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One of the crown jewels in Chile's glittering Lake District is Lake Todos los Santos. This huge, nearly 43,000-acre lake, although off the beaten path, is one of the primary destinations for tourists in Chilean Patagonia. Part of an old water route across the Andes into Argentina, Lake Todos los Santos has been visited by European travelers since the missions of the Jesuit and Franciscan monks beginning in the early 1600s. The name translates in English to 'All-Saints Lake'. Monks used an inland route across a series of lakes and mountain passes to travel to Argentina in order to avoid possibly unfriendly native tribes. Today, Lago Todos los Santos is still a popular, scenic route connecting the Pacific coast in Chile to Lago Nahuel Haupi on the Argentina side of the Andes.
Located in one of Chile's most popular Central Region vacation areas, Lake Todos los Santos is a refreshing and serene change from busier nearby Lake Llanquihue. The lake lies entirely within the Vicente Perez Rosales National Park, within the Southern Temperate Rainforest. One of Chile's oldest national parks, Vicente Perez Rosales - along with adjacent Puyehue National Park in Chile and Nahuel Huapi and Lanin National Parks in Argentina - protect nearly 6,000 square miles of contiguous, pristine natural area across the Andes. Because there is limited development along the shoreline, the lake is a sought-after destination of nature lovers, photographers and fly fishermen.
Although travel along Lago Todos los Santos is limited mostly to ferry boat, two main lake ports - Petrohue at the western end and the village of Peulla at the eastern end - offer excellent accommodations to passengers arriving via ferry. The two towns are not connected by road. Several fishing and leisure resorts along the shoreline are also boat-accessible and offer excellent rooms and meals, although not much in the way of electricity. During periods of low water levels, the lake is well-supplied with sandy beaches that are popular for sun-bathing or even swimming for those daring to challenge the cold waters. Scuba diving is popular here as is hiking the many marked trails into the nearby forest.
Most visitors to Lake Todos los Santos arrive via the town of Puerto Montt on Reloncavi Sound, often by way of Puerto Varas on Lake Llanquihue, less than 50 miles away. A regular tourist service supplies transportation by bus and boat on Lake Llanquihue and Lake Todos los Santos and all the way to San Carlos De Bariloche, Argentina for those taking the full tour. Many however, remain at Puerto Varas to enjoy the ski slopes of the Osorno Ski Area, then move on to Petrohue to enjoy hiking, canyoneering, rafting, fly-fishing and horseback riding. One of the most scenic attractions near Petrohue is the Petrohue Waterfalls, a short distance downstream from the lake's outlet.
Surrounded by mountains, there is little flat land near Lake Todos los Santos, and most visitors come prepared to do some hiking into the virgin forest surrounding the lake. The protected forest shelters several interesting animals found only in the Patagonia region, including two varieties of marsupials, pudu deer, coipos (often called "nutria"), chilla (looks like a fox but is unrelated), puma, Southern River otter, and a number of waterfowl and shore birds including several varieties of grebes, cormorants, black-face Ibis and night herons among others.
Fly-fishing is popular at Lake Todos los Santos, as the clear cold lake is well-supplied with several varieties of sport fish, including rainbow trout, Atlantic salmon and coho salmon. Surprisingly, none of these varieties of fish are native to the lake. Because of repeated onslaughts of volcanic ash, which often killed off the fish, limited tributaries where fish could escape during these events, and the short lengths of the few inflowing tributaries, there has been little chance for native fishes to evolve or migrate into the lake. German settlers actively stocked the waters with their favored species, trout and salmon, which soon offered too much competition for the smaller native varieties. Today, the only native fishes in the lake are thought to be the perch trout and catfish. The lake is a perfect spot to spend a week or two fly-fishing, and fishing resorts are quite popular much of the year.
Kayakers enjoy the rugged shoreline and small tributaries, while photographers take advantage of the wide expanses of water reflecting the perfect cone of Osorno Volcano rising 8,700 feet above the western shore. There is one 250-acre island on the lake: Isla Margarita.
Leaving Osorno behind while traveling down the lake, visitors are greeted by the sight of two other massive snow-capped mountains: the Puntiagudo to the north, and the Tronador to the east. After a two-hour trip to the far eastern end, the small town of Puella nestles next to the main tributary flowing into the lake, the Rio Peulla. During the rainy season, a massive influx of water often causes the lake level to rise up to ten feet.
Originally gouged out of the surface by glaciers, Lake Todos los Santos was once part of a considerably larger water body as it was joined with what is now Lake Llanquihue. The eruption of Osorno Volcano separated the proto-lake into two separate lakes, with Osorno towering above them both. How long ago this separation occurred is unknown, but it is safe to speculate that it happened gradually and in several volcanic events. In several spots near the volcano, dead trees can still be seen standing underwater, indicating a sudden rise in water levels.
Many visitors see Lake Todos los Santos only in passing while touring the old Lakes Crossing route to San Carlos De Bariloche. But the wise vacationer makes Todos los Santos a destination in itself. Both the towns of Petrohue and Puella offer modern hotels and occasional seasonal rentals, while resorts and fishing camps offer lodgings in varying degrees of luxury. Some offer free-standing cabins, swimming pools and gourmet meals. Camping is available on the sandy beach near Petrohue, and tour guides offer a variety of treks, adventures and activities. Real estate may be available in the towns but seldom on the lakefront itself. Nearby Puerto Varas has a large number of lodgings choices, nightlife and opportunities for water sports and boating. Lake Todos los Santos is a never-to-be-forgotten experience just waiting for your arrival.
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