In may, 1960, the Valdivia earthquake (the biggest in modern human history) not only destroy a big part of the city, but also sink one or two meters the land near the Cruces river banks.
This event, that was catastrophic for the people, was a big opportunity for the wildlife, because a big wetland area was created and it was quickly colonized by many species of animals, creating one of the most rich and complex ecosystems of the south of Chile.
In 1981, the Chilean government decided to protect these new wetlands creating the Natural Sanctuary Río Cruces. Also, the same year, the sanctuary was enrolled in the Ramsar Convention.
There are large boats that cover the Valdivia – Punucapa area, doing regular tours by the river, but the best way to know the Sanctuary is by kayak, because in this way you can reach the most natural parts of the Sanctuary, plenty of wildlife, especially birds.
The Sanctuary houses more than 100 species of birds, like our emblematic Black Necked Swan, the great Cocoi Heron or the gorgeous Many Colored Rush-Tyrant. Also lives 19 species of mammals, like Gray Fox, Kod Kod, River Otter or Coipus, plus 8 species of amphibians and 14 species of fish.
In 2004, the greed of man makes a big disaster, when the paper mill Arauco contaminate the waters of the Sanctuary, resulting in the death of thousands of animals, fish and birds. However, today the Sanctuary it is almost recovered and the wildlife has returned in numbers similar to those before the disaster.