Pumalín Park (Spanish: Parque Pumalín) is a 3,250 km2 (1,255 sq mi) private nature reserve in the Palena Province of Chile, created by the United States environmental foundation The Conservation Land Trust, which was endowed and led by the American business magnate Douglas Tompkins. Designated a Nature Sanctuary in 2005, Pumalín is Chile's largest private nature reserve and is operated as a public-access park, with an extensive infrastructure of trails, campgrounds, and visitor centers.
The park consists of two areas, and there seems to be some interest of the park owners to purchase the intermediate 340 km² of the San Ignacio del Huinay Foundation as well. Opposed to this acquisition are mainly the thirty or so inhabitants of the hamlet Huinay, located at the coast of the aimed area. The northern portion of the park borders Hornopirén National Park.
In 1991, Douglas Tompkins bought a large, semi-abandoned plot of land in the Reñihue River Valley of the Chilean province of Palena. A mountaineer and conservationist who had been visiting Patagonia since the early 1960s, Tompkins sought to protect the 16,996.6 ha (42,000 acres) tract, most of which was primeval Valdivian temperate rainforest, from future exploitation. After moving to Reñihué to live full-time, Tompkins began developing plans for a larger park, gradually acquiring additional adjacent properties from willing sellers. Ultimately, roughly 98 percent of the park acreage was bought from absentee landowners.
The Conservation Land Trust subsequently added approximately 283,280 ha (700,000 acres) in nearly contiguous parcels to form Pumalín Park, which was declared a Nature Sanctuary on August 19, 2005, by then-president Ricardo Lagos. This special designation by the Chilean government grants the land additional protections to secure its ecological values and prevent development. The Conservation Land Trust later donated the protected lands to Fundación Pumalín, a Chilean foundation, for their administration and ongoing preservation as a national park under private initiative.
While nature-related philanthropy has a long tradition in the United States, large-scale private land acquisition for parks was unfamiliar in Chile, and initially generated skepticism and political opposition. Over the years of the project’s development, confidence has been built, both locally and nationally, as Pumalín Park’s public access infrastructure began serving thousands of visitors annually.
One of Tompkins' central commitments is to preserving biodiversity; the Pumalín conservation area not only provides visitors a spectacular wilderness experience, but also protects the area's threatened ecosystem and species. Although Chile lacks the faunal diversity of Amazon-area countries, it is rich in flora, with many endemic species and subspecies. The evergreen broadleaved forest, known in Chile as the Valdivian temperate rainforest, includes thousands of plant species. The annual rainfall in the coastal forests of Pumalín Park is approximately 6,000 mm (236 in). These exceptionally wet, original forests reach all the way to the ocean, something that is increasingly rare worldwide. In addition, the park protects some of the last remaining stands of Alerce trees, one of the oldest species on Earth.
A ranger system, utilizing non-uniformed park rangers on the agricultural lands adjacent to the Nature Sanctuary, contributes to the park’s stewardship. Small organic farms with activities such as animal husbandry, cheesemaking, ecotourism, wool handicrafts, and honey production function simultaneously as park ranger stations and visitor information centers. In this way both conservation and a contribution to the local economy are achieved. The project is aware of the need to include neighbors of the park, to create a broad-based cultural appreciation for wilderness and biodiversity conservation, as well as demonstrating how an agrarian economy, carefully matched to local conditions, can help sustain biodiversity and create economic opportunity.
One of the biggest ecotourist attractions of south Chile, Pumalín is accessible by car or boat. Caleta Gonzalo, at the center of the Park, in the Reñihué Fjord, houses the park's main tourist infrastructure, including a restaurant, visitor center, cabañas, and a campground. Ferries run from the village of Hornopirén to Caleta Gonzalo during the summer months.
After the 2008 eruption of the Chaitén Volcano, the park was temporarily closed to visitors; it reopened to visitors in December 2010.