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South America’s Yellowstone Park

Very few people today are familiar with the incredible life of the conservationists Douglas Tompkins. This filmmaker and businessman spent his entire fortune buying pieces of land in Chile to make his very own National Park. He was inspired by the creation of Yellowstone Park in the US. He started this venture in 1989. He bought from Chile and Argentina over 2 million acres of land. This made him one of the largest private land-owners in the world. He founded this park, to help wildlife recover, in an effort to save the biodiversity of this region. The national park is known as North Face. It was located in the farmlands of Patagonia. He allowed nature to retake these farmlands, and in three decades the land had returned to its original form. Last year, on December 25, the owner made headlines after dying from hypothermia. He was enjoying his own creation, by kayaking. While doing this sport, he suffered an accident which led to his death. Today, few people realize the important of Tompkins, and what North Face means to the environment. During the formative years, Tompkins hired a small army of laborers and experts to remove fences. With their help, he made bridges, hiking paths, lookouts, campsites and lodges. He intended on donating the finished product to both countries in the form of a new National Park. He wanted the government to offer endangered species a place to thrive, not place to merely survive. Even after his death, the Tompkins Conservation in Chile is pressuring the government to donate more land to the cause. The Director Carolina Morgado is hoping to honor the legacy of the founder. In the Capital of Santiago, one of the Tompkins Foundation nature reserves has been completed. The Pumalin Park has 11 hiking trails. They pass through one of the largest South American temperate rainforest. It also has three large waterfalls, two volcanoes, hot springs, and a glacial lagoon. The floral species are endemic to that region. It even has an endangered Alerce tree that is over 3000 years old. This tree is related to the California Giant Redwoods. As of now, the Tompkins Foundation is completing its second major conservation project. This one is called Patagonia Park. It is located in the valley between the Patagonian Steppe and the Andean forest. This region has come to be known as the South America Yellowstone Park. It has plenty of wildlife, like flamingos, pumas and heumul deer. So far, the park has 80,000 hectares. The Foundation is trying to merge the park with the Jeinimeni and the Tamango national reserves. This merger will make it larger than Chile’s Torres del Paine National Park. The Patagonian Park does not get that many tourists. They usually see 330 campers between Winter and Spring. The issue is that the park is quite remote. One has to pass through 800 kilometers of unpaved roads. Still, the remoteness is ideal for campers who desire a bit of privacy. The road leading toward the park also has some interesting sights. Tourists can see llamas and alpacas running through the fields. This is a rare sight, since these animals have been almost hunted near extinction. There are about 3,500 guanacos or South American camels in the Patagonian Park. Their numbers are slowly growing. From the headquarters of the park, visitors can choose from three hiking trails. There are still three others under construction. The trails in La Vega pass through wetlands, 2 campsites and the Andean forests. The High Lagoons trail is a bit more challenging. Most of the challenges are caused by the occasional puma that pays a visit to the campers. Still, with a proper guide the experience should be relatively safe. In that park, visitors can sometimes spot the Andean Condors. They tend to hover over the area looking for food. They have a wingspan of 3.5 meters. Since these birds are so big, they have a hard time flapping their wings. Instead, they choose to glide about, letting the current heave their massive frames. They usually fly about in the middle of the day. The warm currents help them stay suspended in the air. The trails can also lead eco tourists up the mountain. So be ready for plenty of snow depending on the time you chose to visit. It takes about 3 hours to climb up the Andes. From there, viewers can see the Glacial Lakes. They have a unique feel to them, even if the temperature is a bit cold. Truly, this is one of the best wildlife excursions of South America. Like any good nature project, the Tompkins Foundation has run into plenty of problems. Small ranchers claim they were pressured into selling their land. Since the park works so well for wildlife, the number of pumas has risen. As a result, pumas have started attacking the life stock of humans. The farmers cannot do anything about the pumas because the Tompkins’ rangers protect the pumas. Other critiques come from Chilean Nationalists. They cannot see the good intentions of the Tompkins Foundation. Instead, they describe it as foreign interference. Some even claim that Tompkins was actually working for the CIA. Other nuts think he was trying to make a second Israel. Other concerns are genuine since, maintaining a National Park is pricy for a developing country. These interesting facts should not put off tourists. The park is in pristine condition, and travelers will see plenty of wildlife. Still, it is important to know the bit of controversy revolving the creation of this wonderful National Park.

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