Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego (Tierra del Fuego National Park) is a national park on the Argentine part of the island of Tierra del Fuego, in southwest Tierra del Fuego Province in the ecoregion of Patagonic Forest and Altos Andes, a part of the subantarctic forest. The park was established on 15 October 1960 and expanded in 1966. It was the first shoreline national park to be established in Argentina.
“The Beagle Channel or strait in Tierra del Fuego National Park is named after the British ship HMS Beagle, which sailed with the explorer Charles Darwin aboard in 1833–34. The channel separates islands of the Tierra del Fuego Archipelago, in extreme southern South America. It separates Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego from the islands of Nueva, Picton, Navarino, Hoste, Londonderry, Stewart, and other smaller islands to the south. It is oriented in an east-west direction, runs for a length of 150 miles (240 km).” –Wikipedia
The park has dramatic scenery, with waterfalls, forests, mountains and glaciers. Only a fraction of the park’s 155,676 acres (63,000 hectares) is open to the public – a micro-system of trails along the park’s rivers or through dense native forests rewards visitors with magnificent scenes.
The main island of the Tierra del Fuego archipelago was first occupied by man some 10,000 years ago. In what is now Tierra del Fuego National Park lived the native Yamana people. Their camps were above the beaches of the Beagle Channel where they could harvest the resources of the sea. They moved around in small canoes made from laths and sheets of bark of the Lenga (Nothofagus pumilio), hunting sea-lions and harvesting molluscs, mainly two species of mussels. Their shelters were temporary dome-shaped huts made of leafy branches and boughs.
The extinction of the Yamanas is a direct result of their contact with the first Europeans and “criollos” explorers since 1890. The main cause of the disappearance of these cultures appears to have been disease. According to various chronicles, they were also hunted down by explorers and poisoned by colonists and sealers in order to have easy access to sea-lion colonies. Population statistics are eloquent: of the 3,000 Yamanas who were living at the time of the arrival of the Europeans, there were but 1,000 ten years later and by 1910 there were but 100.