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FishNet Explore '98 - Journal, Monday, June 22, 1998
Our intention today is to explore some of the drainage areas of the Rio
Colorado in the Sonorian desert of Mexico. Early this morning we
crossed into Mexico and headed generally east.
Our first exploration was the Rio Henry. This river system is west of the
Rio Colorado. We found it about 40 miles east of Mexicali, Mexico.
Although maps showed the river flowing further south, we discovered
that it ended in an agricultural area.
Heiko fished this area and only found very small fish. No adults were
present. Heiko was uanble to identify the species.
We then continued east toward the Rio Colorado. When we reached the
river there was no bridge. There was a railroad bridge. Heiko then had
me CROSS the railroad bridge with my car. Quite an experience!
We stopped there and fished the Rio Colorado. Heiko's first seine effort
netted quite a few Tilapia but no pupfish. Heiko then spoke with a local
fisherman. We went with him to check his catch from his gill nets. He
showed us quite a few fish including a very large American Carp.
Overall Heiko noted about 15-20 different species.
After completing this effort we started the journey toward Sonoyta,
Mexico. In one of the small towns Heiko selected a restaurant. It was
probably the best one for at least 200 miles! They specialized in shrimp.
We all ate a delicious stingray taco as an appetizer and then our choice
of large shrimp. We all watched the World Cup soccer on TV.
After lunch we continued driving through the desert. This was a
challenge to my comfort. I was running the vehicle air conditioning while
Heiko had his window rolled down with temperatures measuring 106 F.
We crossed into the U.S. at Lukeville and proceeded to the Organ Pipe
Visitor Center hoping to catch up with the Kuhns family. We learned that
the Kuhns had already arrived and had started the 53 mile drive through
Curiously, I was immediately asked to identify myself. After telling them
my name, I proceeded out to the vechile to see if I could reach the Kuhns
by radio. Heiko, who had entered the Visitor Center separately,
remained inside looking at books offered for sale.
When I exited the Visitor Center the rangers on duty immediately
concocted a scheme to send someone out to their vehicle to get the
make, model and license plate from my vehicle. This person then radioed
the information back inside the office. Heiko overheard all of this
After Heiko and Paola purchased some books we started the journey
directly to the Quitobaquito Springs. It was about a 20 mile drive. About
half way to the spring on the remote dirt road we were stopped by a
Park Ranger road-block. The Ranger was accompanied by Tim Tibbits
who I had met with back in March during my advance scouting trip.
We were extensively questioned about our intentions with respect to the
Pupfish. I described to Tim everything we had done with the full
cooperation of others at Ash Meadows and Death Valley. Nonetheless,
Tim stated emphatically that Heiko was not going to be allowed to capture
any fish to photograph. While this is understably the law and regulations
to be enforced, Tim's attitude seemingly was one of direct confrontation
(again a road block and secret observation of my vehicle at the Visitor
Center...instead of just politely asking me to meet Tim somewhere to
discuss our intentions). Tim even forbade us to do any water quality
testing including even test strips.
I was quite distressed about this since I had spent nearly an hour with
Tim back in March. Tim even waited until I was on the road west before
fully outlining all of the permits he was going to require.
While I fully support the necessary efforts to protect our wildlife, Tim
certainly was a sharp contrast to the open and cooperative exchanges
we had experienced earlier.
What we found somewhat amusing was that while Tim was spending so
much time and effort to make sure Heiko did not do any close-up
photography of the fish, there was, less than fifty (50) feet from the
main pond, an open area on the U.S./Mexico border which offered no
protection from anyone entering the Spring from the Mexican side. The
main East/West highway in Mexico is less than 100 yards away from the
After getting our "release" we were allowed to proceed to the Spring.
We meet the Kuhns family at the Spring, and John Kuhns told us that he
had met some researchers from Arizona State University who were
doing population work with the pupfish. Unfortunately, they were not
there when we arrived.
I did not, of course, understand why Tim had not mentioned the
researchers to me either in our several electronic exchanges over the
past week, or when he had my vehicle stopped on the road to the
Heiko photographed the Spring as well as plants and animals in the area.
He never touched any water source.
Since it was late we elected to stay at the nearby motel in Lukeville. We
hoped to catch up with the researchers the next morning. Since it was
so late, we ended up setting up tables and cooking our dinner out in the
parking lot of the motel.
(Posted by Jan Benn for John Benn - FishNet Explore '98)