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Disappearing Rio Grande Expedition Recap

In which we review the latest from Colin and Erich's excellent Rio Grande adventure. Check out the dispatches and photos!

By Colin McDonald, Erich Schlegel and Jessi Loerch
Garret Schooley, left, and Neil Cheesewright take a two man raft down the Upper Box of the Rio Grande Gorge.

Over the last two weeks, intrepid Rio Grande adventurers Colin McDonald and Erich Schlegel have been making their way through New Mexico. Check out what they've been up to on the river. Here are some highlights:

•    McDonald profiles a pecan farmer and the challenge of making do with less water.

In wet years, Carlson can flood irrigate his pecans every two weeks with the water from the irrigation canal that runs by his property. To keep his trees producing, they need to be irrigated 13 times a year. 

Last year, he was able to irrigate once off the canal before it went dry. The rest of the water came from his wells.  

The aquifer is now dropping.  Carlson plans to pump until he uses up all of his water right, or his wells run dry. For him, this is what the water is for. 

“Me being a farmer, I have a hard time grasping that I’m using too much water to grow food,” he said. “What better use is there?”

•    McDonald runs across a group of middle school students and must explain how a river can have no water.

They asked me why there was no water in the river and I tried to explain the drought and water policy. But as soon as 1900 came out of my mouth, they went back to staring up at the sky and the branches of the cottonwood they were sitting under.

They laughed when I asked them what they thought about the Rio Grande. 

For most of their lives it has not flowed. 

They corrected me and said, “You mean the Rio Sand?”

•    And to keep the quality of the reporting on the expedition up, McDonald has an entreaty for his readers.

For Erich to spend the next five months on the river and reach the Gulf of Mexico we need to raise $25,000 to cover his expenses and offset mine. 

If we don’t reach this amount Erich will need to take other paying assignments and I will continue on without him. It will mean less reporting and a fewer photos.

If you would like to keep seeing Erich’s work we will have a Kickstarter page up by the end of the week, here is a preview of the video, where you will find stickers, T-shirts, prints of Erich’s photos and personal postcards sent from the river as thank-you gifts.

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