Lake Guardians Without Borders: Pucón, Lake Villarrica and Huerquehue National Park

Jesse Patterson | League to Save Lake Tahoe
March 20, 2024

Greetings from the heart of Chile! 

It’s Jesse Patterson, and I’m back to share another chapter of the expedition with our environmental nonprofit partners from Chile Lagos Limpios. These past few days have been a whirlwind of discovery, learning, and connections—between people and two distant yet remarkably similar regions.  

As most trips do, our expedition began with anticipation to get underway. Our group, the Lake Champions, is a collection of nine individuals from the U.S with diverse specialties and backgrounds, but with a shared passion for lake conservation. Our goal is to share what we can with Chile’s own lake champions, and take back to Tahoe the lessons they teach us. 

Arriving in Temuco on our second day in Chile, we met with our Chilean counterparts from Chile Lagos Limpios. We were warmly welcomed by Fernando Coz, Executive Director, along with Nico and Carlos, our guides for the trip. Our friends instantly bridged the gap between our cultures, setting a good vibe for the days to come. 

From Temuco, we headed to Pucón and Lake Villarrica, one of the most visited areas outside of Patagonia and the northernmost of the 23 lakes in Chile Lagos Limpios’ care. This stunning lake has incredible beaches, fields, and mountains. We spent a wonderful afternoon with Carlos and his gracious family at their beautiful lakeside home.  


During our stop, we met with Victor Moran of Vigilantes del Lagos (Lake Vigilantes) about the challenges facing this beautiful place. Victor’s 24-year-old citizen science group monitors Lake Villarrica, gathering data about the lake’s history of contamination, including recurrent annual algal blooms, which it shares with the Chilean government and conservation groups in the U.S.  

Victor’s presentation reminded us of how much we share in our missions and approaches. We both work to engage communities in the stewardship of our natural treasures, using scientific data to affect change. Though progress in preventing Villarrica’s algal blooms has been slow, the resolve to protect these waters remains unshaken, mirroring the sentiment at home in Tahoe.  

Day three took us out of Pucón to the nearby Huerquehue National Park, an awesome landscape of towering trees and serene lagoons, with volcanoes perched in the distance. The park, like Lake Villarrica, is very popular among Chilenos, and access to this amazing place shows how land managers are conscious of striking a careful balance between nature and human enjoyment. Only 300 people are allowed in each day, reminding us that, like in Tahoe, these places can be loved to death.  

Later that night (dinner usually begins around 9pm), as we shared stories over a Uruguayan meal, the discussion veered from conservation techniques to the human connections that underpin our work.  

After only a few days here, the parallels between our two countries have reaffirmed for me the importance of conservation work, and how approaches can be adapted, applied, and transformed. Our Chilean friends, with their innovative approaches and passionate dedication, have not only offered us insights but also a perspective that transcends boundaries. 

Stay tuned for more tales from Chile, and remember, every Lake and every drop of water is valued and protected. 

Let’s Keep Tahoe Blue and extend that hue to the world’s waters. 


Jesse Patterson 

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