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
Today I paddled with Cathy Morin, Ian Rich and their dog through the Alamosa National Wildlife Refuge.
This is a reach of river where burrowing owls fly out from their homes in the dirt river banks, Canada geese dive underwater to escape paddlers, and cows give the humans an evil eye as they float by. Although it is a gorgeous section to paddle, it rarely sees visitors.
We were lucky to catch the river during high flows, so we had a rare opportunity to float along with a decent current through flat farmland. Colorado is currently releasing water to New Mexico to make sure it complies with the Rio Grande Compact.
Morin and Rich moved to the San Luis Valley years ago to escape the crowds on the East Slope of Colorado, north of Denver.
Rich is the only internationally certified orchid judge in the valley and is a FedEx delivery driver. Morin has retired from a career in nutrition research and education and serves on various boards across the valley. Together they run a turkey farm where customers come every year just before Thanksgiving to help with the processing.
Although water use is not paramount to their operation, Morin has started attending water meetings. The politics are complicated and not always easy to follow, she said. But decisions about groundwater — how much can be pumped, by whom and at what times — affect both the river and the whole valley.
She wants to stay informed and keep the decision makers honest.
She also just likes the rural character of the San Luis Valley and loves to paddle. So that’s what we did.
Side note: The signs around Alamosa give an insight into the character of the town. Fight back if a mountain lion attacks you and be cautious around the golfers. And please keep your potbelly pig on a leash. I took pictures in case you do not believe me.
Side note 2: I had my first positive E. coli test yesterday with a water sample taken under a bridge in downtown Alamosa. I later learned that this site is a popular bathroom stop for the homeless who pass through town.
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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.