Drawing rain runoff and snow melt from the slopes of the Rocky Mountains, the Colorado River is a dominant source of water for the American southwest, providing fresh water for drinking and farming and hydroelectric power to millions.
In 2011, Will Stauffer-Norris and Zak Podmore spent nearly four months kayaking and portaging and hiking the length of the Colorado River, from the Green River in Wyoming, which feeds into the Colorado, to the Sea of Cortez in Mexico. That 113 day journey was crushed into one beautiful three-and-a-half minute time lapse, showcasing the varied landscapes of the southwest, from the Grand Canyon to Lake Mead, the reservoir that feeds the Hoover Dam, to a narrow series of irrigation channels.
The pair used their journey to try to draw attention to the modern state of the Colorado River, which Smithsonian‘s Sarah Zielinski detailed in 2010:
The damming and diverting of the Colorado, the nation’s seventh-longest river, may be seen by some as a triumph of engineering and by others as a crime against nature, but there are ominous new twists. The river has been running especially low for the past decade, as drought has gripped the Southwest. It still tumbles through the Grand Canyon, much to the delight of rafters and other visitors. And boaters still roar across Nevada and Arizona’s Lake Mead, 110 miles long and formed by the Hoover Dam. But at the lake’s edge they can see lines in the rock walls, distinct as bathtub rings, showing the water level far lower than it once was—some 130 feet lower, as it happens, since 2000. Water resource officials say some of the reservoirs fed by the river will never be full again.
Indeed, in the video, you can see the powerful river’s flows dwindle as water is siphoned off for irrigation or power production as it makes its way downstream.
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