by Marilyn Noble
One summer several years ago, I spent a day kayaking on the Colorado River near Moab with John Weisheit, the Colorado Riverkeeper. It was a sunny, blue-sky day, and the Colorado was its customary greenish brown color as we paddled through the red rock canyons northeast of town. After several hours, we reached our take-out spot, and as we were packing up to go find some cold beer, I noticed that the mountains and mesas to the east were obscured by ominous black clouds. Thunder rumbled in the distance, and we were happy to be getting off the water and heading back to town. It looked like a pretty good gullywasher was hammering the hills.
The next morning it was time to head back to Denver, and as we got close to the river as it runs through Moab, we noticed it had been transformed. No longer yesterday’s slow, greenish meander through the cottonwoods, it was now a brilliant terra cotta color. With the green of the trees, the red of the cliffs and the blue of the sky, it was almost like somebody had run amok with Photoshop. Alas, the small film camera I took on that trip bit the dust, so no photos remain to document that day (that was in the dark time before we all had high-res cameras on our cell phones), but it’s not an unusual phenomenon for the Colorado to run red.
This color change can also happen in other watersheds when streams, creeks, and rivers drain through red rock and experience heavy rain. Lucky for us, Tom White recently shared some pictures on our Facebook page. These were taken near his home in Cornville, Arizona and show the results of a torrent of red running down the normally sleepy Spring Creek.
Monsoon season is almost here and the possibilities for great photos are unlimited — from massive haboobs to towering thunderheads, eye-popping lightning and yes, to rivers running red. Get your cameras ready!