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  • Photo: Peter McBride

    On March 28th, 2014, the Morelos Dam on the Arizona/Mexico border was opened, and a "pulse flow" released—an experiment in ecological restoration. It worked: For the first time in 16 years, the Colorado River ran free all the way to the Sea of Cortez. Intending to paddle the river to its natural terminus, writer Rowan Jacobsen and photographer Pete McBride assembled a crew they dubbed "Team Delta Force." Their goal was to complete the first ever standup paddleboard (SUP) descent of the Colorado. This gallery highlights their historic journey, and you can read about the entire journey in Outside's July issue.

    Photo: Sam Walton paddles a stand up paddleboard through the Morelos Dam in Mexico. Its gates are typically closed but were opened for the historic pulse flow moving its way across the dry Colorado River Delta as a part of the binational agreement for restoration.

  • Photo: Peter McBride

    On March 28th, the Morelos Dam on the Colorado River fully opened, allowing water to move south down the historic river channel some 100 miles to the Sea of Cortez. Typically, the dam gates are sealed tight, diverting the last of the river into the Reforma Canal on the left of the image.

  • Photo: Peter McBride

    The Colorado River irrigates much of America's "salad bowl," including farms of lettuce, spinach, carrots, and dates. Here is an aerial perspective of a celery harvest in fields adjacent to the Colorado River.

  • Photo: Peter McBride

    Fred Philips smudging—a ritual believed to purify a person or place—the CILA (Comisión Internacional de Límites y Aguas) restoration site during the 2014 pulse flow across the dry Colorado River Delta in Mexico.

  • Photo: Peter McBride

    This stretch of river at San Luis, Mexico, just south of the US/Mexican border fence, is typically a river of sand. Here, the pulse flow fills the bed as the Colorado moves into Mexico. Locals flocked to the river bank, staging an impromptu fiesta in celebration of water they hadn't seen in years.

  • Photo: Peter McBride

    Three days after the pulse flow release, crowds of Mexicans play in Colorado near San Luis, Sonora. For a few weeks in April, a full river drew people in droves.

  • Photo: Peter McBride

    Within hours of water reaching the community of San Luis—just over the US/Mexican border—fisherman were reeling in carp and other species. Mexicans celebrated the historic pulse flow moving its way across the dry Colorado River Delta for weeks.

  • Photo: Peter McBride

    Paddling the Colorado River delta at night. At one point during the first descent by SUP across this forgotten stretch of river, the team was forced to "low-crawl" paddle, a technique used to avoid being seen by "malditos"—drug runners on the shore.

  • Photo: Peter McBride

    Delta conservationist and bird expert Osvel Hinojosa helps break an illegal dam blocking the historic pulse flow moving its way across the dry Colorado River Delta. The dam was being used as a road to cross the river, but illegal pumping was also taking place.

  • Photo: Peter McBride

    "We are damming the Colorado with our butts!" Fred Phillips exclaims as Sam Walton and author Rowan Jacobsen help behind him. Then they jumped to their feet releasing a mini flash flood, which ultimately washed out the illegal dam.

  • Photo: Peter McBride

    Sam Walton and Juan Butron paddle into the CILA site, 55 miles below the Morelos Dam.

  • Mexican cowboys celebrate the pulse flow with laughter and dancing horses.

  • Photo: Peter McBride

    Local Mexicans marvel at water in the Colorado River at the last major bridge in the delta roughly 50 miles from the sea. It's been at least 16 years since such a view existed.

  • While SUPing the pulse flow, the team encountered foamy water, tannin sludge, jacuzzi-like jets of air surfacing from the wet sand, more than 60 species of birds, and even swimming coral snakes.

  • Photo: Peter McBride

    The drainage tendrils at the end of the Colorado River resemble the roots of a tree when seen from the air. A trickle of fresh water creeping south can be seen on the lower left—an unusual sight since these drainages typically only drain salt water from high tides.

  • Photo: Peter McBride

    Local wildlife expert Juan Butron contemplates the bushwacking ahead—roughly 40 more miles of mosquitos, snakes, scorpion-infested cattails, and tamerisk forests. "There is water in the rio again," he kept saying. "Amazing."

  • Photo: Peter McBride

    Across the delta, people came out to see the rare sight—water in the Colorado. These children played in the shallows the entire time we stopped to eat a snack during the first SUP crossing of the delta.

  • Photo: Peter McBride

    The end of the dry Colorado River meets the Sea of Cortez and a fishing boat moving upstream. For a brief window in the spring of 2014, the river reached all the way to the sea.

  • Photo: Peter McBride

    Before and after: The Colorado River seen from the bridge just south of the US/Mexican border in San Luis Colorado. On left: November 2013. On right: March 2014. Today, this section resembles the 2013 image, once the pulse flow came to a close.

  • Photo: Peter McBride

    Team Delta Force (left to right): Pete McBride, Juan Butron, Sam Walton, Osvel Hinojosa, Rowan Jacobsen, and Fred Philips.

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