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White Steppe

   
 Estimated reading time: 2 min. Texts Karina Jozami   Photos Jorge González
Laguna Blanca National Park

We toured around the Laguna Blanca National Park, which protects a very singular ecosystem in Patagonia dwelled by numerous species of water birds.

The Laguna Blanca National Park lies only 32 kilometers to the West of the City of Zapala. This area located in Northern Patagonia features a special ecosystem: the high arid steppe. We approached this natural reserve to learn about its biological importance and tour around the trails that cross the volcanic scenery.
This park was created in 1940 and its 11,263 hectares contain one of the main water bodies in the Patagonian steppe, after which the park was named. The Blanca Lagoon is situated 1,270 meters above sea level, it has a 30-kilometer-long shore and a 1,700-hectare surface. Various water bird species nest in this place. Amongst the most standing species, the black-necked swans have earned the lagoon its inclusion in the list of significant wetlands created by the Ramsar Convention.

    
When Patagonia was a Beach on the Pacific

Millions of years ago, when the Andes Mountain Range had not emerged yet, the waters of the Pacific Ocean would cover Patagonia and reach the entire Province of Neuquén. This subtropical environment included marshlands, lakes and rainforests, until a mountain range which elevated the entire sea surface emerged and the volcanic eruptions razed the local wildlife. As Patagonia continued ascending and the wind performed its eroding task, vast and arid high plateaus, ravines and cliffs changed the scenery completely.
Laguna Blanca National Park
Nevertheless, like in other ecosystems, despite the harshness, several species find a way to develop. In addition to bushes such as redshank, shrubs, neneo, pepper tree and especially the coirón grasslands, attractive vegetation grows around water courses offering food and nest for countless birds.

At present, over 100 species visit these environments in the different seasons, which represent the main attraction of the park. The reserve is the habitat of certain kinds of ducks, coots, geese and flamingoes, amongst other birds. The black-necked swans also stand out and some time ago, so large was their population that the vision of their white feathers over the water inspired the name for the main lagoon.
Laguna Blanca National Park
    
Other Steppe Species

This protected area also has an endemic species: the Patagonian aquatic frog, though it is hard to spot as there are only a few specimens due to its predators, represented by trout and perch.

Predator birds such as the red-backed hawk and the peregrine falcon build their nests in the cliffs and the cornices give shelter to chinchillones or vizcachas de la sierra. Cougars, foxes, piches, choiques, wildcats and condors are also part of the Blanca Lagoon wildlife.
Laguna Blanca National Park
Source: Administración de Parques Nacionales www.parquesnacionales.gov.ar
Useful Data
How to get here
This place is accessed from Zapala, following National Route 22, National Route 40 and then Provincial Route 46, that crosses the national park.
 
Recommendations
The park has a picnic and camping area to enjoy this natural area. The best time in the year to visit the reserve is from November thru March, when most birds may be watched.
 
Contact
Parque Nacional Laguna Blanca
Ejército Argentino 217 (8340) Zapala - Neuquén - Argentina
Tel: +54 2942 43-1982  
e-mail
 
 
Inter Patagonia

Characteristics
Tour Kind
Contemplative
Useful Data Useful Data



Location



The Detail

The cave paintings and engravings on the walls give testimony of the human groups that originally dwelled these lands. The Mapuche community ancestors that live near the reserve at present would get supply in this area during their journeys across the region, where they used to hunt guanacos and fish, as well as collect fruit and roots.
Likewise, remains of pots, arrow points and other pottery tools have been discovered in the surroundings of Barda Negra.


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