For this child of the desert, a full and flowing river is an awesome thing. I can still recall my absolute amazement (as a college graduate, arriving in Seoul, South Korea to teach English) at the incredible width of the Han River, which flows through the middle of the city. Standing on one bank, it’s sometimes difficult to see the other side—something I had not before believed possible for a river!
To this day, rivers maintain their fascination for me—especially mountain rivers. There is something about there being enough water for a constant flow that still amazes me. In Albuquerque, New Mexico, where I grew up, there was a decently large riverbed, through which flowed the Rio Grande, which translates Big River.
That river was “big” only in comparison with the dry desert landscape that surrounded it. During the spring snowmelt, the water channel could swell to reach both banks. For much of the year, however, it was reduced to a small sliver of water, wending its way along the parched riverbed. In addition, there were times when you could walk across the entire width of the river without getting your feet wet. Some of that has to do (then and now) with the implementation of water management processes upstream and the diversion of water for irrigation, but that still meant that Rio Grande was usually a misnomer.
Here in southern Arizona, I live not far from the Santa Cruz River channel, which is even more seasonal and usually dry. So much of the groundwater was pumped away by the city of Tucson that they say the river “died” seventy years ago. Any water comes mostly from summer monsoon rains, though there is a new experiment underway this year to