usually rivers get bigger as you go downstream

Usually rivers get bigger and bigger as you go farther downstream. But the Colorado just keeps getting smaller.

That’s Will Stauffer-Norris in the Aspen Times talking about the trip he and Zak Podmore made down the Colorado River, from end to end. In this case, a dusty, had-to-walk kind of end.

Colorado River at Yuma, Arizona, February 2012

Colorado River at Yuma, Arizona, February 2012

It’s a a great line that reminds me of standing on the river’s west bank near its actual end, looking east out across the farms of Yuma County. From a piece I wrote last year:

A few miles west of the river town of Yuma, Arizona, the Colorado River makes a hard left turn, headed south toward Mexico and its abrupt end. What used to flow another hundred river miles or so to the Gulf of Mexico, big and unruly, now stops three miles to the south at Morelos Dam. There, Mexico’s share of the shrinking river is diverted to the rich farming region of Mexicali. Beyond Morelos Dam, the Colorado’s ghost wanders through dry scrub land where a river once flowed, kept company by the U.S. border patrol and a levee meant to protect the surrounding flood plain against an eventuality – flowing water – that seems almost comical today.

Standing on a bluff above the Colorado’s last bend, you can see the river’s past, along with some clues about what its future might hold. Below, along the river’s west bank, is an old abandoned diversion structure that once provided water to Imperial Valley farmers. Up the hill to the west is the All-American Canal, which does that job today – a far bigger artificial river carrying water west toward California’s lettuce farms while the natural river below heads toward its imminent demise.