It’s always an amazing experience floating the Upper Colorado River in the summertime. It’s not a completely wild river, but it’s remote enough, free enough, and undisturbed enough that it makes for an incredible float, whether just for a day or for several.
But it’s kind of an odd float as well. Here, beautiful mountains, vibrant river life, and awe-inspiring river flows contrast starkly with Colorado’s main east-west railroad line, which, among other things, carries miles of coal trains on a daily basis.
These trains haul millions of tons of coal from western Colorado and central Utah mines to power plants in the Midwest, southeast, and possibly even for export from the Gulf of Mexico.
It’s a crazy juxtaposition. Here you have a river that is more threatened than ever because of climate change (one article characterized the threat as, “Nearly every climate change model puts a red bulls-eye on the Colorado River Basin”). And right on its banks passing by en masse is the very carbon conduit fueling the climate change.
It’s a reminder of the hard work ahead of us in saving the American West from climate change. For now, we make the best of it and whenever a coal train comes by, we wave to the engineer who gladly blows his train horn as he rumbles past.
Coal train rumbles past rafters.
Coal train rumbling up the river, nearing Red Gore Canyon.
There’s something about a train, even if it’s monstrous noises completely disrupt the serenity of being on the river.
Union Pacific locomotives proudly haul over a hundred coal cars at a time.
Our happy boat hoping for a future without carbon pollution and global warming. We are, too.