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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 portion of the Rio Grande marked by deep, remote canyons as well as rugged stretches. Check out what he's been up to on the river. Here are some highlights:

•    Colin hits the midpoint of his journey:

As close as I can tell, I’m halfway to the Gulf of Mexico. Ahead is the most wild and rugged reach of the river and the most urbanized. 

It’s going to be an adventure. To help kick it off, I’m paddling with the most accomplished group of paddlers I have ever been a part of.


The general conclusion is that while the Rio Grande, like almost all other rivers, is highly altered with dams, levees and diversions, it is incredibly resilient and constantly working to restore itself.

•    Colin has a close encounter of the horse kind:

The horses are everywhere. We have found their droppings and skeletons scattered around our camps. While we are paddling, we see them chomping down on just about everything green on both sides of the river.

It is another problem made more complicated by the fact that the river is a border.

By law, livestock aren’t supposed to cross the border without being inspected at official ports of entry. They don't seem to care and while there are miles of fences along the Mexican bank of the river, the horses and cows find ways to cross. The pastures and scrubland of Big Bend National Park must be tempting.

•    And seeking a quiet place to work, Colin instead has a chance encounter:

I picked the sandbar — at the base of a cliff on Mexico’s side of the Rio Grande — last night because I thought it would be a quiet spot.  We had spent Saturday morning interacting with customs, ferry captains, guides and the people of Boquillas. I was looking for a bit of solitude.

But less than minute after we landed, William Gonzales galloped up on his horse on his commute back to Boquillas.  He had spent the last five days working with his brother and a friend at a candelilla camp and had run out of food. He was also set to row the ferry back and forth across the Rio Grande the next day to bring tourists to town. He would ride along the river until the cliffs forced him to swim his horse across and upstream.

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