fjord, Moraleda Channel divides into two arms. The east arm, called Canal Costa , is the main one...

.

Presidente Ríos Lake
Presidente Ríos Lake
Presidente Ríos Lake is located in the Aisén Region of Chile. It lies in the middle of the Taitao Peninsula....

 spans the border between the park and Las Guaitecas National Reserve
Las Guaitecas National Reserve
Las Guaitecas National Reserve is a national reserve of southern Chile's Aisén Region....

.

Climate


Average annual precipitation at Cabo Raper (lat 46°50' S.), on the open coast of the Taitao Peninsula
Taitao Peninsula
The Taitao Peninsula is a westward projection of the mainland of Chile, with which it is connected by the narrow Isthmus of Ofqui, over which the natives and early missionaries were accustomed to carry their boats between the Moraleda Channel and Gulf of Penas...

, is about 2000 mm (79 in). In the interior of fjords and channels, precipitation is higher, similar to that in the Los Lagos Region
Los Lagos Region
Los Lagos Region is one of Chile's 15 regions, which are first order administrative divisions, and comprises four provinces: Chiloé, Llanquihue, Osorno and Palena. The region contains the country's second largest island, Chiloé, and the second largest lake, Llanquihue.Its capital is Puerto Montt;...

 of Chile. At the meteorological station of Laguna San Rafael (lat 46°37' S.), the mean annual precipitation during the years 1981-85 was 4440 mm (175 in). At higher elevations, the precipitation increase is significant and is in the form of snow on the Northern Patagonian Ice Field, being recorded over 6000 mm (236.2 in) of annual precipitation.

Biology


Several species of birds find shelter in the park, including black-browed albatross
Black-browed Albatross
The Black-browed Albatross or Black-browed Mollymawk, Thalassarche melanophrys, is a large seabird of the albatross family Diomedeidae, and it is the most widespread and common albatross.-Taxonomy:...

es, Great Grebe
Great Grebe
The Great Grebe is the largest species of grebe on earth. A disjunct population exists in northwestern Peru, while the main distribution is from extreme southeastern Brazil to Patagonia and central Chile. The population from southern Chile is considered a separate subspecies, P. m. navasi.This...

s, black-necked swan
Black-necked Swan
The Black-necked Swan is the largest waterfowl native to South America. Males are and weigh 4.5-6.7 kg ; females are and weigh 3.5-4.4 kg . The wingspan ranges from . The body plumage is white with a black neck, head and greyish bill. It has a red knob near the base of the bill and...

s and cormorant
Cormorant
The bird family Phalacrocoracidae is represented by some 40 species of cormorants and shags. Several different classifications of the family have been proposed recently, and the number of genera is disputed.- Names :...

s. The wildlife in this area also include Chilean dolphin
Chilean Dolphin
The Chilean Dolphin , also known as the Black Dolphin, is one of four dolphins in the Cephalorhynchus genus. The dolphin is only found off the coast of Chile, it is commonly referred to in the country as Tunina....

s, sea lion
Sea Lion
Sea lions are pinnipeds characterized by external ear-flaps, long fore-flippers, the ability to walk on all fours, and short thick hair. Together with the fur seal, they comprise the family Otariidae, or eared seals. There are six extant and one extinct species in five genera...

s, marine otter
Marine Otter
The marine otter, Lontra felina, is a rare and poorly-known South American mammal of the weasel family . The scientific name means "otter cat", and in Spanish the marine otter is also often referred to as : "marine cat"...

s and elephant seal
Elephant seal
Elephant seals are large, oceangoing seals in the genus Mirounga. There are two species: the northern elephant seal and the southern elephant seal . Both were hunted to the brink of extinction by the end of the 19th century, but numbers have since recovered...

s.