Historic Colorado Flood - From Two Perspectives

We love it when we get to see two or more of our alumni (or, in this case, an alumna and a staff member) reporting on the same issue on the same day. Today, two great stories about an historic event on the Colorado River: adam hintFirst, from our own Adam Hinterthuer, writing for The Last Word on Nothing:

The Year of the Flood

Until last Sunday, the Colorado River ended in Yuma, Arizona, backed up against an unremarkable span of concrete called the Morelos Dam on the Mexican border. Every drop of water above the dam was already spoken for -– supplying water to Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Phoenix and Denver as well as irrigating farm fields in both the U.S. and Mexico. Barely a trickle of the river that had carved the Grand Canyon continued past the dam. And all of that was headed toward Mexicali farmland, not the last seventy miles to the Gulf of California.

But, on March 23rd, the gates of the Morelos Dam lifted, sending a pulse of water downstream that will mimic the increased flow that used to be provided by spring rains and Rocky Mountain snowmelt. After the pulse, the gates will remain open for roughly two months, giving the lower Colorado enough flow to, perhaps, complete its run to the Sea of Cortez... Read more.

After being allocated for municipal needs in major American cities and irrigation in the U.S. and Mexico, the Colorado River runs no more south of the border. (Photo by Pete McBride, USGS)

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sarah gilmanAnd, from Sarah Gilman, writing in High Country News:

Four Women Joyride the Flood that will Revive the Colorado River

The guides warned us, of course. Or they sort of did.

It was sometime after the river outfitter’s shuttle van had passed through the latticework of gates and fences that guards the steep, hairpinned road to the boat-launch at the base of the Hoover Dam, and possibly right before we realized that we had left our two-burner stove back in Alison’s truck, in the parking lot of a casino hotel towering beigely over an otherwise nearly buildingless swath of desert around Lake Mead.

March 19 had dawned beautiful and bluebird in what we had dubbed Baja, Nevada – a 12-mile stretch of clear turquoise water with intermittent hotsprings through the Black Canyon of the Colorado River, where my three college lady friends and I planned to kayak at a luxuriantly sluggish pace for four days. Green rattlesnakes will chase you, the guides told us as we wound into the steep gorge. Scorpions will roost in your sandals. Brain-eating amoebas will Swiss-cheese your frontal lobes if you’re stupid enough to snort the hotspring water. And in the afternoon and at night, the water level can rise without warning as dam operators let more or less through Hoover’s hydroelectric turbines to feed fluctuating power demands in Arizona, Nevada and California. Make sure your gear is secure, the guides fingerwagged, and your kayaks well-tied overnight... Read more.

High and dry. Photo courtesy Sarah Gilman.