From space the Colorado River Delta is the defining feature of the Baja California Peninsula. It is a landscape created by a magnificent sea, a powerful river, and an active San Andreas fault: Over millennia the tidal dynamics of the Sea of Cortez, spreading of the sea floor and fresh water flows from the Colorado River have created an ecologically rich delta that includes foraging habitats and breeding grounds for both marine and terrestrial species.
Before the damming of the Colorado River and the short-sighted over-allocation of Colorado River water in the United States, the estuary of Colorado River covered nearly two million acres. Now, the estuarine habitat of the Delta is roughly five percent of its historic size due to the resulting reduced fresh water flows.
Despite this loss, the Delta is still ecologically important for both endangered native species such as the totoaba, Yuma clapper rail, and the vaquita as well as commercially harvested marine species like the corvina. The corvina is an important commercial fish for the Cucapa people who have lived and sustained themselves in the Delta region for roughly 1,000 years. The Cucapa people are also endangered due in part to the dwindling fresh water flows to the Delta.
Because of its dynamic topography, bitter eco-politics, and relative isolation, the Colorado River Delta seemed a unique, if not unusual location to explore by sea kayak. In the spring of 2007 my brother Brian and I decided to paddle our sea kayaks across the Colorado River Delta in order to see this region for ourselves. We started in the tourist town of San Felipe in Baja California and paddled north to the Delta itself, on to Isla Montague, and then across to Sonora Mexico, finishing at the small fishing village of El Golfo de Santa Clara, taking five days.
During our paddle we made a point of talking with the fishermen we came across. Every fisherman we spoke with was very helpful and even worried in regards to our passage - they helped guide us and gave us directions across the Delta and advice as to the tides as well as insight into the difficulties faced by the artisanal fishermen of the region.
By Greg Joder