Our Work

Futaleufú Watershed

Our Work

Futaleufú Watershed

The Watershed

The Futaleufú River flows westward across the Andes from its source in Los Alerces National Park in Argentina to its drainage into Yelcho Lake, which in turn flows into the Pacific Ocean as the Yelcho River. Futaleufú means “Big River” in Mapudungun, the language of the Mapuche people, and the river lives up to its name: its binational watershed encompasses over 11,600 square kilometers home to an estimated 45,000 inhabitants.

The Futaleufú flows through glacially carved valleys of native forests, fertile agricultural land, and rugged, rocky peaks. The abundance of water, especially during the notoriously rainy winter season, paints the landscape green year-round and feeds a multitude of smaller tributaries, wetlands, and lakes. Internationally, the Futaleufú has gained renown for its world-class whitewater kayaking and rafting, as well as for its fly-fishing. During the summer months, tourists from around Chile and the world flock to Futa for the chance to experience its challenging whitewater rapids and stunning scenery.

However, despite its pristine appearance, the Futaleufú has had no shortage of human intervention. In 1971 the upper reaches were dammed by the huge 560 megawatt General San Martin Dam, which flooded 92 km2 of land in Chubut, Argentina to create the Amutui Quimey (in Mapudungun, “Lost Beauty”) Reservoir. In 2012, the Futa was threatened by the prospect of another large-scale hydroelectric project in HydroAysen, this time on the Chilean side of the border. This project was called off in 2015 due to strong community opposition and the work of national and international organizations, including Futaleufú Riverkeeper, but the threat remains.

Threats

Unsustainable Development

The community of Futaleufú is growing, and with that growth come concerns about unsustainable development, proper management, government oversight, and making sure that growth improves rather than restricts opportunities for locals. One of the primary reasons Futaleufú is considered a premier global destination is the beauty of its natural surroundings. If done in the right way, increased infrastructure can raise the quality of life for people living in the region. But this means monitoring development projects and educating people about the long-term benefits of smart planning. Without dedicated and informed community involvement in planning for a sustainable future, the Futaleufú watershed’s greatest asset – its many rivers, fishing spots, biodiversity hotspots, and trekking routes – will be lost.

Invasive Species

One often overlooked aspect of protecting a watershed is making sure that governmental entities are engaged with the local communities in adopting effective strategies to handle new threats to the watershed. Invasive species pose a risk to whatever environment then arrive in. Aquatic invasive are often impossible to irradiate and hard to control at best. In the Futaleufú watershed Didymosphenia Geminata (didymo) has been introduced.

Didymo is an invasive algae native to the northern hemisphere, and can form large mats at the bottoms of slow-moving rivers and lakes. Due to the constantly-changing flow of water, which scrubs algae off the rocks, didymo blooms cannot establish themselves in the Futaleufú River. However, they can establish in the surrounding bodies of water.

Mining

Chile is rich in natural resources having the world’s largest copper reserves and large quantities of silver gold, lead, zinc, and many other minerals. Chile’s rugged topography, climate, and lack of reliable electricity is one of the only things helping to keep the mining industry from growing.

As the region around the Futaleufú develops the risk of mining development within the watershed grows. Much of the subterranean property in the area has been claimed by Chile’s mining concessions program. Mining operations will not only affect human and environmental health but also negatively impact the Futaleufú regions development of sustainable development.

WE NEED YOUR HELP!

Futaleufú Riverkeeper is dedicated to the fight for clean water, healthy ecosystems, and vibrant communities in Futaleufú.
We can't do this work without you-- donate today to ensure the protection of the Futaleufú for many years to come!

Sign up for our newsletter to
stay up-to-date on Riverkeeper
projects and news!

    WE NEED

    YOUR HELP!

    Futaleufú Riverkeeper is dedicated to the fight for clean water, healthy ecosystems, and vibrant communities in Futaleufú.
    We can't do this work without you-- donate today to ensure the protection of the Futaleufú for many years to come!

    Sign up for our newsletter to stay up-to-date on Riverkeeper projects and news