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
There is a fellowship among those who paddle frequently on the Rio Grande where it is the border between Mexico and the United States.
Few do it, and we seem to have an almost instant friendship and trust based on nothing more than a fondness for a particular reach of river.
I spent the last four days with Paul Gaytan and his family, who took me in like I was a visiting uncle. All they knew about me was from Facebook and this website. All I knew about them was from Facebook and Gaytan’s message that he liked to paddle the river near Mission with his son.
Tonight, I’m camping on the banks of the Rio Grande with Keith Bowden. Before we met this morning, he did not know much more about me than that I had big feet and sometimes traveled with a person with small feet.
If anyone has paddled more miles on the Rio Grande than I have this year, it’s probably Bowden. When Jessica Lutz and I left Langtry headed for the Pecos River, Bowden was just a few days ahead of us in a raft. By the time I returned to the river from Thanksgiving, Bowden was off for another float trip down the same reach.
He saw the places where we had struggled with mud and thus knew our footprints. He was surprised when he saw we had continued on past the normal take out. He paddled through the same 60 hours of rain that forced us to hold up at Hot Springs. He too had to build a walkway of sticks and reeds across the muck at the mouth of the Pecos.
I trusted him completely after our first conversation.
Bowden is the author of “The Tecate Journals, Seventy Days on the Rio Grande.” The book chronicles his journey by bike, raft and canoe down the river during the winter of 2004-2005. It has been an inspiration and guidebook for me.
For the last two months, I have tried to reach him. But he was always out on the river.
Just as I was preparing to leave Mission, he called.
He was about to launch on another trip down the Rio Grande. I asked him if he would consider paddling the valley instead of doing another run in the canyons.
Based on where I had left my footprints and a glance through this website, Bowden agreed to come along as a translator and spend a week on the river with a person he had never met.
His only request: that he could have his fires and drink his Tecate.
I don't like either, but it was a small compromise to get to paddle with someone like Bowden.
To comment on this post or ask a question, please visit the expedition's Facebook page.
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.