- Published on Thursday, 16 February 2012 21:08
If you magine running a river from its headwaters to the sea, you probably envision paddling your way to your trip's end. But not so for two groups of paddlers who, on separate journeys down the Colorado River, had to carry their lightweight boats on their backs in order to reach the sea.
In 2008, author Jonathan Waterman ventured on a 1,450 mile source-to-sea journey down the Colorado River, joined at times by his friend, photographer Pete McBride. Then four years later, two Colorado College alums--Will Stauffer-Norris, and Zak Podmore--completed a similar adventure, reaching the delta just last month. A few miles into Mexico, both groups arrived at the same end: the quick realization that there was no more river left to paddle.
Since the construction of Hoover Dam in the 1930s, and the subsequent filling of Lake Mead and other reservoirs on the river, Colorado River flows have diminished immensely. Save for a few flood years in the late '80s and mid '90s, the Colorado no longer reaches the sea.
What this means for folks such as Waterman and McBride, Stauffer-Norris and Podmore, is not just a laborious end-of-journey hike over hardpan and mud flats--a landscape which once formed one of the largest desert estuaries in the world. Rather, it's a matter of posterity: what kind of world do we wish to leave for future generations? Waterman ponders this question in a recent New York Times article which highlights the need for increased binational cooperation over the Colorado River. And he wonders, Will we find a way to allow the river to once again meet the sea? At Sonoran Institute, we are working hard to be able to answer this question with "Yes."