The name Chaltén means "water basket", a derivation from the huiliche term CHAIN-CHAITUN, which means "colar en chaivas" (strain through baskets) in reference to the abundant rain and the topography of the place. It is the capital of the province of Palena since 1981, its population is around 3500 inhabitants, and its history dates from the XX century.
In 1933 there were only three houses, and in 1938 the ship Tenglo from the state company Ferronave arrived to the port.
In 1946, when the radio and some other public services started operating, there were already some more houses, and the construction of the road to lake Yelcho was started.
In those days, Yelcho, Palena and Futaleufú were also supplied by means of eight barges that travelled along the river Yelcho up to Puerto Cárdenas, from were they crossed to Puerto Ramírez, to finally deliver the goods on horseback to Puerto Palena.
Chaitén is the capital of the province of Palena, a city and port that constitutes the main commercial and administrative centre in the area, where all basic services are provided.
Placed on a terrace between the river and the mountain, the village grew along an agricultural road with a history similar to that of Futaleufú. In 1962 by arbitrage of the Queen of England, the limit was established in Río Encuentro, and the green and prosperous California valley in the dry Pampa granted to Chile. By the homonymous river near the Argentine border is situated Palena.