Disappearing Rio Grande

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Why Follow the Rio Grande

by Colin McDonald | Feb. 11, 2015

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.

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The Different Sides of the Rio Grande, Day 33

Colin cools off in a waterfall fed by Pajarito Spring. Photo by: Erich Schlegel

Today was difficult to wrap our heads around.  We saw pictographs that were nearly 10,000 years old and graffiti that was probably less than a year old on the rocks lining the river.

We saw million dollar homes perched on cliffs overlooking the river and rotting easy chairs on top of the crumbling riverbank.

We paddled in water that carried so much sediment that we could not see the blades of our paddles. Then we washed off in a spring-fed waterfall with water so clear we could see the tadpoles hiding in algae at the bottom of the 5-foot-deep pool.

Tomorrow we will spend time with locals to try to understand what we saw.

To comment on this post or ask a question, please visit the expedition's Facebook page.

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
#1 10:23 a.m. 36.0629 -106.08873
#2 10:49 a.m. 36.05637 -106.08353
#3 12:08 p.m. 36.03978 -106.08759
#4 1:13 p.m. 35.96357 -106.07706
#5 1:34 p.m. 35.9487 -106.09102
#6 1:53 p.m. 35.93278 -106.10732
#7 2:59 p.m. 35.8874 -106.13864
#8 3:08 p.m. 35.87704 -106.14035
#9 4:58 p.m. 35.8085 -106.18259


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.


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