Welcome to the Colorado River!
This sixth longest American river runs 1,450 miles from the snowmelt in the Colorado Rocky Mountains all the way to the Gulf of California, crossing the U.S.-Mexico border along the way.
We visited the portion of the river that runs south of Arches National Park into Moab, Utah.
The banks of rivers have remarkable ecology, and these ecosystems are often called riparian from the Latin root ripa meaning “bank.” In an otherwise arid, desert environment, rivers provide a much-needed source of water and abound with wildlife. The amazing team at Way to Moab brought us on a rafting adventure through the meandering pass (with a bit of exciting whitewater along the way!).
Michael and Susan, along with their energetic and talented crew, are among the kindest people you will ever meet.
In our 4-hour trek, we had the opportunity to observe a wide variety of animal species. Of the mammals, most notable were beavers (Castor canadensis), the largest North American rodent.
We saw much more evidence of their presence than we saw the rodents themselves. Tidy piles of branches and stems were fashioned in areas along the riverbank, and we were treated to the sight of a pair of beavers swimming alongside us. Then, with a loud slap of the tail, they disappeared.
While there are numerous species of rodents in the area, beavers and squirrels (Otospermophilus variegatus) were the diurnal (active during the day) representatives that came to greet us.
Another notable and noble figure was the great blue heron (Ardea herodias), a regal and mostly solitary bird that hardly seemed bothered by our appearance. These are fairly large animals, reaching 3 - 4 feet in height. They are often seen wading in shallow water, watching the water for any sign of movement.
Their diet is very broad, as they will eat just about any unfortunate creature that is within striking range and fits in their mouth. Any fish, amphibians, reptiles, small mammals, insects, and even small birds could become dinner for a hungry heron. You can find great blue herons in marshy shorelines, river banks, estuaries, and ponds all across North America. They are very widespread and of Least Concern for conservation.
Despite their ubiquity, it is a remarkable sight to look upon one standing fully still at the water's edge, and even more so to observe them taking flight with their long neck tucked back and 6-foot wingspan fully outstretched.
The Colorado River in Moab, UT is a beautiful area for bird watchers, wildlife enthusiasts, and adventure-seekers! Not to mention the stunning geology that has Michael, our resident geologist itching to share. Stay tuned for more videos and blogs documenting the inaugural Research on the Road trip!