Woman and her dog are walking the length of the Colorado River from source to sea

Vanessa Keating is using TikTok to share updates about the Southwestern water crisis.

(Vanessa Keating) Vanessa Keating and her dog Bryce are hiking over 1,600 miles from Colorado to Mexico in order to spread awareness about the Southwestern water crisis.

Vanessa Keating hiked up to the headwaters of the Colorado River on Aug. 6 and started downhill.

Her goal was to spend the next several months following the general course of the river from Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park to the Gulf of California in Mexico with her dog Bryce, sharing TikTok updates along the way to promote responsible water use in the Southwest.

“I’ve been working on this trip for the past seven or eight years,” Keating said. “It’s taken me forever because I had to learn about survival in the desert and being outdoorsy kind of all on my own.”

Originally from Westchester, New York, Keating spent the last several years living in her van, mostly in Utah, while mapping out her route.

“The Colorado is this amazing artist with this grandiose palette,” she said, “but by the time you get to Yuma, Ariz., you can walk across the river without getting your ankles wet.”

Used by 40 million people in the Southwest, the Colorado River hasn’t regularly reached the Pacific Ocean in decades, and concern over the declining levels of Lake Powell and Lake Mead has grown more urgent in recent years.

The farms along in the Yuma area supply the majority of the wintertime vegetables sold in the United States, and Keating hopes her hike will connect people across the continent to Western water issues.

“I think more people should be aware that everybody in the country eats the produce provided by the river,” Keating said. “So it’s not just a Southwestern crisis; it’s a countrywide crisis.”

Keating had been on the trail for 67 days as of Wednesday when she spoke to The Salt Lake Tribune from Cameron, Ariz., having covered 750 miles of her anticipated 1,600-mile route.

Keating’s route has sometimes taken her long distances from the Colorado’s actual course since she uses a wheeled cart to carry food, water and gear, and she prefers to stay on roads.

Utah was a particularly challenging stretch of the journey, she said, and it included a packraft crossing of Lake Powell between Halls Crossing and Bullfrog Marina with Bryce on her boat and her gear in tow.

“It took me five hours to go three miles,” she laughed. “I wish I’d spent some time on a rowing machine.”


Replying to @xenxtheknight I can't leave you hanging for long. On thus episode of hiking the Colorado River from source to sea: I row us 3 miles from Halls Crossing to Bullfrog. My arms felt like they were going to fall off, but I got to sing some sea shantys. Next time I pretend to be a pirate, I'll make Bryce row. #hike #adventure #lake #water #boat


Other days have involved far more progress, including 80 miles of hiking over the course of three days earlier this week.

The biggest challenge so far has been the solitude, Keating said, but the response from people following her social media accounts and learning about water issues has motivated her to keep going. Her updates feature facts about the water crisis — and many photos of Bryce.

A support crew has helped set food caches as she hikes and Keating expects to wrap up the crossing of the river’s former delta in Mexico before the new year. She said she is ready to tackle the hundreds of miles ahead.

“At this point, I feel like an automatic walking machine,” she said.