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Nahuel Huapi Lake

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Nahuel Huapi Lake is a lake in the lake region of northern Patagonia between the provinces of Río Negro and Neuquén, in Argentina. The tourist center of Bariloche is on the southern shore of the lake.

The June 2011 eruption of the Puyehue-Cordón Caulle volcanic complex, in neighboring Chile, caused parts of the lake’s surface to be blanketed in volcanic ash.

During the Last Glacial Maximum of the Llanquihue glaciation, the lake basin was wholly occupied by a glacier.

The name of the lake derives from the toponym of its major island in Mapudungun (Mapuche language): “Island of Puma”, from nahuel, “puma”, and huapí, “island”. There is, however, more to the word “Nahuel” – it can also signify “a man who by sorcery has been transformed to a puma”.

Nahuel Huapi lake, located within the Nahuel Huapi National Park, has a surface of 530 km2 (200 sq mi), rests 2,510 feet (770 m) above the sea level, and has a maximum measured depth (as of 2007) of 1,522 feet (464 m).

The lake depression consists of several glacial valleys carved out along faults and Miocene valleys that were later dammed by moraines.

Its seven branches are named Blest (36 km²), Huemul (21.5 km²), de la Tristeza (18.5 km²), Campanario (7.9 km²), Machete, del Rincón and Última Esperanza. It is connected to other smaller lakes such as Gutiérrez, Moreno, Espejo, and Correntoso. The deep-blue waters hold a number of islands, most notably Isla Victoria with an area of 31 km², and Isla Huemul on the south end of the lake.

A curious fact about the lake is that, despite being nowhere near any ocean and being at high altitude, it is also home for kelp gull and the blue-eyed cormorant (Phalacrocorax atriceps), otherwise strictly marine birds.

The lake’s crystal clear waters are very susceptible to climate changes and have an average surface temperature of 45 °F (7 °C); this makes it both beautiful and treacherous. Hypothermia is one of the risks bathers must undertake. Kayaking is a popular sport on this and adjacent lakes. The lake is also the starting point of the Limay River.

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An image from Nahuel Huapi Lake

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