Backpack to the source of the Colorado River, study permaculture and sustainability on local farms, and float and hike the desert canyons of Utah. Study the history, policy, ecology, and cultures of a complex and diverse region of the U.S. wrestling with identity, development, and sustainability. Upcoming semesters and COVID-19.
Travel slowly by foot, train, and boat to connect the Colorado River's ecosystems from alpine peaks to desert canyons.
Until the late 1800s, the beautiful mountains, valleys, and deserts of the Colorado River Basin were largely untouched by the rapidly expanding United States. In 1868, the U.S. government signed a treaty with the Navajo Nation setting the stage for indigenous sovereignty in the desert Southwest. A year later, John Wesley Powell returned to Washington from his Colorado River survey expedition warning that water would always be the center of conflict in the Western U.S. In the 150 years since then, the river has been dammed, diverted, and completely drained to support industry, desert agriculture, and growing cities like Denver, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles. Now, the once-mighty Colorado River no longer reaches the sea.
Some view the river and its surrounding landscape as sacred, some see it as a beautiful place to play and explore, and others see a resource to be tapped for potential profit. Local control over the region is challenged by outside forces: mining, dams, and food deserts. Many people believe that the current pace of resource consumption is not sustainable. How can we conserve and protect the Colorado River’s fragile watershed, diverse cultures, and sacred landscapes in a world that is constantly pushing for growth? There’s only so much water the river can give.
The Colorado River Basin Semester traces this majestic waterway from its source in the snow-capped peaks of Rocky Mountain National Park through organic farms in the valleys of Western Colorado to the maze of canyons, juniper mesas, and sculpted red sandstone towers of southern Utah and northern Arizona. After a few days in Boulder getting acquainted with the region and watershed, we set out on foot to cross the Continental Divide. Along the way, we’ll study the layers of human and natural history, meeting the people, ecosystems, and cultures that make up the modern version of the “Wild West.”
The awe-inspiring beauty of this vast region is unique in the world. On this incredible journey, you will forge lasting friendships with your fellow travelers— sharing campfire stories under a blanket of endless stars, finding inspiration while trekking through mountain aspen groves bursting with Fall colors. The desert sunsets that fill the endless skyline and illuminate the twisting sandstone formations will call you back to these special places for years to come.
Click on the gallery below to browse photos, videos and quotes from our participants and instructors.
We think it has been a life changing experience. One that has filled her with lots of learnings, ethical principles, cultural knowledge, social and human perspective of diversity, strong life lasting relationships, problems and issues to solve and learn from, and the opportunity to live a life completely different than at home.Dragons Parent