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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An adventure in the Quitman Mountains, Day 110

Rio Bravo looks out over the land that Colin would soon be walking through. The Rio Grande is in the distance. (Rio Bravo, while probably more than hardy enough for the trip, went ahead in the truck.) Photo by: Colin McDonald

Colin is heading over/through the Quitman Mountains and didn't have time for a full accounting of the day's adventures. Instead, here's a quick update he sent in via text, while walking by the light of a full moon. He noted that flowers were blooming and the air was like perfume.

The team hit the road about 7:30 a.m. The first wave, David Lozano, Jason Jones and Daniel DiBona made the drive to Sierra Blanca. They were going to meet up with Kit Bramlett and make arrangements to camp on his ranch.

I took off on foot to follow the Rio Grande and meet them on the other side of the Quitman Mountains. I followed the tunnels that animals had made through the thick brush, until I was frustrated with stopping and crawling. I then tried walking along the stagnant pools of the Rio Grande, until the ankle-deep water became knee-deep mud. I headed for the canyon walls and climbed out of the flood plain.

From up there, I could actually walk erect and make decent time.

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 9:33 a.m. 30.84111 -105.34213
#2 9:53 a.m. 30.84339 -105.35143
#3 10:19 a.m. 30.83651 -105.33383
#4 11:06 a.m. 30.81426 -105.30574
#5 11:47 a.m. 30.82038 -105.28908
#6 12:41 p.m. 30.80741 -105.27478
#7 2:19 p.m. 30.79769 -105.25975
#8 3:06 p.m. 30.79751 -105.25851
#9 4:55 p.m. 30.80249 -105.24254
#10 5:21 p.m. 30.80656 -105.23323
#11 6:39 p.m. 30.80386 -105.21194
#12 7:41 p.m. 30.80709 -105.18507
#13 9:36 p.m. 30.76158 -105.1304
#14 9:58 p.m. 30.75776 -105.10837


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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