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
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