Barry Lopez, an award-winning American writer who tried to tighten the bonds between people and place by describing the landscapes he saw in 50 years of travel, has died. He was 75.
Lopez died in Eugene, Oregon, on Friday after a years-long struggle with prostate cancer, his family said.
Longtime friend Kim Stafford, a former Oregon poet laureate, said Lopez’s books “are landmarks that define a region, a time, a cause. He also exemplifies a life of devotion to craft and learning, to being humble in the face of wisdom of all kinds.”
An author of nearly 20 books on natural history studies, along with essay and short story collections, Lopez was awarded the National Book Award in 1986 for Arctic Dreams: Imagination and Desire in a Northern Landscape. It was the result of almost five years of traveling the Arctic.
His final work was Horizon, an autobiography that recalls a lifetime of travel in more than 70 countries.
Born in 1945 in Port Chester, New York, Lopez grew up in California’s San Fernando valley and, after his mother remarried, New York City. In Horizon, he wrote that in those formative years, he developed “a desire simply to go away. To find what the skyline has cordoned off.”
His later years were spent with his wife, Debra Gwartney, in a wooded area along the McKenzie River east of Eugene. After years of writing about the natural world and humans’ effect on climate change, he mourned the loss of acres of timber, not to mention personal papers, in the September Holiday Farm fire.
In a statement on Saturday, his family encouraged financial support for the McKenzie River Trust, with which Lopez had worked on conservation efforts.