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The Water Cycle bikers embark on 2,000-mile journey along the Colorado River

On Tuesday, Walking Mountains Science Center is hosting a talk by members of The Water Cycle, a 2000-mile, women-led bike trip that is traveling the watershed to engage local residents in science education programs

The Water Cycle began their three-month bike trip Sept. 3. The route started at Rocky Mountain National Park and will finish in mid-December at Reserva de la Biosfera Alto Golfo in Mexico.
The Water Cycle/Courtesy photo

This Tuesday, the Walking Mountains Science Center is presenting a science and storytelling event with six members of The Water Cycle, a 2,000-mile, women-led bike trip that is traveling along the Colorado River watershed to collect stories and engage local residents in science education programs.

The Water Cycle was created by Kate Trudeau, a recent graduate of Walking Mountain’s two-year Foley Graduate Fellowship in Natural Science and Education. While completing her master’s degree at the center, Trudeau came across a book about the Colorado River that didn’t sit right with her.

​​”I felt like the book was kind of disparaging towards people,” Trudeau said. “It really reinforced the concept that the Colorado River is steeped in conflict, and I know that it is, but can we change that narrative to one of collaboration and connection? I read it, and was like, ‘I want to write a rebuttal.’”



Her rebuttal has taken shape in the form of a three-month bike trip that started Sept. 3 at Rocky Mountain National Park and will finish in mid-December at Reserva de la Biosfera Alto Golfo in Mexico. The route follows the path of the Colorado River from source to sea, and Trudeau and her team will be stopping in communities connected to the river to provide watershed education programs and collect personal stories.

“I’ve learned that biking is a great way to get to know people, especially because we want to get to know all the people that live in the watershed,” Trudeau said. “By biking, we’re more likely to have those connections.”

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All of the members of the bike trip are women, which Trudeau said is an intentional choice.

“So many of the big names that speak about the Colorado River are men, and so it was very intentional to have an all-female group,” Trudeau said. “A lot of the narratives that we saw previously were black and white — rafters versus ranchers — and our hope is that with an all-female trip we will be able to collect more nuance.”

Trudeau has received multiple grants to support the trip, including an Early Careers grant from National Geographic that officially designates her group as National Geographic explorers, and a filmmaking grant from the No Man’s Land Film Festival that will support the filming and production of a documentary film on The Water Cycle.

In addition to the storytelling elements of the trip, environmental education plays a central role in Trudeau’s mission. Putting her master’s degree to work, Trudeau and her team are engaging with schools and student groups all along the watershed to provide science education programs, while also initiating a pen pal program between riverside communities.

“Kids upstream are writing to kids downstream about what they love about the river and how they relate to their landscape,” Trudeau said. “Children are really open to these ideas of collaboration, and if we’re going to change the narrative we might as well start young.”

Trudeau has a mail box strapped to her bicycle that carries letters written between students who live along the Colorado River.
The Water Cycle/Courtesy photo

On Tuesday evening, Walking Mountains is hosting a free community event where the team members of The Water Cycle will share their experiences so far, describe the upcoming sections of their trip and educate about the Colorado River. The group will also be holding a storytelling booth that will allow attendees to share their own stories about their connection to the river to add to the larger narrative.

The storytelling booth was inspired by rider Molly Delandsheer, a Colorado native who has grown up with the river and seen it transform over the years.

“She said that in her lifetime she’s seen the river really change with the drought, and that one day it’s going to be irrevocably different, so we might as well capture a snapshot of what it’s like today and record these stories while we still can,” Trudeau said.

Jaymee Squires, the graduate programs director and senior faculty adviser at Walking Mountains, oversaw Trudeau’s education as a graduate student, and is happy to see the program’s alumni making an impact.

The Water Cycle is engaging with schools and student groups all along the watershed to provide science education programs.
The Water Cycle/Courtesy photo

“A big part of our program is to develop professionals in the field and to help professionalize the field of environmental education, so the more that we are able to see our graduates out there doing exciting things and contributing to the solution, it just continues to empower the program,” Squires said. “To see them out there taking action, and doing it in a way that is thoughtful and based in good educational strategies that they’ve learned and practiced, it’s just everything that we imagined.”

Science and Storytelling with the Water Cycle takes place from 6-8 p.m. Tuesday at the Walking Mountains Science Center in Avon. Admission is free, but capacity is limited so reservations must be made at WalkingMountains.org.

For more information about The Water Cycle, visit WaterBicycle.org.

To donate to the project, search WaterCycle Education Project on GoFundMe.com.

If you go …

What: Science and Storytelling with the Water Cycle

When: 6-8 p.m.Tuesday

Where: Walking Mountains Science Center, 318 Walking Mountains Lane, Avon

Admission is free, but capacity is limited so reservations must be made at WalkingMountains.org.

 


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