The long and winding Colorado

River’s origin remains one of the biggest geological mysteries of the American West

By Alexandra Witze, 10:32 AM January 9, 2014

Standing on a mesa high above the town of Rifle, Colo., Andres Aslan is having a hard time staying quiet. The lanky geologist from nearby Colorado Mesa University normally speaks in a low-key professorial drone. But here, looking down at a sprawling river valley blazing with autumnal cottonwoods, his enthusiasm cranks up his volume. “This could be it,” says Aslan, gesticulating wildly. “This may end up being the most important site anywhere.”

What’s important about this mesa, called Taughenbau...

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