New Patagonia National Park Book

May 21, 2024 | Chile, Parks

Published by Patagonia, an expansive new book offers a photographic journey through a former livestock ranch restored to become protected parklands. PATAGONIA NATIONAL PARK: CHILE, is now available everywhere books are sold.

The lagoons of Patagonia National Park. (Photographs by Linde Waidhofer)

Dig more deeply into the conservation story of Douglas Tompkins, the co-founder of The North Face and Esprit, and Kristine McDivitt Tompkins, former CEO of Patagonia, told in the recent NatGeo documentary “Wild Life,” directed by Oscar-winning filmmakers Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi (“Free Solo”).

Patagonia National Park: Chile provides an intimate exploration of one of the globally acclaimed conservation and rewilding initiatives led by their nonprofit Tompkins Conservation—the creation of Patagonia National Park.

Highlighting breathtaking photographs and personal narratives from the individuals instrumental in the park’s restoration and establishment, Patagonia National Park: Chile pays homage to the rich history, awe-inspiring landscapes, and vibrant wildlife.

Photographer Linde Waidhofer captured the decades-long restoration journey, documenting the transformation of the land from livestock ranch to a world-class national park, where endemic species once again range wild. Essay contributions include notable figures such as Kris Tompkins, former Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard, and others. Readers are invited to immerse themselves in a sanctuary dedicated primarily to its wild inhabitants and offering human visitors an opportunity to rediscover their connection with the land.

Patagonia National Park is located in the Aysén region of southern Chile along the Route of Parks, a 1,700-mile scenic route connecting 17 national parks and over 60 communities. The park’s central feature is a renowned east-west valley shaped by the Chacabuco River. Once a vital passage for nomadic peoples and wildlife through the Andes, this valley had experienced significant degradation due to historical livestock grazing.

These protected parklands were conceived for the purpose of ecological restoration—a strategy aimed at combatting climate change, revitalizing ecosystems, and safeguarding wildlife. They are a result of private philanthropy and forged partnerships by local, regional and national governments, especially the support of former President Bachelet, who worked closely with the Tompkins, recognizing that the benefits of a protected planet outweigh the costs.

“In Patagonia the battle for the future of Chile was fought,” says former President Bachelet in the prologue. “At Patagonia National Park we signed our commitment to change its destiny, closing the door to pollution, and opening the door to a sustainable future, in which the protected park can be an example to other developing countries, demonstrating that con­servation doesn’t prevent development and well-being but actually secures these gains for generations to come.”

Inaugurated in 2018, Patagonia National Park is one of the fifteen national parks across Chile and Argentina that Tompkins Conservation helped create or expand, collectively spanning over 15 million acres. The Tompkins’ contribution is considered the most substantial philanthropic land donation by private individuals in the history of conservation.

The photographs and stories within the book are devoted to Patagonia National Park’s diverse landscapes, encompassing deciduous forests, glaciers, high alpine terrain, rivers, wetlands, and Patagonian steppes, as well as the park’s wild residents and the ongoing efforts to bring back healthy populations of fragile species, such as the highly endangered huemul deer, Darwin’s rhea, puma and Andean condor.

“National Parks are the jewels of a country where all are welcome,” says Kris. “Where citizens and foreigners alike can walk the hills, meander along the rivers, and watch Patagonia grasslands slowly, patiently, regenerate forward toward the powerful, plentiful territories they once were. Where visitors can camp beneath the forest canopy that offers shelter from the famous Patagonian winds. Where visitors can sit quietly, watching species interact with one another, and even see glimpses of certain animals—like pumas, ñandú [Darwin’s rhea], and Pampas cats—that are more elusive. This park is for native species to return to their rightful places, to roam the grasslands and forests just as they have for millennia. Our work is not yet complete. There are projects to be realized, species to be reintroduced, and ideas to flourish. Perhaps, after all, this will not be the last book we write.”

“The book is a case study in collaboration, trust, relationships, and overcoming the odds to achieve extremely challenging goals.

Ed Roberson
Mountain & Prairie podcast

About the Contributors 

Kristine McDivitt Tompkins is a former CEO of Patagonia and cofounder and president of Tompkins Conservation. She has been a key figure in the creation of Patagonia National Park in Chile and other conservation projects that have so far resulted in 15 million acres protected in new or expanded national parks in Chile and Argentina, in addition to 30 million acres of marine national parks in Argentina. She holds several global leadership positions in conservation, and formerly served as a Patron for Protected Areas for the UN Environment Programme. The organization she created in Chile with Douglas Tompkins is now an independent entity known as Rewilding Chile which continues the Tompkins legacy in the region.

Michelle Bachelet is the first woman to have been elected president of Chile, a position she held for two terms, 2006-2010 and 2014-2018. She studied medicine before entering politics and was Minister of Health and Minister of Defense during the presidency of Ricardo Lagos. An advocate for the rights of women and the oppressed, in 2018 she was appointed United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Yvon Chouinard is the founder and former owner of Patagonia. He is an itinerant adventurer, passionate activist, and iconoclastic businessman. He also cofounded the Fair Labor Association, 1% for the Planet, Textile Exchange, The Conservation Alliance, and the Sustainable Apparel Coalition. He is a surfer, mountain climber, gardener, and falconer, and he is particularly fond of tenkara fly fishing.

Linde Waidhofer is a landscape photographer in love with the pristine and mysterious beauty of wild, remote places. In her more than 40 years of professional photography, she has documented little-known landscapes from the deserts and mountains of the western U.S. to the Andes of Patagonia and has published 10 books of landscape photography. Linde is especially proud of her decades-long collaboration with Doug and Kris Tompkins, having contributed photos to their many conservation programs, including the Patagonia Sin Represas campaign to oppose destructive dams on Patagonia’s free-flowing rivers. She considers photographing the creation of Patagonia National Park one of her most exciting and important photographic adventures.