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Remains of a River:  From the Source to the Sea Down the Colorado cover photo

Remains of a River: From the Source to the Sea Down the Colorado 2012

Highly Recommended

Distributed by Green Planet Films, PO Box 247, Corte Madera, CA 94976-0247; 415-377-5471
Produced by Will Stauffer-Norris and Zak Podmore
Directed by Will Stauffer-Norris and Zak Podmore
DVD , color, 88 min.

Jr. High - General Adult
Environmental Science, Water, Western United States

Date Entered: 10/03/2013

Reviewed by Cliff Glaviano, formerly with Bowling Green State University Libraries, Bowling Green, OH

Recent Colorado College grads Will Stauffer-Norris and Zac Podmore travel the length of the Colorado River from its source (Green River) in the Wind River Mountains of Wyoming to the dry Colorado delta in Mexico using flotation packs, kayaks, rafts or hiking on foot as the river system allowed, documenting the Colorado as part of The State of Rockies Project. As the cinematography makes a strong statement, little is said directly concerning wilderness and recreational use of the waterway opposed to the looming threat of increased water diversion from the Colorado Rivers watershed for irrigation and water resources for Denver, Phoenix, Tucson, Los Angeles and San Diego for drinking water and urban landscaping use. One comment contrasts the need for reservoirs to supply urban water needs with the original, wilderness course of the river some 500 feet below the surface of Flaming Gorge Reservoir.

The recreational potential of the Colorado is highlighted in Will and Zac’s rafting trip through the Grand Canyon with family and friends, views of marinas at several reservoirs, and a delightful New Year’s Eve side trip to the Las Vegas strip. The wilderness remaining along the watershed is captured through excellent cinematography by the filmmakers, who also edited their footage into a quality presentation. Following the three-way split of the Colorado to Phoenix/Tucson, to Los Angeles/San Diego, and to Yuma AZ/Mexico, the adventurers chiefly follow irrigation canals as far as Morales, Mexico where they “watch as the river turns to lettuce.” At Algadones, Baja California, the canal becomes farm runoff that burns bare skin, and ends in a swamp. The last leg is hiking across the intertidal mud flats of the Colorado delta to the Sea of Cortez. From source to sea is 113 days.

This video is highly recommended for all interested in exploring the intricacies of water in the American West. The filmmakers acknowledge the need for water diversion for irrigation and urban use while highlighting the remaining wilderness and current recreational opportunities along the watershed. Interviews with residents who experienced life on the lower Colorado before it was dammed and diverted to a trickle add emphasis to the arguments against further diversion of the Colorado’s water. Tough decisions will need to be made in order to retain the current levels of water harvesting along the watershed let alone to restore portions of the river to more natural historic flows. The value of the Colorado watershed is explored in the film as wilderness, as recreation, as commodity irrigation and drinking water, and finally as a way of life. This is a balanced overview that invites personal involvement in the ongoing discussions on the future of Colorado River water.