Open main menu
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

the city of Valdivia. The Bay of San Carlos on the northern coast of Chiloé, which opens upon the narrow Chacao channel, has the port of Ancud, or San Carlos, and is rated an excellent harbour for vessels of light and medium draught. Inside the island of Chiloé the large gulfs of Chacao (or Ancud) and Corcovado are well protected from the severe westerly storms of these latitudes, but they are little used because the approach through the Chacao channel is tortuous and only 2 to 3 m. wide, and the two gulfs, though over 30 m. wide and 150 m. long, are beset with small rocky islands. At the north end of the first is the Reloncavi, a large and nearly landlocked bay, on which stands Puerto Montt, the southern terminus of the Chilean central railway. The large Gulf of Peñas, south of Taytao peninsula, is open to the westerly storms of the Pacific, but it affords entrance to several natural harbours. Among these are the Gulfs of Tres Montes and San Estevan, and Tarn Bay at the entrance to Messier Channel. The next 300 m. of the Chilean coast contain numerous bays and inlets affording safe harbours, but the mainland and islands are uninhabited and the climate inhospitable. Behind Rennell Island in lat. 52° S., however, is a succession of navigable estuaries which penetrate inland nearly to the Argentine frontier. The central part of this group of estuaries is called Worsley Sound, and the last and farthest inland of its arms is Last Hope Inlet (Ultima Esperanza), on which is situated the Chilean agricultural colony of Puerto Consuelo. The Straits of Magellan, about 360 m. in length, lie wholly within Chilean territory. Midway of them is situated Punta Arenas, the most southern town and port of the republic.

Except in the extreme south the hydrography of Chile is of the simplest description, all the larger rivers having their sources in the Andes and flowing westward to the Pacific. Their courses are necessarily short, and only a few have navigable channels, the aggregate length of Rivers.which is only 705 m. Nearly all rivers in the desert region are lost in the sands long before reaching the coast. Their waterless channels are interesting, however, as evidence of a time when climatological conditions on this coast were different. The principal rivers of this region are Sama (which forms the provisional boundary line with Peru), Tacna, Camarones, Loa, Copiapó, Huasco, Elqui, Limari and Choapa. The Loa is the largest, having its sources on the slopes of the Cordillera south of the Minho volcano, between 21° and 21° 30′ S. lat., and flowing south on an elevated plateau to Chiuchiu, and thence west and north in a great curve to Quillaga, whence its dry channel turns westward again and reaches the Pacific in lat. 21° 28′ S., a few miles south of the small port of Huanillos. Its total length is estimated at 250 m. The upper courses of the river are at a considerable elevation above the sea and receive a large volume of water from the Cordilleras. The water of its upper course and tributaries is sweet, and is conducted across the desert in pipes to some of the coast towns, but in its lower course, as in all the rivers of this region, it becomes brackish. The Copiapó, which once discharged into the sea, is now practically exhausted in irrigating a small fertile valley in which stands the city of that name. The Copiapó and Huasco have comparatively short courses, but they receive a considerable volume of water from the higher sierras. The latter is also used to irrigate a small, cultivated valley. The rivers of the province of Coquimbo—the Elqui or Coquimbo, Limari and Choapa—exist under less arid conditions, and like those of the province of Aconcagua—the Ligua and Aconcagua—are used to irrigate a much larger area of cultivated territory. The central agricultural provinces are traversed by several important rivers, all of them rising on the western slopes of the snow-clad Andes and breaking through the lower coast range to the Pacific after being extensively used to irrigate the great central valley of Chile. These are the Maipó (Maypó or Maipú), Rapel, Mataquito, Maule, Itata, Bio-Bio, Imperial, Tolten, Valdivia or Calle-Calle, Bueno and Maullin. With the exception of the first three, these rivers have short navigable channels, but they are open only to vessels of light draught because of sand-bars at their mouths. The largest is the Bio-Bio, which has a total length of 220 m., 100 of which are navigable. These rivers have been of great service in the agricultural development of this part of Chile, affording means of transportation where railways and highways were entirely lacking. Some of the larger tributaries of these rivers, whose economic value has been equally great, are the Mapocho, which flows through Santiago and enters the Maipó from the north; the turbulent Cachapoal, which joins the Rapel from the north; the Claro, which waters an extensive part of the province of Talca and enters the Maule from the north; the Ñuble, which rises in the higher Andes north of the peaks of Chillan and flows entirely across the province of Ñuble to join the Itata on its western frontier; the Laja, which rises in a lake of the same name near the Argentine frontier in about lat. 35° 30′ S. and flows almost due west to the Bio-Bio; and the Cautin, which rises in the north-east corner of Cautin and after a tortuous course westward nearly across that province forms the principal confluent of the Imperial. The unsettled southern regions of Chiloé (mainland) and Magallanes are traversed by a number of important rivers which have been only partially explored. They have their sources in the Andes, some of them on the eastern side of the line of highest summits. The Puelo has its origin in a lake of the same name in Argentine territory, and flows north-west through the Cordilleras into an estuary (Reloncavi Inlet) of the Gulf of Reloncavi at the northern end of the Gulf of Chacao. Its lower course is impeded in such a manner as to form three small lakes, called Superior, Inferior and Taguatagua. A large northern tributary of the Puelo, the Manso, has its sources in Lake Mascardi and other lakes and streams south-east of the Cerro Tronador, also in Argentina, and flows south-west through the Cordilleras to unite with the Puelo a few miles west of the 72nd meridian. The Reloncavi Inlet also receives the outflow of Lake Todos los Santos through a short tortuous stream called the Petrohue. The Comau Inlet and river form the boundary line between the provinces of Llanquihue and Chiloé, and traverse a densely wooded country in a north-westerly direction from the Andes to the north-eastern shore of the Gulf of Chacao. Continuing southward, the Yelcho is the next important river to traverse this region. It drains a large area of Argentine territory, where it is called the Rio Fetaleufu or Fetalauquen, its principal source being a large lake of the same name. It flows south-west through the Andes, and then north-west through Lake Yelcho to the Gulf of Corcovado. The Argentine colony of the 16th of October, settled principally by Welshmen from Chubut, is located on some of the upper tributaries of this river, in about lat. 43° S. The Palena is another river of the same character, having its source in a large frontier lake called General Paz and flowing for some distance through Argentine territory before crossing into Chile. It receives one large tributary from the south, the Rio Pico, and enters an estuary of the Gulf of Corcovado a little north of the 44th parallel. The Frias is wholly a Chilean river, draining an extensive Andean region between the 44th and 45th parallels and discharging into the Puyuguapi channel, which separates Magdalena island from the mainland. The Aisen also has its source in Argentine territory near the 46th parallel, and drains a mountainous region as far north as the 45th parallel, receiving numerous tributaries, and discharging a large volume of water into the Moraleda channel in about lat. 45° 20′ S. The lower course of this river is essentially an inlet, and is navigable for a short distance. The next large river is the Las Heras, or Baker, through which the waters of Lakes Buenos Aires and Pueyrredon, or Cochrane, find their way to the Pacific. Both of these large lakes are crossed by the boundary line. The Las Heras discharges into Martinez Inlet, the northern part of a large estuary called Baker or Calen Inlet which penetrates the mainland about 75 m. and opens into Tarn Bay at the south-east corner of the Gulf of Peñas. Azopardo (or Merino Jarpa) island lies wholly within this great estuary, while at its mouth lies a group of smaller islands, called Baker Islands, which separate it from Messier Channel. The course of the Las Heras from Lake Buenos Aires is south and south-west, the short range of mountains in which are found the Cerros San Valentin and Arenales forcing it southward for an outlet. Baker Inlet also receives the waters of still another large Argentine-Chilean lake, San Martin, whose far-reaching fjord-like arms extend from lat. 49° 10′ to 48° 20′ S.; its north-west arm drains into the Tero, or La Pascua, river. Lake San Martin lies in a crooked deeply cut passage through the Andes, and the divide between its southern extremity (Laguna Tar) and Lake Viedma, which discharges through the Santa Cruz river into the Atlantic, is so slight as to warrant the hypothesis that this was once a strait between the two oceans. After a short north-westerly course the Toro discharges into Baker Inlet in lat. 48° 15′ S., long. 73° 24′ W. South of the Toro there are no large rivers on this coast, but the narrow fjords penetrate deeply into the mountains and bring away the drainage of their snow-capped, storm-swept elevations. A peculiar network of fjords and connecting channels terminating inland in a peculiarly shaped body of water with long, widely branching arms, called Worsley Sound, Obstruction Sound and Last Hope Inlet, covers an extensive area between the 51st and 53rd parallels, and extends nearly to the Argentine frontier. It has the characteristics of a tidewater river and drains an extensive region. The sources of the Argentine river Coile are to be found among the lakes and streams of this same region, within Chilean territory. A noteworthy peculiarity of southern Chile, from the Taytao peninsula (about 46° 50′ S. lat.) to Tierra del Fuego, is the large number of glaciers formed on the western and southern slopes of the Cordilleras and other high elevations, which discharge direct into these deeply cut estuaries. Some of the larger lakes of the Andes have glaciers discharging into them. The formation of these icy streams at comparatively low levels, with their discharge direct into tidewater estuaries, is a phenomenon not to be found elsewhere in the same latitudes.

The lakes of Chile are numerous and important, but they are found chiefly in the southern half of the republic. In the north the only lakes are large lagoons, or morasses, on the upper saline plateaus between the 23rd and 28th parallels. They are fed from the melting Lakes.snows and periodical storms of the higher Andes, and most of them are completely dry part of the year. Their waters are saturated with saline compounds, which in some cases have considerable commercial value. In central Chile above the Bio-Bio river the lakes are small and have no special geographical interest, with the exception perhaps of the Laguna del Maule, in 36° 7′ S., and Laguna de la Laja, in 37° 20′, which lie in the Andes near the Argentine frontier and are sources of the two rivers of the same names. Below the Bio-Bio river there is a line of large picturesque lakes extending from the province of Cautin, south through that of Llanquihue, corresponding in character and position to the dry lacustrine depressions extending northward in the same valley.