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Surrounded by stunning Patagonian mountainsides and forested landscapes, Lake Gutierrez, or Lago Gutierrez in Spanish, is a sliver-shaped glacial lake located in a valley just seven miles southwest of the city of San Carlos de Bariloche. A part of the Rio Negro province -- also known as the Argentinian Lake District -- the crystal-clear lake has a surface area of 4,052 acres, and is surrounded by three pristine mountain peaks: Otto, Catedral, and Ventana.
Lake Gutierrez's maximum depth is 365 feet, with an average depth of about 262 feet. Water temperatures are considered moderate for the area, with an average temperature of 45 degrees Fahrenheit. This sparkling blue body of water is moraine-dammed, meaning that melted water is prevented from leaving the valley by an accumulation of excess glacial soil and rock. This debris can be volatile, particularly during hot months when the ice is melting -- putting the surrounding areas at a high risk of flooding.
Due to its clear and relatively mild waters, Lake Gutierrez is one of the most visited lakes in Argentina. Horseback riding, boating, and kayaking are popular activities at Gutierrez Lake, along with hiking and wildlife watching. Additionally, San Carlos de Bariloche offers superb shopping and a lively nightlife scene. Lakeside real estate and vacation rentals are plentiful, and feature gorgeous properties that range in style from from comfortably vintage to luxuriously modern.
Fishing is plentiful at Lake Gutierrez, and anglers come from far and wide to trawl these waters. Rainbow trout, brown trout, and brook trout are the most commonly found species of fish. The mouth of Pescadero (Fishmonger) stream and the shores surrounding the ranger station are the best places to search for these salmonids. Interestingly, the area also provides a habitat for two odd marine birds: the Kelp Gull and the Blue Eyed Cormorant. The lakes at Nahuel Huapi National Park are the only non-salt bodies of water in the world in which these two avian species thrive.
Lake Gutierrez is a part of the Nahuel Huapi National Park, the oldest national park in Argentina. Created in 1934, the protected zone is composed of 2,722 square miles of protected land ranging from 2,296 to 9,842 feet in altitude. Stunning mountain vistas and an incredibly rich array of flora and fauna characterize the preserve. Due to its proximity to the largest ski center in Patagonia, the 7,834-foot Catedral Mountain, skiing and snowboarding are also exceptional pastimes at the lake. The hub features 27 major lifts, 42 miles of trails, and 1,482 acres of skiable land. Ski season runs from June to October each year.
The ancient indigenous Mapuche tribes in the area called Lake Gutierrez "green lake" (carre-lauquen), and in some cases "large lake." Argentine explorer Francisco Pascasio Morena touchingly dubbed it with its modern name in honor of his tutor and adviser, Juan Maria Gutierrez. Pascasio was also known as the perito, or expert. He went on to explore Lake Nahuel Huapi, to which Lake Gutierrez is connected via the Gutierrez stream. Local legend dictates that Nahuelito, an ancient snake-like creature much like Scotland's Loch Ness Monster, inhabits these waters. Sightings of Nahuelito date back to 1938 with intermittent sightings continuing to the present, so the legend lives on.
A trip to Gutierrez Lake is sure to satisfy nature lovers from far and wide. For North Americans, it not only provides a unique opportunity to experience a Spanish speaking culture - but it also offers a chance to take advantage of the Southern Hemisphere's reverse seasons; ski fanatics can hit the slopes year round, and sun worshipers will find a welcome sanctuary during the north's cold winter months.
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