Two college graduates set out on a journey along the Colorado River. Will Stauffer-Norris and Zak Podmore begin at the Green River, Colorado’s most distant source in the mountains of Wyoming, and travel the length of the waterway that once flowed to the Sea of Cortez in Mexico. In total, the young pair paddle and hike 1700 miles. Will calls the Colorado River “freedom” and describes the trip as a refreshing break from routine and time. Unfortunately, by the end of their journey in Mexico, the water is much polluted and the land, once a biologically diverse wetland, is now desolate – an ecological wasteland. The two adventurers are forced to hike the rest of their journey to reach the ocean.
Remains of a River is a record of Will and Zak’s journey and the ways the river has changed over time. Despite difficulties and cold temperatures, they trudge along, sometimes in rough water and other times in calmer conditions. They ride under bridges and along the shores of civilization. They traverse great wilderness areas where they observe animals in their natural habitats, as well as rural agricultural lands on which crops grow and cattle breed.
This engaging video is very well produced, with captivating photography of beautiful scenery, clear narration, and appropriate music. There is amazing footage of wild animals (e.g., moose, bald eagle, bighorn sheep, deer, etc.) in their natural habitats along the river, as well as domestic animals on farmland. Though the film carries a serious message about possible ecological consequences of human decisions, there are moments of youthful wackiness throughout the young men’s 113-day journey. The 47-minute version of their trip is outstanding, but, if that takes up too much class time, there is an abridged 22-minute version.
This film is more a self-narrated adventure story of two young men than a documentary, which may appeal to students. It sets the stage for a unit of study on the effects of human actions on the environment. If viewed for deeper meaning, the film will stimulate much discussion on the ethical issues of interfering with the natural environment. The program is appropriate for a Biology or Environmental Science class at the high school or college level.
REMY DOU taught high school life science for eight years before becoming an Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellow (2011–2013). Currently, he works as a Graduate Assistant at Florida International University where he contributes to STEM education research.