by Sara Horton
Author, poet and philosopher Henry David Thoreau penned his thoughts about rivers in A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers, a book about his and his brother's two-week expedition in the wilderness. Will Stauffer-Norris, Zak Podmore, David Spiegel and Carson McMurray will record their experiences in a similar fashion starting today, when they head downstream the Colorado River from La Poudre Pass in Rocky Mountain National Park. But they will also make use of what Thoreau didn't have back in the 19th century — interactive technology.
The researchers, all Colorado College graduates, are part of Down the Colorado, a project of Colorado College's State of the Rockies Project. During 50 days of hiking, kayaking, rafting and packrafting, they will "measure dissolved oxygen, temperature, salinity, pH, nutrients, and turbidity three times a day, offering a finer resolution of data than is currently recorded at USGS gauging stations" in partnership with Marine Ventures and Below the Surface.
In addition to interviewing river stakeholders and conducting scientific research, they will create a virtual tour and interactive map of the Colorado River Basin with stories, photographs and videos as they pass the Colorado Rockies, Gore Canyon, Barrel Springs, Glenwood Springs, Westwater and Cataract Canyon and Lake Powell. After they reach their destination of Lee's Ferry, Ariz., the team's findings will be made public, and the project will resume this fall and winter near Yuma, Ariz., the "most degraded" stretch of the river.
While the undertaking sounds exhausting (and could get a little smelly), the team appears ready. "Finally, I am now realizing how excited I am to embark on the journey," Spiegel wrote on the project's site Thursday. "There is no place I would rather be than floating down a river with good friends. On top of this, I truly hope that our effort can inspire others with passion for the river and a more nuanced approach to its issues."
Below is "Remains of a River," a 50-minute documentary that Stauffer-Norris and Podmore made during the 2011-2012 Source to Sea, their 113-day journey from the Green River in Wyoming to Mexico's Gulf of California.