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
“Dude, this is weird.”
Paul Gaytan is an accomplished lawyer who chooses his words carefully. But after paddling 31 miles on the Rio Grande on a day that refused to warm above 45, he did not have many options as we walked through the vacant Los Ebanos Ferry Terminal and U.S. Customs port of entry.
We started paddling at 8:30 a.m. from Rio Grande City and were amazed to find a small waterfall pouring over a limestone shelf less than four miles from the city center. A family of coyotes scampered across the cascade and entered Mexico just as we arrived. It looked like we were in the Hill Country of Central Texas.
Over the next five hours of paddling, the only people we saw were some young men quickly paddling a raft from Mexico to the United States and families fishing.
The only sign of the Border Patrol was a blimp and two helicopters.
Gaytan is used to paddling farther downstream on the Rio Grande where National Guard troops and Texas Department of Public Safety officers share the watch with Border Patrol agents. You can’t go anywhere without seeing someone in uniform.
Pulling out at the ferry terminal, we smiled at the security cameras and wondered where all the people were. We had spent the past hour talking through contingency plans in case customs officials did not believe our story of paddling the river.
Instead, we could not find anyone and walked around the compound.
In 20 minutes, Gaytan’s wife, Claudia Gaytan, picked us up and we were headed to a warm house and a hot meal.
The only weird thing about that was before this trip I had never met the Gaytan family. But because we share a facination for the Rio Grande and like to paddle it felt perfectly normal for us to trust eachother and for me to take over their spare office while the temperatures drop to freezing and the rain comes back.
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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.