The second-largest settlement in Tierra del Fuego, Río Grande is also the only town of significance in Isla Grande’s central and northern sector. The sterile-looking plains that surround it harbour fields of petroleum and natural gas that generate millions of dollars of wealth annually, with huge quantities of gas transported each year to Ushuaia and as far away as Buenos Aires. North of town, the RN-3 runs through monotonous scenery towards San Sebastián, where you cross the border into Chile or continue north on a dead-end route to the mouth of the Magellan Straits at Cabo Espíritu Santo. On the way to Río Grande from Ushuaia, the RN-3 winds up to Paso Garibaldi, where you have majestic views over Lago Escondido, and then bypasses Tolhuin, crossing the woodland scenery of the central region. This stretch is marked by a string of ripio branch roads, the rutas complementarias, which wiggle away from the RN-3; those headed west take you to a couple of fine estancias, and those headed east into the Península Mitre, the windswept land that forms Isla Grande’s desolate tip.
One of the northern region’s principal tourist draws is its world-class trout-fishing, especially for sea-running brown trout, which on occasion swell to weights in excess of 14kg. The river, also named Río Grande, currently holds several fly-fishing world records for brown trout caught with various breaking strains of line. The mouths of the Río Fuego and Río Ewan can also be spectacularly fruitful, as can sections of the Malengüeña, Irigoyen, Claro and Turbio rivers, and lakes Yehuin and Fagnano.