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      NATURE REPORT Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge Flooded

      Record flooding has persisted for more than a week throughout much of the Rio Grande Valley as a result of torrential rains in northern Mexico following the landfall of hurricane Alex.

      The Rio Grande, Arroyo Colorado and the Valley's floodway system remain swollen as water races to the Gulf of Mexico and the Lower Laguna Madre.

      Homes have been flooded and crops ruined as rising water takes its toll.

      Wildlife is also suffering with the inundation of vital habitat along the river. Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge south of Pharr, Bentsen State Park south of Mission and many other areas are underwater.

      The only way to access these lands is by boat, and Santa Ana acting refuge acting manager Chris Hathcock and Public Outreach Specialist Nancy Brown have launched a canoe to explore the refuge.

      SOT Chris Hathcock, "I never thought I would get this opportunity. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity."

      The water is ten feet deep or more in some areas as the refuge personnel glide by the hawk tower and paddle thru the canopy of Spanish moss dangling from the trees.

      Occasionally, they pass a cottontail rabbit crouched in a bush or on a log trying to survive the floodwaters.

      Eventually, they make it back to the historic cemetery and paddle thru the arched gateway.