NATIONAL

Siete Tazas: From Tourist Attraction to Dry Burning Park

CURICÓ – Threatened by a nearby forest fire, the Siete Tazas National Park was forced to shut down. Insult to injury to the water shortage that dried up its iconic waterfall. As a result, this once beautiful national park is now just a shell of its former self.

Chile’s National Forest Corporation (Conaf) will temporarily close the Siete Tazas National Park due to the raging forest fire that has affected the nearby region. Even though the fire poses no immediate danger to the national park, the decision was made because of the low visibility that resulted from the smoke of the 5,000ha that have been consumed by the fire.

The public prosecutor for Maule region has started an investigation along with the Investigations Police (PDI), reacting to reports that the fires are the result of arson.

About 70% of the fire has been contained thanks to the fire brigade that has been fighting the blaze, with second line assistance from the army. This doesn’t put the locals at ease, however, because the inferno still rages. The mayor of nearby Molina town said, “we can still see various places where the fire is advancing, so we won’t be calm until the fire is extinguished completely.”

The Minister of Agriculture, Antonio Walker, visited the region and said this was Chile’s biggest fire of the year. He wasn’t well received, though, because locals see him as among those responsible for the droughts that exacerbated the forest fires. Walker has a conflict of interest, as he’s also involved in three agricultural enterprises.

Locals also criticized him for waiting too long to declare a red alert, delaying the needed measures to contain the fire. On location, the minister defended his decision, saying that the red alert came on time. He further emphasized, “we said it during winter, this is the biggest drought in the history of Chile and the consequence of the drought is having fires with more frequency.”

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A Shell of its Former Self

The Siete Tazas National Park is located near Curicó, in the pre-Andean area close to the Descabezado Grande Volcano. Declared a national park in 2008, this protected area consists of seven consecutive natural pools that are fed by their respective waterfalls. A popular destination for kayakers, these pools are part of the Claro river, and flow down to the last waterfall known as Salto La Leona (“the Lioness Jump”).

In 2010, as a result of the earthquake, the Siete Tazas dried out, due to a fissure that drained the water to an unknown subterranean area. The fissure was later plugged in winter thanks to the rains bringing down sediment and sealing up the fissure naturally.

In March of last year, the Siete Tazas was among the 10 parks that the government allowed to have tourism-associated structures built on 1% of the land. This concession remains valid for about 25 years and will include the construction of hotels, restaurants, and parking lots.

Earlier this year, the park made the news when it was reported that the iconic waterfalls had stopped running as a result of the drought. Leaving a shell of its former self.

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