Valdivian Coastal Reserve
Photos by Don and Lois Porter

Note: There ARE photos below, after the text...

On Monday and Tuesday, February 20 and 21, 2006, we visited the Reserva Costera Valdiviana, some 40km south and west from Valdivia. We learned of this project a year ago from our longstanding connection with The Nature Conservancy. After we had settled in in Valdivia, we visited the local offices of The Nature Conservancy and World Wildlife Fund, where we met Alfredo Almonacid, Administrador de Sitio, Reserva Costera Valdiviana. Alfredo very graciously alerted the park rangers when we were coming so they could assist us.

We rented a car in Valdivia, and drove to Niebla early Monday morning. We caught the first ferry, at 8:10am, across the bay to Corral. From there we drove to Chaihuin, arriving at the park administration building about 10am. We had a very pleasant orientation from Pedro, a student working in the park service. Then we met Tina Buijs, the supervisor of the park rangers, who had reserved a cabin for us. Pedro took us to a spacious and pleasant cabin, where we checked in with Esther, our hostess. Then he led us to the cross road he had told us about – some 7km into the park from the administration building. We drove another 16km of rutted dirt road on our own, and arrived at the trailhead, in the “Sector Colún”. We had our lunch there, then walked the trail down to the 9 Km long Colún Beach. After strolling an hour on the magnificent beach, without seeing another person, we took the other trail, to a beautiful lookout point above the Twin Lakes. Later, we visited another beach at the mouth of the Rio Chaihuin near the administration building and walked out to the ocean, enjoying spectacular scenery.

Tuesday morning we enjoyed a sumptuous breakfast provided by Esther. At 9am we were back at the park administration building, where Tina introduced us to Erick, an experienced ranger, who was our guide for the morning. Erick climbed into our little rental car and we set out to see a stand of 1,000+ year old Alerces. They are located about 14 kilometers from the entrance to the reserve. There are others that are inaccessible by road. In fact, Erick says that 83% of the trees are native. The logging company that used to own the land planted the Eucalyptus, which seems omnipresent since it is everywhere where the logging roads (and access) exist. But we made it to the Alerce grove, and were delighted and impressed with the spectacular old trees. Perhaps because there had been rain overnight, we were treated to two sightings of creatures that are quite rare—a Darwin’s frog and a huge snail (the largest in Chile). It was only the second time that Erick has seen either of these creatures, and he has worked in the reserve for over two years. So he was excited, and so were we. Of course we would never have seen them if Erick had not pointed them out to us.

We were really impressed with the kindness, openness and knowledge of all of the folks associated with the Reserva Costera Valdiviana. With the addition of this area, the percentage of coastal native forest in Chile that is protected has grown from 2 % to 15%. The Nature Conservancy, the WWF and other organizations contributed toward the cost of purchasing this land from the loggers. The Chilean governmental agency devoted to the environment provides essential assistance (quite a change from the former military government of Chile!). Much work remains to be done. Eventually, over time, the hope is to replace the 13,000 acres currently bare or planted with eucalyptus, with native growth. Then the entire 147,500 acres will be restored to its natural state. What a treasure!

For more on The Nature Conservancy in Chile, see: Valdivian Coastal Range, and Saving Ancient Forests in Chile

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