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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The big ask, Day 81

Erich Schlegel, left, and Colin McDonald have traveled 650 miles along the Rio Grande and are now asking for help to finish the 1,200 miles that remains between them and the Gulf of Mexico. Photo by: Erich Schlegel

Thank you to everyone who has supported this expedition by reading and commenting on the blog, giving advice, granting interviews, editing the copy, working on the website and making donations.

It would be hard for us to image it going any better.

We now have one more big ask. 

Erich has worked the last three months at below the daily rate he would normally charge for such a project. I have not drawn a salary. El burrito needs work, as does Erich’s drone.  

The Texas Tribune has provided technical and administrative support, but this project is made possible by the donations of readers.

For Erich to spend the next five months on the river and reach the Gulf of Mexico we need to raise $25,000 to cover his expenses and offset mine. 

If we don’t reach this amount Erich will need to take other paying assignments and I will continue on without him. It will mean less reporting and a fewer photos.

If you would like to keep seeing Erich’s work we now have a Kickstarter page, where you will find stickers, T-shirts, prints of Erich’s photos and personal postcards sent from the river as thank-you gifts.

If you are able to contribute $1,000 or more The Texas Tribune will provide a receipt for your tax-deductible donation if you mail in this form.

Thank you again for your support.  Erich and I look forward to documenting and sharing the next leg of this adventure with you. 

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

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
#1 8:59 a.m. 32.3098 -106.82719
#2 10:28 a.m. 32.28689 -106.82706
#3 2:11 p.m. 32.24794 -106.81932
#4 4:58 p.m. 32.17048 -106.71756


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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