Wild and Scenic Rio Grande

Created Sunday, 27 May 2007 23:54

Wild and Scenic Rio Grande

Written by Randy Watson

Wild! Scenic! Floating down the Big Bend of the Rio Grande is an experience unlike any other. It is a chance to commune with nature and admire the wild beauty of the surroundings. It is a trip that brings inner peace while contemplating the scenic marvel of the river.

Past Big Bend\’s eastern boundary, the Rio Grande enters a system of desert canyons 83 miles long. This is truly the heart and soul of the Wild and Scenic River, providing outstanding opportunities for solitude and wilderness experience. The Lower Canyons of the Rio Grande, on the other hand, are some of the most challenging rapids in the Rio Grande. A kayaker could be miles away from civilization in dangerous rapids without any assistance anywhere near.

High canyon walls rise on both sides of the river, and a paddler would pass days in a narrow gorge. The lower canyons possess the splendor of the wilderness untouched by humans, away from civilization.   It is the river in all its natural wonder, from the placid Big Bend to the turbulent rapids of the Lower Canyons that bring awe and wonder to those who see it.

The Rio Grande has its source in Sguache County in Colorado, it travels southward into New Mexico, and forms the border of Texas with Mexico until it reaches its end in a sandy delta at the Gulf of Mexico. Shifts in the river\’s channel have led to border disputes between the United States and Mexico. The Rio Grande, one of the longest river systems in the United States, really lives up to its designation of Wild and Scenic River.

A 196-mile section of the Rio Grande, from Mariscal Canyon to the Terrell-Val Verde county line, was designated by Congress as a Wild and Scenic River. Rivers with this designation are free flowing , their ecosystems actively protected in their natural state. Only 2% of the rivers in the United States are unspoiled enough to meet the standards of the Wild and Scenic River designation. The designation for the Rio Grande came as recognition of the ecological importance of the riparian and canyon habitat within the free-flowing section of river that borders Big Bend National Park.

But all is not perfect in paradise. Historically, the Rio Grande floods its banks seasonally. Now it no longer does because of damming. Water levels that have been lowered by dams are also threatening the wildlife. The river itself carries pollutants downstream, further threatening the fish and native wildlife around the river\’s ecosystem.   Parts of the Rio Grande have dried up for the first time since 1955, and the low levels caused by dams are not helping any. Some campsites have disappeared, and river trips are becoming increasingly difficult when sections of the river dried up.

Conservation efforts have been made to keep the Rio Grande in its pristine condition, and the battle between nature\’s splendor and man\’s impact goes on.  To the Rio Grande, the Wild and Scenic river designation is perfectly apt. It is wild, and scenic. Let us keep it that way.

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