Photography by J.D. Magers

American Rivers Project

Added on by J.D. Magers.

This last weekend I read a fascinating article on cnn.com regarding a 417 mile kayaking trip down the most endangered river in the United States.  California's San Joaquin river runs from the Sierra Nevada to the Pacific via the Central Valley.  It empties into the ocean under the Golden Gate Bridge.  The article's author wanted to experience the entire river (including the 40 plus mile stretch where there is no water, just a dry river bed) with the purpose of raising awareness and trying to reconnect himself to the idea of exploring and interacting with a river.

What I read shocked me, and yet it didn't.  I consider myself to be somewhat of a river nut as well, having grown up at the confluence of the Colorado and Gunnison rivers.  I usually spent my summers floating in Lake Powell, which was pure bliss (I have different opinions of Lake Powell now, but I digress).  Anyway, I love rivers.

I welcomed the New Year with a sunrise shoot on the banks of the South Platte River, Adams County Regional Park, Thornton, Colorado.  It was 20 degrees as the sun came up, and I had the park to myself.

I welcomed the New Year with a sunrise shoot on the banks of the South Platte River, Adams County Regional Park, Thornton, Colorado.  It was 20 degrees as the sun came up, and I had the park to myself.

These photos are the South Platte river near my house at Adams County Regional Park.  I like to go for my longer runs over to the river too, so I can check out the flow of the water.  Most of the time it just meanders right on by, which I guess is what a river is supposed to do.  What bothers me though, and this is the connection to the dead zone of the San Joaquin mentioned above, is this:

Discarded chunks of concrete sit right on the West bank of the South Platte River, Adams County Regional Park, Thornton, Colorado.

Discarded chunks of concrete sit right on the West bank of the South Platte River, Adams County Regional Park, Thornton, Colorado.

These discarded cement chucks from a messed up section of side walk just sit right on the river bank.  The park itself has a gigantic grass field bordering a golf course.  It also has a "natural area" that is nothing but rocks and weeds and a couple of prairie dogs.  I hardly ever see birds in the trees that border the river, which makes me wonder about the overall health and quality of the water that flows by here.  I know we are down stream of the industrial Commerce City and this worries me.  The fact that there are these discarded pieces of concrete right on the river bank is also part of the problem.  It's like the contractors that built the park screwed up a section of side walk, so they dug it up to re-pour it and left the chunks sitting there.  I know there are leachables and extractables from this concrete seeping into the river every day, destroying the quality of the water.  I wish Adams County would take accountability for the mess and come clean it up, as well as that flea infested Natural Area.

There are also a lot of sand bars in the immediate area where there isn't enough flow.  The water usage of the Colorado Front Range is ridiculous.  I see businesses all the time with their sprinklers on when it's raining.  It occurred to me that the manager probably doesn't know how to shut them off.  The business just turns them on at the beginning of Spring, then blows em out in Fall.  Empowering the business manager or someone to take responsibility for sprinklers would not only save water, but save money too. It just makes too much sense.  Somebody (or maybe me if I can learn how) needs to develop an app to do that for them. Then they can pay me to do it.

Reflections of cottonwood trees in the water of the South Platte River in early fall when water levels are at their lowest.

Reflections of cottonwood trees in the water of the South Platte River in early fall when water levels are at their lowest.

The water problem in the West is only going to get worse.  Too much water sits in Lake Powell and Lake Mead evaporating away.  Too much water gets pumped uphill and over the mountain to feed the metro area.  If things don't change, all rivers are going to look like the San Joaquin, and then what will we do?  Instead of ice bucketing for ALS, I'll be sending my charitable contributions to the American Rivers Project or the Nature Conservancy.  I encourage you to do the same.  

If interested, the CNN article is here.

Thanks for listening.