(The first part was posted here)
The sky was blue and clear when we started kayaking on the Rio Grande but soon the smoke from Arizona wildfires blew over the Caballo mountains. Smoke filled Palomas Gap and within an hour or so blanketed all the mountains. It shows in photos I took during the last half of the trip. The smoke settled over the river enough to taste it.
Along the Rio Grande is mostly BLM land leased by ranchers to run cattle. Salt cedar, also called tamarisk, has taken over much of the shoreline. There are attempts to remove it, but it’s so invasive, I wonder if they can succeed. We heard the worker’s machine before we saw it. Some big equipment is being used to pull out the botanical intruders. One of the
kayakers remarked that it looked like a T. rex attacking. And it sounded like the cracking of bones when the salt cedar was ripped out.
When the journey quieted down – away from the ageless man versus nature struggle, the river widened and slowed. On branches near the shore, we saw turtles baking in the morning sun. Not one photo of a turtle will you see here, although I tried. Any hurrying on my part, rushing the camera or positioning the kayak was enough to send them into the water. I need to plan that better. Most are about 6” or 7” long and strike pretty poses.
In this more open country we saw many vultures and, for us, a more rare vermillion flycatcher. And of course, more cattle.
After almost 9 miles we came to the spot near Palomas where we had left a truck to get us back home. That’s the only hassle on river kayaking – embedding the vehicle takes some time in the morning when we would like to be on the river. We all got out of the river safely – not a guarantee, believe me.
The river is high – only because water is being released from Elephant Butte Dam for irrigation in southern New Mexico, Texas, and Mexico. The Rio Grande is a tamed river now, sometimes reduced to a trickle. It must have been a powerful beast before the dams. I like to imagine it free.