Near Puerto Varas

A paradise for birds - and birdwatchers - in Chile’s Lake District

Endangered choroy parrots, colorful chucaos, hued-hueds and the local comesebo woodpecker are some of the 104 species protected in the Maullín River Bird Sanctuary.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011  
From the banks of the Maullín River. (Photo: pangal1/Flickr) From the banks of the Maullín River. (Photo: pangal1/Flickr)

A unique business initiative, with help by the Chilean Economic Development Agency (Corfo), is taking steps to preserve the diverse wetlands of the Maullín River, which springs from the Llanquihue Lake and winds 50 miles (85 km) to the Maullín Bay.

The Maullín River Bird Sanctuary is home to a reported 104 species of birds, and encompasses meadows, forests, and lagoons as well as the riparian habitat of the Maullín River. The bird sanctuary includes trails and observation points, as well as informative signs and knowledgeable guides on the region’s flora and fauna.

Visitors to the south will find that the sanctuary makes a perfect side trip as they explore the charming landscape of Chile’s Los Lagos region. The park is accessible by car from the town of Llanquihue, about 7 miles (11 kilometers) away, or from Puerto Varas, only about 11 miles (18 kilometers) away. From highway 5, head west on the small rural highway 40, and then turn south on highway 86. Entrance to the park costs CP$1,500 (US$3).

The Mödinger Hermanos opened the bird sanctuary in 2006 as a way to preserve the area’s unique wetland habitat as well as position Llanquihue and the Los Lagos region on the ecotourism trail in southern Chile.

The Mödinger Hermanos own the artesanal pork company Cecinas Llanquihue, an historic operation dating to German colonists in the 1800’s. In recent years, the Mödinger Hermanos have taken steps to ameliorate the environmental effects of raising pigs with initiatives like a special worm-based filtration system, as well as the bird sanctuary.