Colorado River Basin - Sample Itinerary

WEEK 1: ORIENTATION AND INTRODUCTION TO COLORADO Our journey starts in Boulder, Colorado, ancestral Southern Arapaho land and Where There Be Dragons’ administrative base. We adjust to the altitude and get to know our community of fellow travelers. We’ll have day-hikes in the nearby rocks and canyons, learn about the wild edible plants of the region, and begin hearing stories about water, land, and the history of the Colorado River Basin. Following our orientation we embark on foot on our first extended backcountry hike towards the Continental Divide, hiking through the foothills into lush aspen forests as we make our way towards Rocky Mountain National Park.
WEEK 2-3: TREKKING IN THE ROCKY MOUNTAINS Our journey on foot continues as we hike across the Continental Divide to the headwaters of the Colorado River. As a group, we’ll learn the skills to be comfortable in the high alpine wilderness, to navigate remote alpine basins, and to lead our peers through challenging terrain. Along the route, we’ll have opportunities to summit peaks, and maybe have a chance at Longs Peak, the tallest and most iconic peak in Northern Colorado. At the end of our route, we descend to the Colorado River at the Adams Tunnel, where most of the river’s flow gets diverted to farms and cities on the far side of the mountains.
WEEK 4-5: PERMACULTURE & SUSTAINABLE FOOD SYSTEMS From Rocky Mountain National Park, we take the train down the Colorado River to Glenwood Springs and the Roaring Fork Valley. Here, as we focus on water and land use in the river basin, studying permaculture at one of the region’s oldest permaculture centers. We’ll visit a seed center working to keep alive the rare seeds that thrive in the arid mountain climate—seeds that our world will need for an uncertain future. We continue our study of sustainable land and water use as we drive over the mountains into Paonia, a town of apple and peach orchards where the Rocky Mountains begin to dissolve into the canyons and mesas of the Colorado Plateau. As we move further and further from the urban areas of the Front Range, we get accustomed to the slow life, removed from the haste and hustle of the cities where most people in Colorado live.
WEEK 6: SAN JUAN RIVER RAFTING EXPEDITION Crossing the border into Utah, we prepare our gear for a week-long trip down the canyons of the San Juan River. One of the largest tributaries of the Colorado River, the San Juan originates in the Southern Rockies and meanders through desert canyons filled with cottonwood trees, hidden ruins, and thousand-year-old rock art. Our days will be spent learning about the geology and history of the area as we paddle Class II and Class III rapids while listening to the sounds of migrating birds and flowing water.
WEEKS 7-8: BEARS EARS CANYON BACKPACKING On our final morning on the San Juan River, we say goodbye to our river instructors as they continue downstream towards Powell Reservoir. We are left standing at the bottom of Grand Gulch, one of the longest canyons of the Colorado Plateau. We will spend 12 days backpacking up Grand Gulch, exploring the silent ruined villages of the Ancestral Puebloan people, learning to sense where water hides at the bottom of desert canyons, and stargazing in the dark desert skies.
WEEK 9: THE STRUGGLE FOR SACRED LAND AND WATER After almost 3 full weeks boating and hiking the magical landscapes below the canyon rims, we emerge onto Cedar Mesa mesa below twin buttes resembling the ears of a giant bear. This is the heart of Bears Ears National Monument, and the center of the fight for preservation of lands sacred to the native peoples of the region. Continuing our journey southward towards the Grand Canyon and the thirsty desert cities of Arizona meet with local conservationists and indigenous leaders to gain insight into the fight for land and water, and the diverse stories behind the indigenous groups, outdoor recreation enthusiasts, conservationists, dam builders, mining companies, and tourists who all want a seat at the table.
WEEK 10: TRANSFERENCE AND COURSE CONCLUSION The final few days of our time together is dedicated to reflecting on our journey, celebrating our accomplishments and preparing for our journey home. We will spend a few days outside of Flagstaff, Arizona to ask why our engagement with the land and water of the Colorado River Basin was important, how to keep that connection alive, and how we can use the lessons learned here to pursue a sustainable future for the places we call home. From here, we head to into the low desert of Phoenix and part ways at the airport.