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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Heading home, Day 88

El Burrito heads out of Alpine, Texas, on its way home. This is the last leg of the expedition for the Honda Civic. When Erich Schlegel and Colin McDonald return they will be driving El Burro, a Toyota 4Runner that is a better suited for the rough roads of West Texas. Photo by: Erich Schlegel

Today we are headed home to Austin. The tick bite apparently was not quite done with Erich. It started to swell yesterday and his temperature hit 100.3 last night as we pitched our tents at El Cosmico in Marfa. We were already headed home but that confirmed we both needed some rest and medical attention. 

Before we head into the Forgotten Reach of the Rio Grande, we have research to do and interviews to set up. The next 300 miles are by far the least understood, visited and cared for section of the river. Several years ago an 8-foot-long alligator was found living in this reach. Anything could happen and we want to know as much as we can before we begin.

On Sept. 30 we will be back walking the river again. I will post periodically between now and then as I learn about what lies ahead.  

To comment on this post or ask a question, please visit the expedition's Facebook page.


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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