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ENG:Río Ventisquero

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Rutas Patrimoniales.jpg Original content from Heritage Routes of Ministery of Public Patrimony


Vista a Ventisquero Yelcho. Imagen: Alexis Letelier

Ruta al Río Ventisquero
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Summary (editar)
Activity Trekking
Location Chile (english), Chaitén
Scenery Mediana
Atractions Glaciar, Bosque
Duration 3 horas o menos
Trail Siempre Claro
Signage Adecuado
Infraestructure Inexistente
Topology Ida y Retorno por la misma ruta
Distance (k) 0 (round trip)
Original creator Rutas Patrimoniales
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Access

There are 4 alternative accesses to the route:

  1. From Chaitén in the north along route 7 (Southern Longitudinal Highway); the first 15 kilometers are asphalt, passing through the settlements of El Amarillo and Puerto Cárdenas, and then a good gravel road that is useable all year round.
  2. From Futaleufú taking CH 231 to Puerto Ramirez and then route CH 235 to Santa Lucía, connecting with route 7 to the north. 109 kilometers of gravel road in good condition, useable all year round, with chains during periods of winter snow.
  3. From Palena taking route CH 235 to Puerto Ramirez and then route CH 235 to Santa Lucía, connecting with route 7 to the north. 89 kilometers of gravel road in good condition, useable all year round, with chains during periods of winter snow.
  4. From La Junta taking route 7. 101 kilometers of gravel road in good condition, useable all year round, with chains during periods of winter snow.

Season

General Descrption

The Ventisquero River heritage route is right along the southern highway, 59 kilometers southeast of Chaitén. It is a 6 km long trail there and back through temperate rainforests, one of the most attractive landscapes in Chilean Patagonia. Its biodiversity and endemism,with ecosystems in hidden valleys, are huge attractions for nature lovers, as are also the beautiful views of the hanging glaciers that one can enjoy while walking the route.

Together with observation of various species of flora, you will be able to get to know more about our bird fauna, our rivers and mountains.

It takes two hours to walk the route there and back, but we recommend spending longer so as to be able to enjoy the beautiful sites where you will be able to take photographs, enjoy the views of ice or calmly go in search of the HuetHuet or Chucao.

The route is divided into two sections. The first is 1.3 kilometers long and concentrates mainly on identifying species such as Coigüe, Luma, Cinnamon tree, among others, and also on enjoying the first views of the Ventisquero River glacier.

Section two is slightly longer at 1.6 kilometers. It offers the possibility of observing the rich undergrowth dominated by different kinds of fern and moss, as well as also more frequent observation of the typical birds that inhabit these humid forests. At the end, you will be able to enjoy an extraordinary view of the Ventisquero River glacier.

We invite those of you who think of Patagonia as a destination for exploring rather more than just traditional roads to walk this interesting route, which is suitable for all ages and where you will be able to combine family recreation with adventurous passage through the forests and their surroundings.


Route description

First segment

El fogón - Llano de las Nalcas

The route starts in the parking lot, SNUPIE 1, on the northern bank of the Ventisquero River, less than 100 m. from the turnoff to the west of the Southern Highway. Make sure that you have enough time for the full route and for a well-deserved picnic or camp, if you get enthused.

From SNUPIE 1, you can see SNUPIE 2 only a few meters from the edge of a raised area indicating access to the trail that penetrates into the river valley. There are another two tables there, where you can take a comfortable rest before continuing your journey.

You will notice from SNUPIE 2 that the trail is well-marked, and it continues to be so during the whole route. When you reach SNUPIE 3, you will see a typical adult cinnamon tree; take the right-hand trail to keep on the right track.

You will find the typical formation of a temperate forest, characterized by dominating species such as Coigües (Nothofagus Betuloides and Nothofagus Dombeyi) and Cinnamon Trees (Drimys Winteri), standing in the most protected, wettest parts of the valleys.

The Cinnamon tree has a straight, cylindrical trunk, it climbs 30 meters high and is 1 meter in diameter. Its perennial leaves are light green and its wood is used in construction, for making furniture and for manufacturing musical instruments.

Leaving SNUPIE 3 behind, you will see large communities of Quila in the forest’s lower canopy; when dry, these help to spread forest fires, so we recommend taking maximum precautions.

Continue along the well-marked trail to SNUPIE 4, where the quila grows to a great height. A few meters further on the fast-flowing, milky waters of the Ventisquero River will guide your steps. The high clay content of its waters produced by the mechanical action of ice on rock gives it its typical grey-white color, which stands in contrast to the crystal clear waters of the streams that you will soon cross. Prefer the latter for drinking.

From SNUPIE 4, take the trail along the banks of the Ventisquero River to the first viewpoint of the Ventisquero River glacier, which is also SNUPIE 5. It is a good place to rest up with a view of the Ventisquero River and the glacier that feeds it. You will be able to hear the spectacular sound of the bird fauna in these forests the huet-huet (Pteroptochos Tarnii), Chucao and Churrín del Sur (Scytalopus Magellanicus).

To continue, follow the main trail from SNUPIE 5 as it leaves the banks of the Ventisquero River and penetrates into an interesting forest that leads to SNUPIE 6. Take advantage of the surroundings to clearly distinguish between Coigües and their neighbor, the Cinnamon Tree.

From SNUPIE 6, continue through the forest on firm ground, which can be flooded in parts when it rains, but is always passable. You will come upon the banks of the river and a second viewpoint for the glacier - SNUPIE 7. This is the place with the most beautiful views of the cascading mantle of ice. This viewpoint provides better views than the first one. Note the large number of tree trunks that the water has dragged downstream. This is a clear indication that the river is subject to sudden floods, which, together with the persistent rain and snowmelts affecting the area, and other aspects, such as the steeply sloping main drainage basin, have visibly marked the valley.

Continue up the valley from SNUPIE 7, entering a sector of thick quila along the main trail. The Quila is an invading species and very often prevents proper development of the undergrowth and some species of trees. This can be seen in SNUPIE 8, where a Luma (Amomyrtus Luma) is threatened by the thick quila growth. The Luma has elliptical leaves like the myrtle, but they are longer and more aromatic. It grows to a height of 20 meters.

From SNUPIE 8, enter the Cinnamon, Coigüe and Luma forest again. Continue to SNUPIE 9, where the forest now includes the Tepa (Laurelia Philippiana), one of the most typical species of temperate rainforests, mainly associated, as is the cinnamon tree, with very damp areas and deeper soils.

As you leave SNUPIE 9, you will come upon a stream that you have to skirt to once again enter the Tepa forest. You will reach a bridge under a gloomy forest - SNUPIE 10. Be careful of the bridge’s slippery surface when you cross.

Light penetrates to the floor of the forest notoriously less at SNUPIE 10 and this, together with the dampness, allows countless species of flora adapted to these conditions to grow; these include fungi, moss, lichen and ferns.

Continue along the trail for a few meters until you come to the marks of a fallen tree trunk. You’re on the right road. Pass through a “tunnel” of quila, skirt a small stream to a unique community of Gunneras (Gunnera tinctoria).

When you reach SNUPIE 11, take care not to continue along the trail; at this point, turn left, cross over the stream immediately and continue along a new trail that crosses open land without any forests.

There you will be able to note other species, such as the Chilco, with its characteristic, beautiful, red flowers, and the typical Gunneras of wet southern lands, where they form vast marshes in open areas. Their stalks are used in salads, their leaves to cover the traditional curantos (a mainly shellfish dish cooked in a hole in the ground) and their roots for tanning.

After crossing the above stream, you will come to a crossroads; take the right-hand trail and you will soon see SNUPIE 12.

SNUPIE 12 is in a sector dominated by secondary Coigüe growth and a thick covering of cryptogam species that cover the soil, representing the genesis and evolution of natural ecosystems. If you look closely at this point, you will be able to understand how the forest is formed. First, the soil is colonized by primary species, such as mosses, which retain the soil and prevent erosion and are also excellent food for birds. Then come the secondary growth and finally, after hundreds or thousands of years, the formation of an adult forest.

As you leave SNUPIE 12 follow the trail along the valley, parallel to the main river, through a flat sector without any forests. As you continue, you will enter an interesting community of Chilcos and Gunneras. Cross a small, sporadic river bed at the foot of the slope. You will see SNUPIE 13, the end of the open area and of section 1, just a few meters further on.

Second segment

Llano de las Nalcas - Mirador Alto

At the start of the second section, the Quilas give way to a wide variety of ferns that enrich the lower canopy and allow one to admire the colors, shapes and textures of these forests.

From SNUPIE 13, start up a slight climb along the only trail that there is to a forest of mainly adult tepa. A few meters from the SNUPIE you will climb up a small rock step along a sporadic watercourse. Follow that watercourse.

Abundant tepas do not grow here by chance, since the land is often flooded, which is a common condition for these forests.

As you follow the stony trail you will come upon SNUPIE 14 just as you start to hear the Ventisquero River roaring a little louder. You will gradually be able to observe a greater number of ferns and mosses, as the biodiversity of the species begins to show itself in all of its splendor.

Continue in the same direction from SNUPIE 14 and then take a left, dropping slightly to a stream of clear water that runs through open land. As you cross over a small bridge, you will see SNUPIE 15, an ideal site for recovering your strength and replenishing your supply of water.

Shortly after leaving this SNUPIE, you will once again enter an adult forest of cinnamon trees (Drimys Winteri), with some less abundant species of Tepa and Coigüe.

The ground is muddier as you continue on to SNUPIE 16, the start of a string or emplacement of tree trunks lined up horizontally one against the other, which makes walking over these poorly drained lands easier. At SNUPIE 16 you will hear the Ventisquero River roaring close by, but you will not be able to see it. Its roaring betrays the true force with which it flows and evokes a mind-picture of the difficulties faced by early explorers in crossing these rivers.

On passing SNUPIE 16, enter a small stand of tepas and lumas and then walk towards a set of quilas. The trail branches there, so take the left- hand fork to get to the banks of the river only a few meters away, or the right-hand fork to immediately reach SNUPIE 17, which will indicate the way through the quilas to continue on along the main trail.

From SNUPIE 17 climb slightly on firm ground to a forest of young cinnamon trees, parallel to the Ventisquero River. Continue along the edge of the escarpment until you reach SNUPIE 18, surrounded by beautiful Mañios (Podocarpus Nubigenus). This species with sharp, light green, linear leaves, smooth bark and fruit that matures in January, grows in extremely wet forests from Cautín to Taitao.

From SNUPIE 18, skirt the escarpment of the main river, surrounded by thick undergrowth, mainly of Chilcos, and a wide variety of ferns. Note that the quila has disappeared.

When you reach SNUPIE 19, you will have a view of the Ventisquero River running past the mañío forest. Follow the main trail, leave the Mañíos and SNUPIE 19 behind and enjoy the Cinnamon trees and Tepas, among other species. You will reach a bridge to cross over a small stream and then SNUPIE 20, the third point with access to water.

SNUPIE 20 is an excellent place to rest before setting off on the last part of the route, and to get down to the banks of the Ventisquero River. Take care on the edge of the river, because the rocks can be slippery. The differences between the stream’s water, which is mainly from rainfall, and the water in the Ventisquero River are mainly due to glacial fusion.

SNUPIE 20 marks the start of a semi-open sector between the forest and the river, with abundant Chilco and ferns around the trail. You will reach the third glacier viewpoint - SNUPIE 21 -, from where you have to move into the forest if you want to contemplate the wide range of natural species that make up the undergrowth.

A few meters past SNUPIE 21, the route climbs down a slope, 10 meters down from the main river. The trail becomes rocky with a lot of moss; try to go slowly at an even pace.

Starting from SNUPIE 21, you enter one of the most unique, endemic forest types in the world. Do not remove specimens; let us preserve our endemic heritage.

Continue along the trail to SNUPIE 22. This is a wooded area with many adult Coigües, as well as some cinnamon trees and ferns.

From SNUPIE 22 there is a slight down slope to a crystal clear stream. SNUPIE 23 is 15 meters on the other side of the stream, where there is a fork in the trail. Take the right-hand fork, continue up a short incline and climb the slope to an ancient Coigüe, from where you have to climb down towards an interesting community of Gunneras. These lands are flooded sporadically. If rain is falling persistently, evaluate the convenience of continuing, since the amount of water flowing can vary drastically in only a few minutes.

On passing the gunneras, the route continues through a veritable tunnel of Chilcos. Once you have made it through, the route skirts the river on firm, flat ground with interesting views of the glacier. You will be able to see SNUPIE 24 on the slope, indicating the route, a few meters further on, to take you to the high viewpoint of the Ventisquero River glacier, which is SNUPIE 25 and the end of the heritage route.

SNUPIE 25 provides a view of the entire cascading glacier as it flows down from the high basin. The presence of young coigües on land left by the ice-mass confirms that these bodies have been retreating over the past centuries. SNUPIE 25 is sited amidst ancient frontal moraines, now covered by thick vegetation.

We recommend planning the descent to SNUPIE 1 in daylight. For the return, consider the same time taken going up. We do not recommend advancing more than 1 kilometer up the valley, since blocks of ice may tumble down. Don’t expose yourself unnecessarily.

  • This trekking is described in full detail in the following topoguide of the Ministery of Public Patrimony. The printed guide can be obtained for free in the Ministery:56-2-3512100 -> 2325. It is hihgly recommended to take it to the walk, as it enriches the experience with descrptions of flora, fauna, geography and geology.

Expected time

2 hours to go and 30 minutes to return.