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
Stony Pass has the distinction of being the headwaters for the Rio Grande. If we went any farther west we would be in the watershed of the Colorado River. So this is where we are going to turn around and start our journey to the Gulf of Mexico.
At more than 12,650 feet, the pass is high enough to make a person from sea level nauseous. The pass stays snowy well into July. Up here, the river is so small you can jump over it without getting your feet wet.
These snowfields are the biggest reservoirs for the entire river. The amount of snow in the mountains and how fast it melts determines what kind of irrigation season farmers 600 miles away in El Paso will have — and how much walking we will have to do.
For fun, I’m taking a few ounces of snow to carry with me to the coast. Since the completion of Elephant Butte Dam in New Mexico in 1916, and the expanded irrigation and management of the river it allowed, practically no water from the Rocky Mountains has made it to the Gulf of Mexico via the Rio Grande.
Snowmelt on the west side of Stony Pass that drains into the Colorado doesn’t have much chance of reaching the Gulf of California, either. All the snow we see here is most likely going to evaporate from reservoirs, lawns and farm fields well before it reaches either coast.
Our goal is to find out what going dry means for the river and the people and places that depend on it.
It’s going to be hot and dry, but for now it’s cool and wet, so we are going to enjoy it.
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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.