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
The city of Presidio sits at the confluence of the Rio Grande and the Rio Conchos. The rich soils, with plentiful water in the desert, have been continuously farmed since 1500 B.C., according to the Texas State Historical Association.
In the 1990s, these fields were some of most prolific vegetable-growing operations in the state.
Now there are three farmers left. The most active, David Spencer, planted 20 acres of watermelons this year and ended up selling them from a roadside stand.
The water is still available most years and the soil is still good, but the labor and lending are gone. To get out of debt, farmers are selling their water rights to downstream cities.
I spent Saturday with the farmers and Sunday with eight other paddlers trying to make more than 40 miles on the Rio Grande. It was the first time there has been enough water to paddle since I started walking from Caballo Lake about 360 miles ago.
It was a mistake. We ran out of light after 10 hours of paddling. The group split up. We regrouped and stared at each other, confused about what had just happened and why. Our boats hit rocks hard, our confidence was shaken.
Like the farmers, we had pushed hard and then nearly lost it all. There is potential here, but when you are exhausted, sometimes it’s better to just rest for a bit.
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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.