By Scott McMillion
Photographs by Peter McBride
Nature Conservancy Magazine
Can the mighty Colorado reach the sea?
Over its 1,450 mile tumble to the sea, the Colorado River presents one marvel after another.
It waters the high-altitude hay meadows in the Rocky Mountains and succors sun-drenched melon fields in the desert along the Mexican border. It carries snowmelt from the Never Summer Mountains to places where the snow never sticks. Along the way, it flows through the showerheads and Jacuzzis of Las Vegas, then takes a scrubbing before pumps launch it skyward in those elaborate fountains, entertaining tourists with what the gamblers bathed in yesterday.
Los Angeles takes a big gulp. So do Denver and Phoenix and Tucson, all places separated from the river by altitude or mountain ranges that engineers have outmaneuvered with pumps, concrete and gravity.
Almost everybody in the United States takes a sip. If you eat winter lettuce or wear a cotton T-shirt or drink milk from California, there’s a good chance you’re consuming Colorado River water that helped transform soil and sunlight into chlorophyll and fiber and protein.
For a century, people have tried to pull fossil fuels from the ground beneath the valley—on both sides of the border—without much success.
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Note: The thumbnail image that accompanies this post is a cropped image from the extraordinary photographs by Peter McBride that accompany the article.