Bernardo O'Higgins National Park is the largest of the protected areas in Chile, covering an area of 35,259 km² (13,614 sq mi) in the Aysén and Magallanes and Antártica Chilena regions. Management of this and other national parks in Chile is entrusted to the Corporación Nacional Forestal (CONAF). The park is named after General Bernardo O'Higgins, the first head of state of the Republic of Chile. Los Glaciares National Park (Argentina) and Torres del Paine National Park are its neighbours to the east, Laguna San Rafael National Park is located to the north, the Alacalufes National Reserve to the southwest and the Katalalixar National Reserve to the northwest.
The earliest occupants of the area were the Alacaluf people.
In 1830 the then Captain Phillip Parker King on board H.M.S. Beagle visited the Eyre Fjord.
In June 2007 it was announced that between March and May 2007 all the water within a glacial lake located within the park had disappeared, leaving behind a 30-m (100-foot)-deep crater. Only some blocks of ice, previously floating on the lake, remained behind on the crater floor. In July 2007 scientists were able to draw the preliminary conclusion that the disappearance occurred as a result of climate change.
The park cover the fjords and canals of the west and most of the Southern Ice fields.
The highest summit is the Lautaro volcano at 3,607 m (11,834 ft). Other summits include the Mount Fitz Roy, the Cerro Torre and the Cerro Riso Patrón. The elevations are lower in the southern part of the park, but the scenery is still spectacular. The highlight of this zone is Mount Balmaceda at 2,035 m (6,677 ft), beautified by the glaciers Balmaceda and Serrano.
There are no large rivers on the park coast, but the narrow fjords penetrate deeply into the mountains and bring away the drainage of their ice-capped, storm-swept elevations.
Flora and fauna
The park is one of the last refuges for the Chilean Huemul. In this also can be found species such as Andean Condor, Marine Otter and Cormorant.
Because of its rugged geography and the remoteness of the area, the tourism in the park has been scarcely developed. It is only accessible by 'boat' or 'helicopter'. The glaciers located at the head of Última Esperanza Sound and the glacier Pío XI are the most visited areas of the park. The main gateways for visitors to the park are Puerto Natales, Villa O'Higgins, Caleta Tortel and Puerto Edén. Sea kayaking is a popular activity in the park.
Fees and permits
- Turismo 21 de Mayo, Eberhard 560, ☏ . Full-day boat excursion visiting Balmaceda and Serrano Glaciers. CLP$45,000.