The Colorado River, Photo by Peter McBride
As a boy growing up on a cattle ranch in Colorado, Peter McBride sat on the perfect perch from which to view the effects of water. From his haybine seat 10 feet above the ground he'd look over the fields and wonder—after the excess water flowed over the land, snaked down small creeks, rushed into the Roaring Fork, and then spilled into the Colorado River, just how long did it take to get to the sea?
As a man, after traveling to six continents taking photographs for numerous publications—including this one—he took an even higher perch. He accepted a magazine assignment to photograph the Colorado River from the air. That project morphed into a three year labor of love—during which he flew over Canyonlands National Park with his father in the pilot's chair, hung out of a helicopter flying at 75 miles per hour while U.S. border patrol agents on board scanned for illegal immigrants, and hung on for dear life as a crop duster flew under telephone poles.
While collecting the photos and information that would become a book, a documentary, and a talk, he also rafted over rapids rushing at 50,000 cubic feet a second, dove into a silty section of the Little Colorado river to photograph one of the world's most elusive fish, and hiked the parched delta of the Colorado—where he got the answer to the question he'd wondered about as a boy.
A boat left in the Upper Gulf of the California at low tide, Photo by Peter McBride
How did this project start?
So this project started about three years ago. I worked as a photographer for a variety of magazines on assignments in over 60 countries. I wanted to do something closer to home, and I have a personal interest in the river. I grew up on a cattle ranch in the Roaring Fork Valley of Colorado and we used Colorado River water—snowmelt that ends up in the basin—to irrigate our fields. I used to spend long hours in the morning irrigating and looking and studying water—seeing where it would flow. I knew it went to the Colorado River and I used to wonder how long it takes to get to the sea. I found my answer doing this project. Sadly, the answer is it never makes the sea today. [Since 1998, it has dried up after the U.S. Mexico border.]