South America > Argentina

Nahuel Huapi Lake: A Jewel in Patagonia

lakeNahuel Huapi Lake
countryArgentina
surface area529 km2
maximum depth438 m
average depth157 m
lake typeGlacial
length76 km
width11 km
catchment area3,990 km2
altitude769 m
volume83 km3
inflowsHuemul river, Correntoso river, Bonito river, Machete river
outflowsLimay River
shore length442 km
mixing typeMonomictic
settlementsSan Carlos de Bariloche, Villa La Angostura
residence time5,976 days
frozenNever freezes
originGlacial
average discharge160 m3 / sec.

Nahuel Huapi Lake Information and Facts

Nahuel Huapi Lake (in Spanish: Lago Nahuel Huapí) is a lake in northern Patagonia, Argentina, located between the Río Negro and Neuquén provinces, in the wooded foothills of the Andes.

The lake’s depression is made out of several glacial valleys that were carved along faults and Miocene valleys which were dammed by moraines. The area surrounding the lake forms the Nahuel Huapi National Park (7,050 km²), which was established in 1934, making it the oldest national park in Argentina.

The lake is a popular tourist destination for fishing, kayaking, boating, mountaineering, etc. Anglers from all over the world visit the lake for the several species of trout that can be found here, like brook trout, brown trout and rainbow trout. Also, kayaking is a very popular sport not only on Nahuel Huapi, but in the entire area.

Geography and Hydrology

Nahuel Huapi Lake has a surface area of 529 km2 (204 sq mi), a maximum depth of 438 meters (1,437 feet) and sits at an altitude of 770 meters. It has a number of fjords and 7 branches: Blest (36 km²), Tristeza (18.5 km²), Campanario (7.9 km²), Huemul (21.5 km²), Última Esperanza, del Rincón and Machete. It also has several islands, and the biggest of them is Isla Victoria with a surface area of 31 km². The Andes reach a height of 3,491 near the lake, in Mount Tronador.

An Incredibly Beautiful Landscape

Nahuel Huapi is connected to smaller lakes such as: Correntoso, Espejo, Gutiérrez and Moreno. Mountains surround almost its entire coastline, forming an incredibly beautiful landscape. The lake features a succession of coves and bays, sandy beaches, steep promontories, perpendicular cliffs, and isthmuses and peninsulas covered in forests. The lake forms one of the most beautiful landscapes in South America.

The lake’s beautiful clear waters are very sensitive to climate changes. The average water temperature at the surface is 7° C (45° F), which can make it dangerous for bathers. The lake never freezes, and it has a monomictic mixing type, occasionally holomictic. The lake is the source of the Limay River, which then joins the Neuquén and Negro rivers.

San Carlos de Bariloche

The international city of San Carlos de Bariloche (population: 113,450) is the main city near the lake, on its southeastern shore. It emerged as a major tourist destination starting with the 1940s. Boasting numerous trekking, skiing, and mountaineering facilities, it attracts lots of tourists every year.

Island of the Jaguar

The lake’s name is derived from the Mapuche language, in which "nahuel" means "puma" or "jaguar", and "huapí" means "island". It was discovered in 1670 by Nicolás Mascardi, a Jesuit priest who  built a chapel on the lake’s Huemul Peninsula.

Flora

Some of the most important plant species include California bulrush, coontail and water milfoil.

Fauna

The most important species of fish that inhabit the lake are the brook trout, the brown trout (introduced) and the rainbow trout. Other species include the largemouth perch, the velvet catfish, and common galaxias (inanga).

Is is home for the blue eyed cormorant and the kelp gull, which are strictly marine birds, which is unusual for a lake at high altitude which is far from the ocean.

Nahuelito - Nahuel Huapi’s Nessie

Nahuelito is the name of Lake Nahuel Huapi’s Nessie. Rumors of its existence started to appear at the beginning of the 20th century, and there were reported sightings even before Nessie.

Mapuche, the local aborigines, also speak of another creature named el Cuero (leather), because of its smooth skin. Lago Lácar, a lake close to Nahuel Huapi, is also supposedly the home of another creature, consistent with a plesiosaur. It is described as a sea-cow with lots of teeth around it.

Currently, there is no evidence to support Nahuelito’s existence.