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Finally After 16 Years, Colorado River Connects With Gulf Of California

Update Date: May 22, 2014 05:36 AM EDT

After nearly 16 years, freshwater from the Colorado River flowed into the salty waters of the Gulf of California. 

Last week a high tide surged past a stubborn sandbar and connected the river with the Sea of Cortez, said Francisco Zamora, director of the Colorado River Delta Legacy Program for the Sonoran Institute. 

Because of water use upstream, little flow from the 1,450-mile Colorado River [2,330 kilometers] has reached the sea in 50 years, reported CS Monitor. 

The high tides made the final link between river and sea last week via a pilot channel dug by the Sonoran Institute to increase freshwater flow into the Gulf of California. The water flooded into the swampy mudflats called the Rio Hardy helping river to join, once again, with the larger body of water which is its natural outlet. 

Conservationists are hoping to restore a more-natural region of water/land interface, called a riparian habitat. This could include species such as willows and cottonwoods, reported

"After waiting for two months, it was very exciting to see," Zamora said according to CS Monitor. "This pulse flow opens the door for new possibilities for restoring riparian and estuary habitats."

"The river once delivered its entire annual discharge of approximately 14 million acre-feet of fresh water to the upper Gulf of California, creating one of the largest and most diverse estuaries in the world," the Sonoran Institute wrote on a Facebook page supporting environmental efforts in the delta. 

"I think everyone is very excited about the opportunities," Zamora added.

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