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 race against water, Day 112

Colin McDonald, left, Jason Jones, middle, and David Lozano stand next to an old fishing boat on the Bramblett Ranch. It has been decades since there was enough water to float such a boat down the Rio Grande. That is why Colin is getting ready for the walk to Candelaria and then on to Presidio where the Rio Conchos will hopefully still be flowing strong enough that everyone can paddle. Photo by: David DiBona

Hiking alone through some 45 miles of the Forgotten Reach was not the original plan. It’s the one we now have, however. Illness and injury have taken their toll on our team and we have run out of road.  

We are back to the most basic of all travel: walking along a river to see what lies ahead. The biggest challenge will be having enough water, as the daily highs are still in the mid-90s. I’ll start with almost two gallons.  

My progress will continue to be tracked on the daily maps on this site. If all goes well, I’ll be done in time to write Monday’s post.

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 8:25 a.m. 30.75839 -105.11026
#2 3:12 p.m. 30.6888 -105.03996
#3 4:44 p.m. 30.6854 -105.01874
#4 7:05 p.m. 30.67789 -104.99966


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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