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Disappearing Rio Grande Expedition Recap

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

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

Intrepid river adventurer Colin McDonald continues his way through the West Texas portion of the Rio Grande where water in the riverbed is often hard to find. Check out what he's been up to on the river. Here are some highlights:

•    Colin has a portrait of a man destined to be a cowboy:

Mann Bramblett is the youngest of three brothers. He says he always was the cowboy of the family.

“I was riding horses regularly when I was 6 years old,” he said. “When I quit riding horses, I’ll probably be dead.”

He says he went to the college of hard knocks. He grew up on this ranch and his parents ran cattle here before he did. His brothers went off to universities. One is now a lawyer and the other owns ranches in Australia. But running cattle on the land he knows is what Bramblett wants to do.

•    Colin reflects on the difficulties of managing his personal water needs:

When I was low on water, I dreamed all night of being offered some and then having it taken away. I had spent an afternoon following false leads trying to find water.  


In less than two hours of walking under a cloudless sky, I had transitioned from taking water for granted to worshiping it. I found a well, but the water was salty. I tried to distill it, but realized my methods and timing would do me little good.  

Then I found a spring.  

A week later, I am still hoarding my water, even when I have plenty to drink and even shower.   

I don’t know how to find a balance for my own water use. I wonder how it could be possible for a region like this, with two countries, two rivers and such a gap between the haves and the have-nots.

•    Colin takes time to paddle with a hydrogeologist and water lawyer who are pushing cooperative solutions to the challenge of water sharing along the Texas-Mexico border:

The strong point of the argument is that if cities like Ojinaga and Presidio work together, they can implement programs much faster than if they wait for their respective federal governments to get involved.     


It’s not that much of a long shot.  As the Rio Grande and Rio Conchos become less reliable, everyone is turning to groundwater.

And just like the river, the aquifers pay no mind to the border.

That’s something only people do.

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