What the River Knows: Eagle River, Colorado

Eagle River in ice. Photograph by Basia Irland.

In this series, “What the River Knows,” by Basia Irland, the artist and water activist writes from the perspective of each river, using the first person. Installments are published in Water Currents at regular intervals. The first post was about the Ping River in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Other posts include the Chao Phraya River, Bangkok; Kamo-gawa River, Kyoto; Siem Reap River, Cambodia; Yaqui River, Mexico, where the eight Yaqui tribal villages do not have water due to agricultural corporations; the superfund site on the Eagle River in Colorado, polluted with heavy metal runoff from a mine; and the Virgin River as it flows through Zion National Park.

Please feel free to add your comments at the end of each post.

Eagle Mine Superfund Site

Eagle River with ice. Photograph by Basia Irland.

I am doing better now, but I was mighty sick for over thirty years. I was so ill, in fact, that big powerful medical personnel were called in to help make me well again. They named me a Superfund Site to try and clean my body of toxins.

Here is my story. In the 1870s a mine was built right on my bank south of Minturn, Colorado in a small mining town, Gilman, now abandoned. Originally, miners were searching for gold and silver, but from 1917 on they were in pursuit of zinc. When the mine closed and the pumps were turned off in 1984, the interior shafts began to fill with water, leaching metals out of the rock and spilling directly into my body. This toxic mixture of heavy metals immediately killed the fish and other beings living within me for miles downstream.

But the good and strange phenomenon was that these metals turned my flow a bright orange, so the problem became visible to all. In winter some —> Read More