No river in the United States has been as aggressively seized for human use as the Colorado — and shelves of books have been written to tell the story. But what becomes of the river once it flows out of the U.S. and into Mexico has received considerably less print.
Now, Defenders of
Wildlife has filled that gap on the shelf, providing funding for
writer and photographer Charles Bergman to travel throughout the
Colorado River Delta, where the river flows into the Gulf of
California. The result is Red Delta: Fighting for Life at
the End of the Colorado River.
heartbreaking story: Hoover Dam, completed in 1935, and Glen Canyon
Dam, topped off thirty years later, strangled the Colorado River
and the Delta. The 120 miles of river below the border began to
disappear, and the wild Delta — which once sprawled across
almost 2 million acres — has shrunk to 8 percent of its
former size. The trickle coming across the border has disrupted
currents in the Gulf of California as well, threatening an
important nursery for blue shrimp and endangered species like the
Mexican giant sea bass.
With his words and rich
photographs, Bergman tells the story of the wildlife and the
indigenous Cucapá Indians who call the Delta home. He also
writes of the unsuccessful struggle of a coalition of Mexican and
U.S. environmental groups to convince the U.S. government to
provide the water needed to sustain endangered species below the
“We have made the desert bloom and have
turned hell green,” writes Bergman — but as the noose
around the Colorado gets ever tighter, the push to restore the
Delta seems to be no more than a fevered dream.
Red Delta: Fighting for Life at the End of the Colorado
River By Charles Bergman, 288 pages, softcover: $29.95.
Fulcrum Publishing, 2002.
Gulf of California Dreamin’
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