Cracked soil and stormclouds at the El Leoncito National Park (Parque Nacional El Leoncito). El Barreal, San Juan, Argentina, Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2007.
The El Leoncito National Park, comprises a 76,000 hectare (293.4 square miles) area on the Calingasta Department of the San Juan Province in Argentina, 34 kilometres (21.1 miles) from the village named El Barreal. It was first created in 1994 as a natural reserve and was promoted to the National Park category in 2002, in order to protect representative samples of the Puna grassland and the High Andean scrublands, as well as historical and paleontological sites (including portions of old Inca culture paths). Given the lack of pollution and unusually clear atmospheric conditions, the area encompasses two astronomical observatories, the Leoncito Astronomical Complex (CASLEO) and the Carlos Ulrico Cesco Astronomic Station (EACUC) and is one of the worlds highly regarded places for performing astronomic observations. Also of interest within the National Park, is the presence of important animal species such as the suri cordillerano, guanacos and birds of prey such as the peregrine falcon (the fastest bird on Earth in its hunting dive, the stoop).