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 Rio Grande between Del Rio and Laredo is too shallow for a boat with a propeller or a jet engine, and canoes are just too slow for the U.S. Border Patrol.
Instead, the Department of Homeland Security has a fleet of 18-foot-long fan boats with skid plates and 496-horsepower V8 engines. They can hit speeds of nearly 50 mph and will bounce off, slide over or drive around just about any obstacle on or near the river.
For the last 200 miles, it is the most common boat we have seen. It was a perspective we needed to cover, so Mike Kane made some phone calls and got himself a ride. I paddled away from Quemado at 8 a.m. at 4 mph.
Mike left from the same ramp about 10:30. He caught me in about 30 minutes. We started to think about getting our own fan boat.
We had one big question. How does Border Patrol expect to catch anyone in a boat that is louder than a helicopter and can be heard from miles away?
The answer is fan boats don’t sneak up on anyone. But the craft does provide a great way to look for new trails and a way to rescue or arrest folks who are stuck on islands or in the current.
The people they do see are the same ones we have seen, said U.S. Border Patrol agent and spokesman David Vera. It’s fishermen and ranchers. The majority of people are happy to share stories about life along the river.
We thought we were special, but it turns out these guys will talk to just about anybody.
“We talk about fishing a lot,” Vera said.
That is understandable. Fishing is all anyone else seems to do on the Rio Grande.
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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.