PHOTOS: The Remains of a River

Take a source-to-sea journey down the mighty, withering Colorado
Staff Writer

Earlier this month, we interviewed Will Stauffer-Norris, one of two Colorado College grads who are currently on their second source-to-sea journey down the Colorado River. The original trip, from October 2011 to February 2012, took he and Zak Podmore 1,700 miles from the snow-covered Wind River Range of western Wyoming to the place, a few miles shy of the Gulf of California, where the river slows to a polluted trickle in a sun-baked corner of northwestern Mexico. It was tragic, but not surprising.

The Colorado, after all, is the lifeblood of the American Southwest, supplying water for 30 million people. It's diverted for agriculture, used to turn massive turbines that produce hydropower, and stored in sprawling reservoirs. Altogether, more than 100 dams have been built for these purposes along the Colorado and its various tributaries. At water level, from the cockpit of a kayak or packraft, Stauffer-Norris and Podmore discovered a river full of contradictions. It's unimaginably remote and wild and flows seemingly free through magical places like the Grand Canyon and the Wind River Range. But in places like Lake Powell and south of the U.S.-Mexico border, man's impact is all too clear, and the river can be dirty, politically fraught and downright depressing. With these photos, you can take the journey with them.

Now the duo is back on the river, along with a couple of friends, David Spiegel and Carson McMurray. This time, rather than a journey of pure adventure, they've partnered with the Marine Ventures Foundation, Colorado College's Sate of the Rockies Project and Below the Surface to create a robust interactive map of the Colorado River basin. While on the river, they're taking photographs, interviewing various stakeholders and recording water quality data. The goal is to share the stories and opinions of stakeholders and experts, and to create a virtual tour of the river. Having started from Colorado River headwaters in Rocky Mountain National Park in June, they're making their way back to the Gulf of California with adventure in their hearts and conservation on their minds. Check out their expedition page here.

To read a Q+A with Will Stauffer-Norris, click here.


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