Laguna San Rafael National Park
is a park located on the Pacific
coast of southern Chile
. The park is named for the San Rafael Lagoon
formed by the retreat of the San Rafael Glacier
. Created in 1959, it covers an area of 17,420 km² (6,726 square miles) and includes the Northern Patagonian Ice Field
. A fjord
more than 10 miles long is one of the park's principle attractions.
The first non-indigenous exploration of the Laguna San Rafael was done in the year 1675. The glacier of the same name was a land-terminating glacier during that time. It probably reached again the lagoon at some time between 1741 and 1766, and it has been a tidewater glacier since that date.
The park was designated a World Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 1979.
The park comprises some of the higher mountains of Patagonia
, such as the Monte San Valentín
, Cerro Arenales
, Cerro Hyades
and Cerro Pared Norte
This park contains a number of rivers. San Tadeo River is located in the Isthmus of Ofqui and flows into San Quintín Bay, in the north part of the Gulf of Penas. Also there are various rivers bordering the park, as are the Baker River and the Exploradores River. Témpanos River (not really a river) connects San Rafael Lagoon with the Gulf Elefantes, the southern part of Moraleda Channel.
Presidente Ríos Lake spans the border between the park and Las Guaitecas National Reserve.
Average annual precipitation at Cabo Raper (lat 46°50'S.), on the open coast of the Taitao Peninsula
, is about 2,000 mm. In the interior of fjords and channels, precipitation is higher, similar to that in the Los Lagos Region
of Chile. At the meteorological station of Laguna San Rafael (lat 46°37'S.), the mean annual precipitation during the years 1981-85 was 4,440 mm. At higher elevations, the precipitation increase is significant and is in the form of snow on the Northern Patagonian Ice Field, being recorded over 6,000 mm of annual precipitation.
Several species of birds find shelter in the park, including Black-browed Albatrosses
, Great Grebes
, Black-necked Swans
. The wildlife in this area also include Chilean Dolphins
, Sea Lions
, Marine Otters
and Elephant Seals