A Landing a Day

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Posts Tagged ‘Alexandra Cousteau’

Yuma, Arizona

Posted by graywacke on May 11, 2013

First timer?  In this formerly once-a-day blog (and now pretty much a twice-a-week blog), I have my computer select a random latitude and longitude that puts me somewhere in the continental United States (the lower 48).  I call this “landing.”  I keep track of the watersheds I land in, as well as the town I land near.  I do some internet research to hopefully find something of interest about my landing location.  To find out more about A Landing A Day (like who “Dan” is and what the various numbers and abbreviations mean in the first paragraph), please see “About Landing,” (and “Abbreviations” and “Cryptic Numbers”) above.

 Landing number 2012; A Landing A Day blog post number 430.

 Dan –  Well, up until now, I had avoided this large OSer, but now is the time for a visit to . . . AZ; 82/75; 4/10 (1/7); 1; 153.6.  Here’s my regional landing map, showing that by the barest margin, I managed to stay in the good ol’ US of A:

 y landing 1

My closer-in map shows my proximity to the border, to the Colorado River, to Yuma and, from the Mexican perspective, to the city of San Luis Rio Colorado:

 y landing 2

My GE shot shows a true desert landscape:

 y ge 1

Zooming out quite a ways, you can see some mountains to the north, and a green swath surrounding the Colorado River (and also that I landed a mere three miles north of the border):

 y ge 2

To give you more of a feel for the landscape, here’s an oblique GE shot looking NE past my landing towards some mountains:

 y ge 5

There’s a Mexican Highway along the border.  Here’s a Panoramio shot from the road (by M Trejo S) that is more-or-less looking past my landing.  I think it was shot with a telephoto lens, which makes the distant mountains look closer.  The border fence is prominent:

 y by m trejo s  from road in MX looking past my landing

I knew figuring out the drainage was going to be a bit of an issue.  I mean, really, Yuma only gets 3 inches of rain a year (and is very hot).  This, about the climate, from Wiki:

 Yuma is the hottest cities of any size in Arizona, with average July high temperatures of 107 °F. Average January highs are around 70 °F. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, Yuma is the sunniest place on earth. Of the possible 4,456 hours of daylight each year, the sun shines in Yuma for roughly 4,174 hours, or about 94% of the time.

 On average Yuma receives about 3 inches of rain annually. The driest year at Yuma Airport has been 2007 with only 0.15 inches.

 So, of course, no streams show up on StreetAtlas, and I had to use the GE elevation tool to figure out which way was downhill from my landing.  I found that the hypothetical runoff from my landing location would head west southwest in a fairly straight line, as shown on this GE shot:

 y ge 3

The white spot at the end of the yellow line is a dry basin with no outlet.  Here’s a GE close-up of the basin, which GE was kind enough to label Laguna Prieta:

 y ge 4

As best as I can figure, Laguna Prieta means dark, or black lagoon. 

 Anyway, here’s a GE Panoramio shot (by Miguel Angel Lara) of some guys four-wheelin’ in the salt at the bottom of the Laguna Prieta:

 y sobre la sal by miguel angel lara

With a white salt bottom, I don’t know why it’s called Laguna Prieta.  

Here’s another Panoramio shot, also by Miguel, showing the same jeep scotting up a sand dune near Laguna Prieta:

y laguna prieta by miguel angel lara just n of the basin

It turns out that there’s a whole field of big dunes out there, as shown on this GE shot:

y ge 7 

Here’s a closer-in view of some of the dunes.  You realize that these are mighty big dunes.  Imagine a two mile hike along the yellow line:

y ge 6

There are also You Tube videos (tagged “Laguna Prieta”) of guys driving their jeeps up and down the dunes.  Click HERE to check out a race that starts with  “Uno, Dos, Tres!” (the only words I know in Spanish . . .)

 And this one (after an inexplicable display of what appears to be toilet paper unrolled out of a window of a truck in the midst of many hoots & hollers) gives you a feel for the landscape near Prieta Laguna (some pretty awesome sand dunes).  Click HERE.

Speaking of awesome sand dunes, here’s a GE Panoramio shots of the dunes, by the same Miguel Angel Lara:

 y by miguel angel lara

Here’s another dune Panoramio shot, this one by Antonia Magana:

y by antonia magana

Moving right along . . . sorry, Yuma, but I really want to focus on the Colorado River delta, located some tens of miles south and west of my landing.  Here’s some background info from Wiki:

 Until the early 20th century the Colorado River ran free from its headwaters in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado into the Gulf of California.  Significant quantities of nourishing silt from throughout the Colorado River Basin were carried downstream, creating the vast Colorado River Delta.

Prior to the construction of major dams along its route, the Colorado River fed one of the largest desert estuaries in the world. Spread across the northernmost end of the Gulf of California, the Colorado River delta’s vast wetlands once covered nearly 2,000,000 acres and supported a large population of plant, bird, and marine life.  In contrast to the surrounding Sonoran Desert, the Colorado River delta’s abundance was striking.

The construction of Hoover Dam in the 1930s marked the beginning of the modern era for the Colorado River Delta. For six years, as Lake Mead filled behind the dam, virtually no freshwater reached the delta.  This ecologically devastating event was repeated from 1963 to 1981 as Lake Powell filled behind the Glen Canyon Dam.

The loss of freshwater flows to the delta over the twentieth century has reduced delta wetlands to about 5 percent of their original extent.

Here’s a GE shot, showing the southern part of the former wetlands, and the extent of the current wetlands (the green area to the north is irrigated cropland):

 y ge 8

 I found a compelling  video about the delta by Alexandra Cousteau, posted on the Blue Legacy website.  It’s entitled “What Happens When a River Doesn’t Reach the Sea?”  It’s short, and I highly recommend that you click HERE to see it.

 It’s ironic.  I’m in the environmental field, and while I’m not a wetlands expert, I’ve run into wetlands issues here and there throughout my career.  The USEPA (admirably so) has lead the charge to protect existing wetlands.  Individual states all have comprehensive wetlands protection laws as well.  Very small wetland areas (like what could fit in your back yard) are typically protected.

 Because of two dams (Hoover Dam and the Glen Canyon Dam, both funded by the Federal Government), nearly 2,000,000 acres of wetlands have been destroyed.  Phew.  That’s bigger than the state of Delaware.

 I know, I know.  Much good has come from the use of the Colorado’s water, both as a water supply and for irrigation.  But still . . .

 A late breaking story I just read in the NY Times is that the U.S. and Mexico have reached an agreement that will allow more water to flow down to the delta, and also includes a once-a-year pulse of flow that will allow the river to (drum roll please) make it all the way to the sea.

 I usually close my posts with a hopefully beautiful or meaningful picture.  This time, I’m going to close with some prose.  Here’s an excerpt from a 1949 book written by Aldo Leopold, entitled A Sand County Almanac.  While you’re reading, be aware that “he” refers to the Colorado River (before the dams):

 On the map the delta was bisected by the river, but in fact the river was nowhere and everywhere, for he could not decide which of a hundred green lagoons offered the most pleasant and least speedy path to the gulf. So he traveled them all, and so did we. He divided and rejoined, he twisted and turned, he meandered in awesome jungles, he all but ran in circles, he dallied with lovely groves, he got lost and was glad of it, and so were we. For the last word in procrastination, go travel with a river reluctant to lose his freedom in the sea.

That’ll do it.



© 2013 A Landing A Day


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