Dan Oko

Dan Oko writes for Outside, Sierra, Texas Parks and Wildlife, and The Austin Chronicle.

Her Name Is Rio

The new anthology Rio Grande chronicles the life and troubled times of a fabled river

The week before I sat down to read Rio Grande, a thick new anthology about the famed river edited by Texas scribe Jan Reid, a strange sight appeared on the actual Rio Grande outside the border town of Eagle Pass, Texas. A fiberglass statue of Jesus was discovered grounded on a sandbar in the river, drawing faithful visitors from both sides of the border to its river-stained robes. Admittedly, little connects the literature of the river and the religious relic that appeared there this fall -- except, perhaps, this: the contributors to the book and the worshipers of the statue share the conviction that the river needs a savior.

A paddler travels one of India’s great rivers before a dam changes it for good

Except for the occasional palm or banana tree, the Himalayan canyon walls look like those carved by the Salmon River in Idaho: The hillsides are brown and dotted with pine groves, and the boulder-strewn banks of the river give way to stretches of white sand. But this is the Bhagirathi River, half a world away from the Rocky Mountains, and I am on what is billed as the last expedition on this stretch of one of north India’s holiest waterways, before it is permanently altered by completion of the controversial Tehri Dam. Dam site for sore eyes. Photo: Dan Oko. …

Austin is losing the battle to protect the Barton Springs salamander

At first blush, it hardly seems fair to compare the plight of the Barton Springs salamander to that of endangered species such as the fierce grizzly of the Northern Rockies or the no-longer-so-resilient salmon of the Pacific Northwest, totemic animals that characterize whole regions and spark national debate. After all, the Barton Springs salamander is a tiny creature, with full-grown adults measuring little more than two inches, and the salamander’s range is only a few miles of stream running through the Texas capital of Austin. Barton Springs salamander: charismatic microfauna.Photo: City of Austin. But given the real and symbolic importance …

The border patrol is threatening two endangered cats in Texas

The Texas-Mexico border has long been a setting for political skirmishes, a conflict zone where figures hide in shadows hoping to find a loophole in the paramilitary operations that attend the Rio Grande, the river that separates the U.S. from its southern neighbor. This ocelot doesn’t have nine lives.Photo: U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife. When the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) decided in the late ’90s to beef up its border operations in the lower Rio Grande Valley, it followed that it would become harder to hide out in the brushy habitat stretching between the small towns of …

Sea turtle activists are pushing for protections in Texas

They may be swimming against the current, but sea turtle advocates say they want Gov. George W. Bush (R) to show a little of his fabled compassion for the endangered reptiles that frequent the Gulf of Mexico along the Texas coast. The New York Times ad. Image: STRP. As the GOP presidential hopeful prepared to accept his party’s nomination earlier this month, the San Francisco-based Sea Turtle Restoration Project (STRP) ran a full-page ad in the New York Times implicating Bush in the deaths of thousands of turtles that have washed up on Texas beaches since he took office in …

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