El Rincón | Perito Moreno National Park Expansion
37,050 acres/15,000 hectares
Douglas Tompkins first became intrigued by Perito Moreno National Park in 1968 as he passed by the area on a climbing expedition and saw the looming hulk of Cerro San Lorenzo above the Patagonian steppe. He didn’t actually visit the park until decades later, in 1991, when he and friends Yvon Chouinard and Rick Ridgeway explored the area.
Captivated by the park’s grandeur, the following year Tompkins negotiated the purchase of the 37,000-acre (15,000-hectare) Estancia El Rincón, a private inholding within Perito Moreno National Park. The goal for the purchase was to restore the ranch’s native grasslands, improve wildlife habitat, and eventually donate the land to expand Perito Moreno National Park. Efforts to add El Rincón to the Argentine parks system initially failed due to lack of interest from the government, and so the Conservation Land Trust, and later Conservacion Patagonica (to which the property had been conveyed,) waited for the right political moment. That came during the administration of President Christina Kirchner. Due to the leadership of Minister of Tourism Carlos Enrique Meyer, who oversaw the national parks administration, El Rincón was formally donated and added to Perito Moreno in 2013.
The Lacteo (“milky”) River runs through the main valley at El Rincón. The river is fed by the great glaciers covering Cerro San Lorenzo, one of the most majestic mountains in Patagonia. El Rincón is located on the southern slope of this mountain, the second-highest peak in the Patagonian Andes. Cerro San Lorenzo’s dramatic southeast face has tormented alpinists; it is of Himalayan proportions, exceedingly difficult and perilous, and remains unclimbed as of this writing.
Domestic livestock had overgrazed El Rincón since the land’s settlement by European pastoralists. In the nearly quarter century since the property was purchased for conservation and the livestock were removed, the grasslands at El Rincón have shown strong recovery, and the forest cover on each side of the valley is expanding. Biologists believe that the huemul, or South Andean deer, an endangered species, is beginning to recolonize the area, a welcome development. El Rincón and Perito Moreno National Park are an exceptional example of wilderness recovery and protection in an overdeveloped world.