Changing Planet

Patagonia Chilena Sin Represas // Chilean Patagonia Without Dams

Marty Schnure and Ross Donihue are National Geographic Young Explorers recently back from the field. They’re currently producing maps of the future Patagonia National Park from their office in San Francisco. To learn more about their project, visit Maps for Good.


While we were in Chile mapping the future Patagonia National Park, we created thirty immersive panoramic images, each made up of forty photographs. These panoramas will be embedded in the interactive map we’re producing right now.

We’d like to share one of our favorites with you today.

Click on the preview image below to immerse yourself in the confluence of the Baker and Chacabuco rivers. The Baker (left) is Chile’s largest river by volume. The Chacabuco (right) flows through Valle Chacabuco, where we spent the austral summer mapping the future Patagonia National Park.

Screen shot 2013-06-03 at 12.40.25 PM
The confluence of the Baker and Chacabuco rivers. Click on the image to launch the immersive panorama. Photo and panorama by Marty Schnure and Ross Donihue.

While we were in Patagonia doing our field work this past season, that sandbar at the mouth of the Chacabuco was our favorite spot to swim, fish, and hang out in a free afternoon. It’s a great place to cool off in the breeze, gaze up at Andean Condors soaring overhead, and marvel at the beauty of two totally free-flowing rivers. It’s also the site of a proposed hydroelectric dam, one of five proposed mega dams on two of Patagonia’s–and the world’s–wildest and most pristine rivers.

We hope that with this panorama, we can connect you with this place, even if just for a moment.

The five proposed dams, the accompanying 1,188 miles of transmission lines, and the political decisions that have made them possible have sparked a huge and inspiring international movement to protect the rivers. The many groups and individuals working on the campaign are united under the slogan ¡Patagonia sin represas! (Patagonia without dams!). While we were there, we were excited to have the opportunity to take part in one of the sin represas gatherings at the confluence.

Further upstream at the confluence of the Baker and the Neff. If the dam were to be built, this waterfall would become a reservoir. Photo by Rick Schnure.
Further upstream at the confluence of the Baker and the Neff. If the dam were to be built, this waterfall would become a reservoir. Photo by Rick Schnure.

To conclude, we’d like to share a video from today’s post on Patagonia-the-company’s blog, The Cleanest Line. The post, authored by Chilean activist Juan Pablo Orrego, kicks off a weekly video series to highlight four different aspects of the fight against the hydroelectric dam project. Here’s this week’s video by Rios Libres:

For more information about the dam project and the movement against it, check out Rios Libres. We also highly recommend watching Patagonia Rising, a documentary available on Netflix.


NEXT: Cloud-watching in Patagonia

A National Geographic Young Explorer, cartographer, and visual storyteller. Co-founder and designer at Maps for Good.
  • Sabe Moya

    There is a certain irony that the majority of the populace in Chilean Patagonia that object to the use of dams to produce hydroelectric power, in fact receive their electricity from …. dams. Dams, in that same Patagonia. No, that is not irony, that is hypocrisy. Part of the result of these people’s objection to improvements in the use of locally generated electrical power is that the winter-months air quality in the regional capital is the worst, and most unhealthy, in the entire country. Additionally, the propaganda surrounding the dam issue is intended to make outsiders believe that this area is “pristine.” It certainly is not prisine. There have been roads and power lines in this region for a long time, along with cattle ranches, lumbering, fisheries, and other economic activities. Oh, and I happen to live here, in Chilean Patagonia.

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