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
After an all-day, 21-mile hike down from Stony Pass yesterday, I was excited to rest my feet and start paddling on the Rio Grande today.
I planned to spend three days getting to Creede, about 30 miles downriver from the well-named Thirty Mile Campground.
I had not planned on the river flowing at 1,100 cubic feet per second and nearly topping its banks. Even after a late start, the magic-carpet ride of the Rio Grande delivered me to Creede by mid-afternoon.
Along the way, I got an up-close view of where the West Fork Complex Fire burned to the river’s edge. I tried to imagine what it would have been like to see all of those thousands of trees on fire.
Yesterday, I met Elmer and ShaRay Rock. The father and daughter were out spotting bighorn sheep in preparation for the hunting season, which will begin in August.
ShaRay won the hunting lottery and drew a ram tag this year. As a member of the Ute tribe, she would have a week head start on the other hunters, but it would not matter if she did not know where the sheep were.
Elmer described the mass exodus of animals out of the Rio Grande National Forest as fires raged last summer. He speculated about what the charred remains of the trees and new growth of plants would mean for the animals this year. It all added to the puzzle of trying for a successful hunt.
But no matter what, he knows the lack of snow and rain is affecting everything. He said the grasses in the meadows are about half as high as usual and the black flies and mosquitos are not nearly as bad as usual.
Tensions are rising as water supplies dwindle, he said.
“People are going to end up getting shot about water again,” he said.
With that in mind, I soaked up the fast ride to Creede. By the afternoon, the water levels were already dropping.
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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.