Can the Colorado River Flow to the Sea?

Last Monday, in the village of San Luis, Mexico, hundreds of people gathered below a bridge that spans the dry channel of the Colorado River. The polka-beat of Ranchero music mixed with sound of laughter across the sandy basin. It was a party of all ages and everyone waited for the guest of honor : agua.

Located 23 miles downstream of Morelos Dam—the last dam on the Colorado—San Luis is where the river finally leaves the border behind and journeys into mainland Mexico. From here, the riverbed winds 90 miles to the Sea of Cortez. But for nearly two decades, water has rarely escaped the sealed downstream gates of the dam. Instead, Mexico’s entire Colorado River allocation turns west—diverted into a giant, concrete irrigation canal—leaving a river of sand below.

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With help, support, binational cooperation, and continued public involvement, we think it can. 

Families gather near the San Luis Rio Colorado bridge where there was no river only a week ago.

What better way to celebrate spring than an impromptu river party? And what better way to see that conservation and restoration measures affect much more than the ecosystems they seek to revitalize?

There’s an entire generation of people who are seeing their river for the first time. 

The pulse flow is hitting its peak today, but water has been creeping its way down toward the delta since Sunday. This little bit of water has been going a long way.

Just watch as children splash around in a river bed that was bone dry only a week ago. If all goes well, the cottonwood and willow seeds that are ready to germinate will be carried down throughout the delta and take root. 

Stay tuned for more. 

It just chokes me up to see this river that has not been through this area is more than 17 years, kind of working its way to the ocean like it should, like it was meant to do. … Just seeing a river getting to be a river again, I just want to celebrate it.

Taylor Hawes, Director of the Colorado River program 
The Nature Conservancy

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We couldn’t agree more. All week we’ve been moved to see families and children come back to enjoy the river they’ve always loved. As the pulse flow peaks and recedes, we’re working hard to get the Colorado River to its delta and eventually, to meet the ocean.