Yeso Dam, Chile


This past weekend, we took a much-needed day trip out of the city and up into the mountains. We chose San Jose de Maipo, a twisting river canyon that winds up from southeastern Santiago and into the mountains. The Cajón de Maipo area is a popular weekend destination for Santiagoites, but luckily for us, we had no crowds to contend with on our trip. (The last time we went, in the height of summer, we experienced bumper-to-bumper traffic for at least an hour until we reached our destination.)

The drive through the canyon was beautiful, with scattered ever-present road-side stands selling fruit, honey, empanadas, and mote con huesillo, a traditional Chilean sweet drink/dessert of rehydrated peaches and barley in syrup. We stopped to grab a couple of cheese empanadas and a lemongrass lemonade before continuing our ~2hr drive up to the Yeso dam.


There were a lot of free range livestock on the road – mostly goats and sheep. Waterfalls poured over the winding roads and we wondering how long the roads would last before they crumbled down the steep hillsides.


Magnificent waterfalls and steep canyon cliffs
The cones are there to encourage drivers to slow down for this livestock crossing area; Chilean drivers aren’t very courteous or safe.
Typical dwelling




This is an abandoned copper mining site. Over 1,000 workers used to call this place home in the 1960s. For more pictures of the abandoned site, check out this post.
Sadly, there is not much respect for Chilean heritage in the form of abandoned structures. If within easy reach of a road, they are always covered with graffiti and filled with trash and human excrement.
San Jose is a massive stratovolcano on the Chilean-Argentinian border.
The Yeso dam, built in 1964, is the main reservoir for Santiago.
A popular getaway for Santiagoites. They are not deterred by the rough and tumble landscape, and their low cars are often spinning out and getting trapped on the rocks.
Walking an ancient glacier bed
The cracked surface is deceptive; many spots are in fact, barely covered with a dried layer of dirt and underneath, thick mud lies in wait.
One of the things that makes me most frustrated about Chileans – although their country is one of the most beautiful places I’ve been, many have scant respect for the environment.


The hills are striated with colors in the late afternoon light.

If you’re living in Santiago, or visiting, and you want to go up to the Yeso Dam, I would recommend a full tank of gas, bottled water and snacks, sunscreen, and a light jacket. The temperature dropped at least 15 degrees on our drive up into the mountains and there was a persistent wind. On the day we were there, several entrepreneurs had set-up food stands as well as port-a-potties, which was nice.

If you’re going to go for a stroll along the mud flats, use caution and avoid the darker-looking spots close to streams and trickling run-off. You will sink and loose your shoes – we saw this happen to at least two people. Also, don’t be a dolt and drive your car onto the mud flats. And especially don’t try to cross one of those muddy streams. We also saw this happen and ended up rescuing a couple that tried it – they were stranded for two hours before we came along with our Subaru and pulled them out.

And please, for the love of all things bright and beautiful, don’t litter! Bring a trash bag along and keeping track of your own trash. Plus, it never hurts your karma to pick up an extra thing or two that some other less considerate person left behind.

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