The Rio Grande is disappearing. Demand for water is growing as snow packs shrink, rain patterns shift and average temperatures rise faster than they ever have in the past 11,000 years.Read more
Stony Pass has never been an easy place to get to. The wagon road that was built over it in 1871 was a road in name only. Wagons had to be disassembled and put on the backs of mules to be carried over the crest. The road became famous for the broken wagon parts that lined its side.
The road has not changed much since then. Not that that was a concern for photographer Erich Schlegel and our new head of logistics, Jason Jones. The two of them navigated Erich’s Honda Civic hatchback — nicknamed “El Burrito” because it is small and hauls as much as a burro — through the streams and over the boulders like it was in a truck commercial. I sat in the back, held on and tried not to watch. The result was they cut the 21-mile hike from our campsite at Thirty-Mile Campground to the top of Stony Pass down to 10 miles.
This area did not burn in the West Fork Complex Fire. The higher we climbed, the fewer dead spruce we saw. At about 11,500 feet, the trees were healthy, the river was running clear and if it were not for the dozen motorcycles, 4-wheelers and Jeeps that passed us as we walked, we could have been back in the 1870s.
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As they travel, Colin and Erich are taking water samples for the following periodic water quality tests. In partnership with The Meadows Center for Water and the Environment’s Texas Stream Team Program at Texas State University, the results will be added to a public database it helps maintain for research and monitoring water quality.
While making his way to the Gulf of Mexico, Colin will be periodically activating a device that uses satellite technology to share his current location. Use this map to see where he traveled on this day.
|Check-In||Time of Check-In (CST)||Latitude||Longitude|
To report on and understand the haphazard irrigation system the Rio Grande has become and the changes it is going through, Colin decided the best approach would be to travel the length of the Rio Grande by foot and small boat.
He knew it would give him a unique perspective on a river that few understand. It did require many long days of moving slowly and camping on muddy riverbanks, but Colin likes that sort of thing.
The benefit was it provided access to people who wanted to share their stories and experiences with the Rio Grande. Via Facebook and chance encounters, Colin made instant friends who opened their homes. They provided help from loaning their trucks to their cell phone contact lists to help tell the story of the Rio Grande.
The trip would not have been possible without their help, along with the dedicated assistance of David Lozano, Jason Jones and Daniel Dibona, who drove thousands of miles to get people and boats in place.