The Patagonia Project works to conserve large areas of Patagonian Steppe and plateaus, recover large vertebrates and their ecological niches, and assist local wildlife watching tourism projects.
Surface area of Patagonia Park, Argentina
Surface of Patagonia Park (in process)
Northeast of Argentina’s Santa Cruz Province
Steppe, with high plateaus, large lakes, and glacial valleys
Highlighted conservation values
Representative sample of the Pinturas River plateaus and ravines; populations of endangered, rare, or endemic species such as the hooded grebe, the austral rail, the Patagonian weasel; healthy populations of guanacos, pumas, lesser rheas, and other large Patagonian vertebrates
The Buenos Aires Lake Plateau and the shorelines of the Buenos Aires and Pueyrredón Lakes, the provincial scenic Route 41—also known as the Camino del Zaballos— spectacular samples of varied volcanic formations and the Cueva de las Manos Provincial Park, which is home to 9,000 year-old cave paintings.
1313.87 billion metric tons
Parks and Communities Coordinator
Rocío was born in Perito Moreno, Santa Cruz. She joined the foundation in 2018 to manage the project’s local communication. More recently, she coordinates the institutional relationships with Patagonia Park’s neighboring communities..
Emanuel was awarded a park ranger certificate from the National University of Misiones. In 2012 volunteered for the Iberá Project to reintroduce the giant anteater, and joined the Rewilding Argentina team as a field assistant in Rincón de Socorro, for the same project. He ran the programs to reintroduce the giant anteater, pampas deer, collared peccary, and tapir in Rincón de Socorro from 2014 to 2018, when he moved to the Santa Cruz Province to coordinate conservation programs in Patagonia Park, where he currently lives and works.
Created with the vision of ensuring a conservation corridor in the Atlantic and Pacific basins, Patagonia Park, Argentina, with its nature-based tourism infrastructure and abundant native wildlife, continually increased by rewilding, is helping to develop the local economy through wildlife observation.
Argentina’s Patagonia Park, which is located in the northeast of the Santa Cruz Province, protects a unique environment of the Patagonian Steppe, which has towering basalt buttes, multiple lagoons and volcanic cones, and expansive, deep ravines that invite visitors to explore them in detail. The endemic and rare species that live there drive us to preserve a significant sample of this unique ecosystem.
Hundreds of petroglyphs made by ancestral guanaco-hunting populations, whose etchings of landscapes and enormous herds of guanaco—which defined their culture–remain intact atop the Buenos Aires Lake Plateau.
Patagonia Park and the economy of nature
This region is unique in beauty and is rich in opportunity, but is very vulnerable to climate change and land overuse. While the productive history of this province was based in sheepherding, in the recent decades, many sheep farms were abandoned due to volcanic eruptions ash fall, or due to the declining productivity of the soil and the difficulty of finding qualified people to do farmwork. Work in other fields, such as mining and export-quality fruit in northern Patagonia are better paid, which has affected the region’s traditional productive matrix.
This situation requires a new approach to production. With the presence of Patagonia Park, local people benefit from the economy of nature by providing wildlife observation tourism services, wildlife conservation and restoration, and new commercial ventures boosted by the Park’s brand.
We envision uniting this protected area with Patagonia Park, Chile, on the Argentine border, to form a large binational park and nature-based tourism destination, transcending human borders with the goal of conserving Patagonia’s natural and cultural values. With this in mind, together with other organizations we continue to work to expand the protected area of Patagonia Park.
How Argentina’s Patagonia Park was created
The idea to project the region where the last reproductive population of hooded grebe survives came from researchers from the area northeast of Santa Cruz.
In 2007 locals from Los Antiguos urged national authorities to protect the Buenos Aires Lake basin from gold mining projects. In that time, two organizations, Aves Argentinas and Ambiente Sur, recounted the number of hooded grebes in the western Santa Cruz Plateau, which had been surveyed years earlier by Fundación Vida Silvestre Argentina, and advocated for the creation of a national park in one of those key areas for the species.
In 2009 an area of public land in the Buenos Aires Lake Plateau that contained environments important for the hooded grebe was discovered. The executive branch and legislators from the Province of Santa Cruz both supported the creation of a national park on the plateau.
In 2012, Rewilding Argentina acquired El Sauco Ranch, which is home to one of the most important nesting sites for the hooded grebe, to later donate it to the state for conservation purposes. The following year, the Province of Santa Cruz ceded jurisdiction to the national government and in 2014 Patagonia National Park was created by law.
In 2017 we began an arduous restoration and nature-based tourism infrastructure development process in the La Ascensión Gateway, a former sheep farm. In December of that year the gateway was opened to the public.
In 2019 Rewilding Argentina donated the land to the National Parks Administration to create the La Ascensión Wild National Reserve, with forty kilometers of trails and infrastructure that access the Buenos Aires Lake and the Buenos AIres Lake Plateau.
In 2019 we opened the Cañadón Pinturas Gateway with free public access and nature trails for wildlife viewing. We also repaired the archaeological heritage site Cueva de las Manos. In this year the foundation also donated 600 hectares to the provincial government to create the Cueva de las Manos Provincial Park, which surrounds the archaeological site.
In 2021 we began construction for the Elsa Rosenvasser Feher Interpretative Center and Planetarium in the Cañadón Pinturas Gateway. Working together with Freyja Foundation, by 2022 this gateway had forty kilometers of trails and eight species are recovering via rewilding.
In Patagonia Park, Argentina we work together with Freyja Foundation to recover species from the Patagonian Steppe through monitoring and active wildlife management, environmental restoration, eradication of invasive species, and outreach.
The Patagonian Steppe of Santa Cruz, which today is protected in part by Patagonia Park, Argentina, is not immune to the extinction of species and population reductions seen in the rest of Argentina. The huemul and southern river otter disappeared regionally, while the Wolffsohn’s viscacha, coypu, and austral rail suffered local extinction, reducing their numbers and negatively impacting population connectivity. Other species such as the puma, guanaco, lesser rhea, and Andean condor, the greatest examples of land-based wildlife in Patagonia, have also suffered drastic population reductions.
As a result, key ecological processes such as depredation and migrations have been altered, leading to profound negative impacts on the environment. In dry Patagonia our objectives include reintroducing species that are currently absent and increasing the numbers of species that are present but have severely reduced populations, with the final goal of reestablishing the typical ecological processes of the steppe.
El Unco Biological Station
The Pinturas Canyon is a unique environment with imposing rock walls up to 300 meters high. The Pinturas River flows through it, springing from the Buenos Aires Lake Plateau and filling every corner of the canyon with life.
However, many of the most emblematic species of this environment have disappeared or suffered a significant population reduction due to human activity. The presence of invasive flora and overgrazing by domestic livestock have reduced the area covered by rushes, which are islands of biodiversity in the arid steppe and home to hundreds of birds.
At El Unco Biological Station, we work through an innovative rewilding project to research, study, and recover the original steppe wildlife and restore the splendor and proper functioning of this ecosystem.
Camera traps are a fundamental tool to learn about wildlife behavior in Patagonia Park. Photo: Rafa Abuin
The species we work with in Patagonia Park
In the Pinturas Canyon we are working to learn about and value the ecological role of this great predator and turn it into a valuable anchor for local development through wildlife observation tourism.
In Patagonia Park we work to recover the spectacle of the great migrations of this species, between its summertime haunts in the plateaus and its wintering spots in the canyons.
Together with the guanaco, the huemul is one of the great herbivores of Patagonia. In the past it populated the Patagonian Steppe, including the Pinturas Canyon, where it was commonly present until the end of the 1800s as noted by numerous explorers who traveled through this area.
In Patagonia Park, Argentina, we are working to recover the populations of the Wolffsohn’s viscacha in the rocky walls, from which it has disappeared due to human activity, specifically hunting.
In Patagonia Park Argentina we are working to recover the degraded reed beds, from which the austral rail has disappeared, in order to reintroduce individuals and generate new populations.
The swift steppe runner
The lesser rhea (Rhea pennata) is the second largest running flightless bird of the Americas. It lives in the Patagonian Steppe and feeds mainly on plants and invertebrates. It can reach a meter in height and weigh up to thirty kilograms. The male incubates and takes care of the chicks of several females in the same brood.
Our rewilding team works to eliminate the threats that have caused the decline in population numbers in Patagonia Park, increase its numbers, and generate source populations that will be utilized to reintroduce the species to other sites where it has been eliminated.
By 2022 our team working in Patagonia Park, Argentina, has fitted thirteen lesser rheas with GPS collars that provide important information about the spatial ecology of the species.
A small large predator
The pampas cat (Leopardus colocolo) is a round-headed, long-haired feline with a robust body, short legs, and pointed ears. Its front feet have dark horizontal stripes, and its tail has incomplete or diffuse rings of the same color, while its back is a yellowish gray. It is a versatile predator that eats terrestrial birds and mice and other small rodents.
In Patagonia Park, Argentina, we are working to learn about and value the ecological role of some of the most effective predators for the regulation of rodent populations.
The gardener of the steppe
The coypu (Myocastor coypus) is a large rodent, weighing up to ten kilos with thick brown fur with a white patch on its snout. Its large incisors are an eye-catching orange.
Its range encompasses the Deseado River basin, including the Pinturas and Ecker Rivers and the Caracoles Canyon wetlands. Hunting for its fur and the disappearance of aquatic vegetation caused its disappearance in extensive sectors of the Santa Cruz Province.
In the wetlands of the Patagonian Steppe we work to recover the populations that have disappeared from the Pinturas River and Caracoles Canyon sectors.
The sentinel of the Andes
The Andean condor (Vultur gryphus) is the largest flying bird in the world, reaching a wingspan of three meters and weighing up to fifteen kilograms. It can travel hundreds of kilometers in a single day by soaring on rising thermal currents. Its adult plumage is black, with white feathers near its neck and the back of its wings. The head is featherless and the males have a fleshy crest. It feeds on carrion, and therefore fulfills a key role in disease prevention in the areas where it lives.
At Patagonia Park, Argentina, we work to put an end to indiscriminate predator control through illegal use of poison, which results in widespread death among this magnificent bird. We also seek to protect the extensive territories that the Andean condor needs to survive.
At Patagonia Park Argentina’s gateways we work together with other organizations in the design and development of public access nature-based tourism infrastructure and supporting local ventures based on hiking and wildlife watching.
Two national parks of the same name, surrounded by iconic routes, such as Route 40 (Argentina) and the Carretera Austral (Chile) and scenic spur roads, such as Routes 41 and 43 in Argentina, make this region, which includes the northeast of the Santa Cruz Province, a binational destination perfect for nature-based tourism.
The border crossings located on the shores of the Buenos Aires and Pueyrredón Lakes, which Chile and Argentina share, comprise a circuit of 600 kilometers within a 12,000-square kilometer territory that allows visitors to learn about geological, historical, and cultural processes unique to this area in the Santa Cruz Province and in its Chilean counterpart.
In addition to offering a tremendous diversity of geological landscape, glaciers, lakes, and rivers, as well as the various environments that place this destination among the most beautiful of the region, this circuit invites visitors to learn about the history of the first human settlements here, through cave paintings, petroglyphs, and numerous archaeological sites in the Caracoles and Pinturas canyons and in the Buenos Aires Lake Plateau.
In the future, this tourist destination will be known as well for the abundance of wildlife and the chance to observe enormous migrations of guanacos, along with other species and their associated predators. Along the Binational Patagonia Park Circuit, visitors will be able to admire a complete ecosystem and immerse themselves in the vastness and abundance of a region that was once home to the “guanaco culture.”
Working together with local and provincial authorities, and with media support to promote the region, Patagonia Park has everything it needs to become one of the most recognized natural and cultural destinations in South America, offering a new development alternative in wildlife watching for neighboring communities.
Read more at: parquepatagoniaargentina.org
In the La Ascensión and Cañadón Pinturas Gateways we work with the communities of Los Antiguos, Perito Moreno, and Lago Posadas on the development of productive ventures associated with nature-based tourism and public use of the park.
The economy of nature is a development model that offers sustainable opportunities based on conservation, recovery, and touristic positioning of the natural and cultural values of a region, as is the case in Patagonia Park, Argentina. Here, this model is fortified by wildlife observation, in addition to landscape and cultural attractions.
This approach encouraged the entrepreneurs of the La Ascensión Gateway to develop outdoor and food-related experiences, as well as to offer handicrafts for sale. At the Cañadón Pinturas Gateway we are developing nature tourism experiences based on wildlife watching, hiking, and environmental education, which have brought together neighboring communities to actively participate in the public-access of natural areas.
With the support of Santa Cruz Province’s Secretary of Tourism and Perito Moreno and Los Antiguos Directorates of Tourism, the guiding course offered new development opportunities to men and women who wish to thrive on their home land through the revaluation of wildlife, conducive to meeting the demand for nature-based tourism.
Patagonia Park Argentina’s Explorers Program
Designed and developed by Freyja Foundation and implemented by Rewilding Argentina, Patagonia Park Argentina’s Explorers Program combines environmental education with outdoor adventures to connect young people from the nearby communities with the park’s ecosystems.
The program promotes learning about the geological and anthropological history of the region, biodiversity and how the ecosystem works, different innovative conservation strategies, and how to read the night sky.
The long-term objective is for the young explorers to fall in love with nature so they seek to become allies and to protect it.