A motorhome metropolis blooms each year in the Arizona desert.
For most of the way between Palm Springs and Phoenix, Interstate 10 cuts a straight line through the desert; a brick on the accelerator could drive it. Most people don't find too many reasons to stop, except maybe to fill the gas tank or the stomach. The landscape is relentlessly rocky and beige, except for the green valley at Blythe, where the last remnants of the Colorado River are siphoned off to irrigate alfalfa, cotton and other crops that should not grow in a place this dry and harsh.
Despite geologic barriers and in the face of scientific advice, huge infrastructure projects of the 20th century brought water to the arid Southwest and fueled the growth of a megaregion. But now that era of infrastructure-enabled growth is over, leaving planners, developers and policymakers looking for new ways to sustain growth and rising demand amid diminishing resources.
With the one arm he had left after fighting for the Union during the Civil War, John Wesley Powell led a team of 10 men and four boats on what was likely the most extreme and adventurous fact-finding mission since Lewis and Clark stumbled upon the West Coast of North America. It was 1869, and this was neither the first nor the last river voyage Powell would command.