Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Chimehuin River and Grasslands Fieldwork

I've spent the last several days at a freshwater workshop with many groups from the Province of Neuquén, Patagoina. They are rallying for conservation efforts along the Chimehuin River near the town of Junín de los Andes in Argentina. This river is famous around the world for its fly fishing and they are interested in establishing strategies to keep this river healthy and beautiful both for the tourists who visit here and the local people who rely on the river.

On the second day of the workshop, we were able to visit the mouth of the river at Lake Huechulafquen in Lanín National Park. It is a majestic area with a wide open lake at the base of Lanin, a perfectly coned shaped snow capped volcano. Near the area we stopped to gaze the horizon, several dozen Araucaria (monkey puzzle) trees were growing at the lake shore. I kept thinking how beautiful and untouched this area was compared to anything I had seen in the states. However, I quickly learned that the very corner of the lake I was standing on was platted for 5,000 individuals lots as well as plans for a paved road to the national park and electricity lines.

We made many more stops along the Chimehuin River that day, including a stop near a dump. I was shocked to see thousands of plastic bags caught by the wind in trees near the river's edge. The trash unattractively decorated them like Christmas ornaments. One of the most beautiful rivers in Patagonia wasn't looking so good. This is one of the many issues the freshwater group is working to solve to keep their river beautiful and healthy.

The hosteria (very similar to a small inn or bed and breakfast) my coworkers and I stayed in was very quaint a nice. Junin is a much smaller town than Bariloche, but it was a very cute town with nice shops and restaurants, catering very much to its tourist base. The people I met there were very friendly and welcoming. Argentinians love their mate. They also love their meat. I had a really good steak one night with a green onion cream sauce and delicious wine.

Today, I spent the morning at estancia Fortin Chacabuco, a private land estate near Bariloche. I helped a coworker collect grasslands data at the property to help understand overgrazing patterns (by sheep and deer). It was an incredibly beautiful place, but also very windy. The ash from the erupting volcano was especially harsh requiring us to wear face masks. Fortunately, last night it rained so we were given a small window of the day to be out and about ash free.

Below are pictures to share from the last several days. Enjoy!

Above. At the mouth of the Chimehuin River.

Above. A recreational map of the area surrounding Junín de los Andes, Argentina.

Above. Lake Huechulafquen in Lanín National Park. Volcano Lanin is in the background.

Above. A picture of myself near the Araucaria trees.

Above. Patagonian grasslands near Bariloche.

Above. Effects of ash on grasslands. Grasslands in the effected area at this time of the year are suppose to be green. Animals, including deer and sheep, are no longer able to graze here.

Above. Junín de los Andes from the conference center window. Doesn't this scence look like it could be of Washington or Oregon!?

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