Bernardo O’Higgins, Chile

Bernardo O’Higgins, Chile Photo
©A. Vilia

Covering more than 13,500 square miles, Bernardo O’Higgins is the biggest national park in Chile and one of the world’s major freshwater reserves. The park encompasses a large part of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field. It protects glaciers, fjords, eagles, and Andean condors and is one of the last refuges for the Chilean huemul, a shy, stocky deer of the southern Andes.

Fast Facts

  • The park is named after General Bernardo O'Higgins, first head of state of the Republic of Chile.
  • The park’s Pío XI glacier is the largest glacier of the South Hemisphere outside of Antarctica.
  • This Chilean region contains some of the world's southernmost old-growth forest.

Challenges

One of the park’s main attractions is its isolation. Visitors can only access it by boat or helicopter. But the area and its wildlife are still threatened by hunting, habitat degradation and logging, and competition with livestock and introduced species. In 2007, scientists announced that all the water in a glacial lake within the park had disappeared during that spring, leaving behind a 100-foot-deep crater and some blocks of ice. Experts think the disappearance occurred due to global climate change.

WCS Responds

WCS field conservationists first began studying the endangered huemul in the late 1980s.
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