The Colorado River, Source to Sea (Not Quite)

A crew of recent grads from Colorado College have shared their epic paddle down the Colorado River in a new video Mirror River.

It’s the story of a 113-day adventure told in three minutes, featuring the river’s famed canyons and rapids, all the way from Wyoming down to Mexico. And it ends (spoiler alert) with the Colorado’s all-too well known punchline: the river disappears before it meets the sea.

Many have attempted to convey how wrong it feels that the Colorado no longer flows all the way to the Sea of Cortez. Books include Philip Fradkin’s A River No More (1981), Marc Reisner’s Cadillac Desert (1986), and Jon Waterman’s Running Dry (2010), well-regarded tales of the byzantine world of dams and pipes that take from the Colorado to water the West. Recent films include Pete McBride’s Chasing Water (2011) and Jamie Redford’s Watershed (2012).

Now we can add Will Stauffer-Norris and Zak Podmore to this list. Theirs is a sound-bite of a video, lacking explanation of why the river looks like it does and the depth of the earlier works, but perhaps better suited to a world with a twitter-length attention span. The videographers make their point – that there’s something terribly wrong with the Colorado River – like nobody has before.Mirror River

Thankfully there’s a movement afoot to right this wrong. It’s a remarkable partnership between the federal governments of both the United States and Mexico and conservation organizations on both sides of the border. The partnership will try a five-year restoration experiment in the final miles of the Colorado that includes dedicated water for the long-desiccated delta. Planning is just beginning, but if the experiment is successful, there will be new life in the delta by 2017, hope for longer-term commitments, and the promise of a river that rightly flows all the way to the sea.

(Related: The United States and Mexico Can Restore the Colorado River Delta)

Change the Course: Help Save the Colorado River



Jennifer Pitt is the Colorado River Project Director for Environmental Defense Fund. She works with Colorado River water users throughout the Colorado River basin—including seven states in the United States and two in Mexico—to develop practical programs to restore river habitats and to dedicate water to environmental resources. She has worked as a park ranger and a Congressional aide, and has a Masters degree in Environmental Studies from Yale University.