Puelo is a deformation of the Mapuche word puelco, which means “water from the East”. This beautiful region was given this name by the Chilean Mapuche communities, for whom puelco would stand both for the river and the lake. This water mirror starts inside the Argentinian territory and reaches the Pacific Ocean, after crossing the Mountain Range and emptying into the Reloncaví Estuary.
In 1621, with the aim of finding the “City of the Caesars”, Spanish conqueror Juan Fernández sailed around the Chiloé Island and crossed the Mountain Range by sailing up the Puelo River. As in other failed attempts, Fernández did not discover the mythical city, where the survivors from Don Pedro Sarmiento de Gamboa's expedition were believed to dwell surrounded by incredible wealth. However, he was the first one to reach this region and contact the Poya indians, who were later exterminated by the Mapuche invasion that dominated Patagonia but did not settle down as a result of their nomade nature.
After Fernández, there were neither colonists nor Creoles there until 1884, when Chilean don Pedro “Motoco” Cárdenas, from Río Bueno (Province of Osorno), settled down in the area he called “Valle Nuevo” (New Valley). This singular character was the first white man to inhabit what he believed was a sheltered cattle valley with good pastures in the Chilean territory.
In 1885, the 29 Chubut riflemen expedition was organized by governor Cnel. Luis Jorge Fontana. The riflemen, most of them volunteer Welshmen, explored the territory and discovered the 16 de octubre fertile valley. This area was the subject of a dispute between Argentina and Chile until the Welsh colonists who resided in that place unanimously proclaimed Argentinian sovereignty over the land during the arbitration decision of 1902.
In 1928, Remigio Nogues, a teacher sent by the governor of Chubut, expressed the need to create a town council and by April 2, in the same year, the council was made up mainly by teachers and included the valleys of Lago Puelo, Mount Radal, Las Golondrinas, El Hoyo de Epuyén, el Turbio and Lake Esperanza.
The first migratory current of Chilean breeders brought Mapuche workers who had Argentinian descendants. The sons of these pioneers regularized the holding of the lands. They were followed by Lebanese immigrants, who crossed the Patagonian plateau, and then by a group of Ucranians -incorrectly referred to as Polish- who devoted themselves to agriculture and contributed with new techniques to work the land, especially by growing hop. Later on, the Argentinian settled down along with other European immigrants. By 1920, 95% of the population was foreign and teachers had to teach the Argentinian language and history in order to manage a union of the region.
In 1936, an exploration committee toured the area in order to determine new sites and incorporate them to the national parks protected areas.
In 1971, the small hamlet of Lago Puelo became the Lago Puelo National Park.
After the great forest fire that took place in 1987, a group of settlers began to organize the National Festival of the Forest and its Environment. The idea took shape in 1992, when the first issue of the festival took place with the aim of managing awareness about the protection of native forests.
An amphitheatre, named after Hilda Rin -the main fosterer of this festival- was specially built in the central square of the district for this event. As part of the schedule, the Folkloric Festival is held in this place, with the participation of national artists, murgas and comparsas, as well as the election of the queen.
In the square, visitors may attend the Students and Backpakers' Dance, visit the Expo-Feria and the Craftsmen Patio, or listen to the lectures about the preservation of the forest, organized by several institutions.
The festival includes an international kayak competition, which consists in going down the Puelo River between Argentina and Chile and the classical mountain triathlon, among other sport activities.