Environment: Following the Colorado River

February 20 2013, 12:35 PM

In 2011, 5280 covered photographer and writer Peter McBride’s aerial journey down the length of the Colorado River with his breathtaking photo essay captured in flight. More recently, Zak Podmore, Will Stauffer-Norris, and other colleagues from Colorado College’s State of the Rockies Project followed in McBride’s footsteps—or rather, flight plan—in their kayaks. Over two trips, one of which ran the entire length of the Colorado, from Wyoming’s Wind River Mountains to the Sea of Cortez, and one of which began in Rocky Mountain National Park and ended in Lake Powell, the kayakers gathered photography, research, video, scientific data, and interviews with Colorado River stakeholders (ranchers, local businesses, nonprofits, and energy developers).

The first expedition (1,700 miles) resulted in a 45-minute film, Remains of a River, which chronicles the journey of two friends as they paddle and hike their way through an endangered waterway and witness firsthand the environmental degradation that threatens one of America’s most beautiful rivers. The film has played around the country in classrooms, environmental conferences, and film festivals.

Data and observations from the second journey (600 miles), a more research-intensive effort undertaken by four explorers this past summer, will be compiled in a five-episode web series, Powell to Powell: Portraits of the Upper Colorado (watch the trailer here). Each webisode, all accompanied by a blog and photo slideshow, will focus on a different issue relating to the river, such as agriculture, oil and gas exploration, and recreation. 

Also worth checking out: the team’s interactive GIS map of the Colorado Basin. The kayakers mapped their route and populated the map with case studies, photos, and other posts that depict relevant news and demands placed on the river.

Find out more at DownTheColorado.org, and stay tuned for a conversation with adventurer, kayaker, and researcher Zak Podmore. 

Image courtesy of Shutterstock