The “El Pescador” Trail that winds through the amazing native forests within the Río Simpson National Reserve, was named in honor of the fishermen that frequent the banks of the River. It’s a quick drive from Coyhaique that offers changing landscapes that evolve from grasslands to temperate rain forest in the space of a few kilometers. Evergreen species abound along the trail, including coigüe, canelo, tepa, mañío, ciruelillo, quila and chilco.
The entrance for the Reserve and Trail-head are visible directly across from the Shrine of San Sebastian, 32 km north of Coyhaique on the road to Puerto Aysén. Here you can park, pay your access fee, and if you’re lucky, convince one of the Reserve’s park rangers to guide you on your walk through the forest and teach you about the diverse flora you will encounter. If a ranger is not available, check out the museum and arboretum which are also helpful guides to identifying local flora along the route.
For the first few paces of the hike you’ll be in a pine forest, part of an experimental reforestation initiative, but you’ll soon leave this behind and enter the native forests of the temperate rain forest ecosystem. You’ll border along the Simpson River for the entire hike, moving between calm and quiet areas and raging white waters, where lucky cormorants fish for trout in what is considered to be the fourth best river on the planet for fly-fishing.
If you are quiet and pay attention, you may be rewarded with sightings of some of the shyer forest birds like the chucao and throated huet-huet, whose singing provides the perfect harmonies to the river and the forest setting. If you’re a photographer, this trail is a great spot to capture these often elusive feathered friends.
The hike travels the same path that the early settlers used to move their carts and merchandise from the port in Puerto Aysén to the inland valleys, and if you keep close watch, you can spot vestiges of these times, like the pathways of tree trunks, called “envaralados”, that were constructed across wetlands and marshes. You’ll also pass a mysterious abandoned stone house covered with moss in the middle of the forest, that local historians are still trying to explain.
After the stone house, the trail continues to border the river along a stretch with challenging rapids that are popular with local kayakers and rafters. As you continue to advance, you’ll leave the forest and enter an area dominated by the massive leaves of the nalca plant and the colorful red flowers of the chilco bush. Both of these plants grow especially giant in this ecosystem, as you will surely observe. About 500 meters from here, you’ll reach the trail’s end. You can return along the same trail or flag down one of the many buses that pass through this sector on their route between Puerto Aysén and Coyhaique.