South America > Argentina / Chile

Lake Buenos Aires / General Carrera Lake: Home of the Marble Caves

lakeLake Buenos Aires / General Carrera Lake
countryArgentina, Chile
surface area1,764 km2
maximum depth586 m
average depth400 m
lake typeMoraine-dammed
catchment area14,861 km2
altitude202 m
volume706 km3
inflowsSoler, Los Antiguos, Jeinemeni, Ibanez, San Martin, Delta
outflowsBertrand Lake, Baker River
shore length707 km
settlementsChile Chico, Puerto Ingeniero Ibanez, Puerto Guadal, Los Antiguos
residence time54,674 days
frozenNever freezes
trophic stateOligotrophic
originGlacial
average discharge150 m3 / sec.

Lake Buenos Aires / General Carrera Lake Information and Facts

General Carrera Lake, also known as Lake Buenos Aires, is a large lake on the border of Argentina and Chile, mostly famous for its amazing vibrant blue and grey cave chambers in the lake’s turquoise waters.

Geography

Out of the lake’s total surface area of 1850 km2, 970 km2 is found in the Aysen del General Carlos Ibanez del Campo region of Chile, whilst the remaining 880 km2 lies in the Argentinian province of Santa Cruz. It is the largest lake in Chile, and the fourth largest of Argentina. The lake’s shoreline is dotted with settlements like Puerto Guadal, Puerto Ingeniero Ibanez and Chile Chico on the Chilean part, and Los Antiguos and Perito Moreno on the Argentinian side.

The lake is located next to the Andes Mountains, but the immediately surrounding landscape is made up of dry and low bushes and small groups of poplars and willows. General Carrera Lake is of glacial origin and has been formed by wave action over the last 6200 years. The Malvinas Islands can be found on General Carrera Lake. Black-necked swans and ducks have been observed in the lake, at the mouth of the Los Antiguos River.

Hydrology and Climate

The deepest point of the lake, with a depth of 586 meters, can be found in its western basin. Lake Buenos Aires drains into the Pacific Ocean through the Baker River, which is the largest river in Chile.

The area surrounding the lake has a generally cold and humid climate, but luckily the General Carrera Lake area has its own microclimate, which is much more pleasant, despite being a little windy. The region witnesses an abundance of rainfall, between 600 and 4000 mm each year.

Culture and Origins of its Name

The area around the lake was first inhabited by criollos (Creole people), and later by European immigrants in the first part of the 20th century. The 1971 and 1991 eruptions of the Hudson volcano severely affected local economy, especially sheep farming. The lake’s original tehuelce name used to be Chelenko, which meant “lake of storms”.

Tourism and Recreation

The easiest way to access the lake is from the Argentinian side, through a strip of plains which were first used by the Tehuelches, then by Francisco Moreno, the Argentine explorer. The National Route 40 created in the 1920’s also makes use of this path. The Chilean side was isolated for a long time, up until the 1990s, when the Carretera Austral was created, which connected the lake to other regions in Chile, allowing tourism to develop in the area. In this side a car ferry connects Puerto Ingeniero Ibanez to Chile Chico.

The area is mainly visited for Marble Caves, Marble Chapel and Marble Cathedral, a collection of exceptional geological formations in the center of the lake, representing a group of caves, columns and tunnels, formed in monoliths of marble. Boat tours to Marble Cave (located in the Capilla de Marmol Natural Sanctuary) leave from Puerto Tranquillo and Rio Ibanez. Tourists can also approach this wonder of nature via small boats or kayaks.

General Carrera Lake is known as a trout and salmonidae fishing destination, great for sport fishermen. Angling is practiced throughout the year, although there’s a catch and release policy in the close season. Brown trout and rainbow trout catches are exceptionally great, since they can grow up to weigh 5-6 kilos.

Lake Buenos Aires / General Carrera Lake Fish Species

Trout