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Colorado River

The Colorado River, which flows in the western United States through Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, Arizona and California, provides water to more than 30 million people. It has many locks and dams along its course, and hundreds of water channels branch off from it. Exploitation of the natural source causes shallowing – only 10% of the water reaches the source to the delta, which negatively affects the ecosystem. Conservationists are actively working to stop the drying up of the river and to preserve unique landmarks – natural and man-made.

Colorado River Information

Where the Colorado River is located
The river flows through North America.

Scientists are still interested in one of the longest rivers in the United States. The first study was done in the 1870s by John Wesley Powell, and now computer simulations of its basin are regularly conducted to monitor the slightest negative changes in the ecosystem.

Where is the reservoir

North America is the name of the continent on which Colorado is located. The river originates in the Rocky Mountains of the state of the same name, at La Poudre Pass, 3,014 m above sea level, and flows into the Gulf of California, forming a wide delta.

The watercourse flows through the U.S. and forms a 27-km border between Arizona and Mexico, ending in the Northwest of that country.

Origins and historical background

Scientists estimate the age of Colorado at 17 million years, but the active formation of canyons and meanders occurred in the last 6 million years.

Spain’s conquistadors were struck by the river’s warm, brown-colored waters. Because of this hue, which is given by the sandy silt bottom, the body of water was named – Colorado, “colored red”. Later it became the name of the plateau where the Grand Canyon, a natural formation formed by the activity of a turbulent stream, and the state through which the river flows, is located.

As early as 12 million years ago, the first settlements of Paleo-Indian cultures emerged on the shores of the Colorado River. In the first century AD. The tepees of the Navajo Indians appeared in the 16th century, structures of the first Europeans, the Spanish colonizers, and in the 19th and 20th centuries the development of the basin and the construction of hydraulic structures began.

Main characteristics of the reservoir

The size of the river is impressive:

Indicators Features
Length, km 2334-2340
Width, m 23 at the narrowest and 90 at the widest
Depth, m 2-34
Basin area, km² 637 137
Water flow rate, m³/s 640 before fence settlement and 27 after
Height of the source at sea level, m 3104
Height of the mouth, m 0
Refers to the water system Pacific Ocean
Tributaries 25

The river feeds not only the states of America, but also Mexico – Sonora and Baja California.

The importance of reservoir conservation for the United States

The construction of hydroelectric facilities has reduced the Colorado Delta fivefold, which has had a negative impact on the ecosystem. The most affected were the Indian tribes who settled along the river and were engaged in fishing. They had to leave.

Before the dams were built, the waters were warm and brown in color – now they are clear and cool. Many species of animals and rare plants, endemic species of mollusks are extinct.

Now not only the existence of flora and fauna, but also the population is threatened. Because of uncontrolled withdrawal, almost the entire pool can become shallow. Climate change also has a negative impact.

But there are many industries associated with the Colorado River in the United States:

  • hydropower;
  • agriculture – farming and animal husbandry;
  • shipping;
  • tourism.

The shoaling of Colorado will cause massive unemployment. Therefore, the country’s authorities faced the task of reducing water consumption through alternative sources and preventing industries from shutting down. Water use norms were developed, release schedules were established, including at the largest hydrostructure – Hoover Dam.

Hoover Dam on the Colorado River
Hoover Dam.

Hydrology and climate near the banks of the Colorado River

The sources that feed the water flow are glaciers, seasonal monsoons, and occasional rains. In May and June there is a flood.

Until they built hydraulic structures, the river was a rough stream. Now, the lower downstream, the calmer it is. The high velocity of the current remained only near the source, in the Rocky Mountains.

The climate of the basin varies. Snow and rain fall in the upper part, with a seasonal rainfall of up to 1,000 mm. At the bottom, the climate is arid, precipitation is rare, the level does not exceed 15 mm.

Sources, estuaries and tributaries

The Colorado River belongs to the Pacific Ocean water system, but since the 1980s, its waters have reached its mouth only 5 times – the last major flood was observed in 1988. The source remains the same – La Poudre Pass, but the river now has no mouth – its waters are absorbed and evaporate on U.S. and Mexican farmlands.

The largest tributaries:

  • Azul;
  • Pariah;
  • Gunnison;
  • Green;
  • San Juan;
  • Dolores;
  • Hila;
  • Escalante.

The smaller ones are Aqueduct, Regina River, Little River, etc.

Islands and settlements

There are several islands on the Colorado River – Isla Gore, Pelicano, and Montague. They are located between the tributaries of the main channel, closer to the delta. Once the largest was Padres-Batte. But the level of the river dropped, and it became a peninsula.

There is also a small island in Canyonlands National Park in Utah, at the confluence of the Green tributary with the Colorado.

The largest communities located on the banks of the river are Aurora, Fort Collins, Boulder, Arvada, Pueblo, and Lakewood,

Attractions near the Colorado River

There are many landmarks near the channel. At the very source, by the Rocky Mountains, is Rocky Mountain National Park. It is famous for the fact that it is divided into two climatic zones by a mountain range. The eastern part has glaciers and dry air; the western part has high humidity and an abundance of forests. On one side of the park live snow rams, cougars, and other animals and birds that prefer cooler climates; on the other side are steppe dwellers: coyotes, marmots, etc.

Rocky Mountain Park
Rocky Mountain National Park.

In all, the river runs through 11 national parks, but the most famous one is the Grand Canyon. It is called the wonder of the world. People come to it to admire the beauty created by the rushing stream.

One of the structures on the river is the Hoover Dam, which is considered the eighth wonder of the world. This majestic structure with arches, as if floating in the sky, is also a powerful hydroelectric power station, standing on the shore of man-made Lake Mead.

Colorado River Tourism

To see the sights come tourists not only from major American cities – Chicago, Houston, New York, Los Angeles, etc., but also from all over the world. Many guests are attracted by the Hoover Dam.

But water tourism is more popular – each year in rafting through the Grand Canyon is attended by more than 23 thousand people. The route starts from Diamand Creek, Fox Ferry or Lake Mead. The duration of the tours – from 2 days to 4 weeks. Many travelers canoe down to the Colorado River on the tributaries.

Sections of the river with different climates attract travelers who prefer to admire the landscape from the windows of cars or buses. Campsites in the Rocky Mountains are occupied year-round by alpine skiers, the Grand Canyon specializes in skydiving and rafting down difficult stretches of river on inflatable rafts.

The best place to view the Colorado River is from

You can take spectacular pictures of the river from the rocky banks and bridges crossing the water flow:

  • Rylph;
  • Dewey;
  • Mike O’Callaghan and Pat Tillman (Hoover Dam Detour);
  • Navaja;
  • Glen Canyon.

But the best view is from the Hoover Dam and Colorado Meander lookouts at Horseshoe Shaped Glen Park. In the bend where the river skirts the cliff, there is a natural platform that can be climbed for free and a glass observation tower 1220 m high, called the “Heavenly Path”.

In addition, you can book a helicopter tour and admire the river from a bird’s eye view.

Interesting facts about the reservoir

Colorado passes through several climate zones. More than 1,000 species of plants can be found on the banks, from alpine conifers to semi-desert and desert plants.

Its waters have formed such a natural landmark as the Grand Canyon, which is 2,000 meters deep. The waters of the Grand Canyon are 2,000 meters deep and have created Lake Powell, an area of 1,627 square kilometers, through human influence.

Because of the controversy and legal controversy caused by the ability to use the water for domestic purposes, the Colorado was given a second name, the River of Law. Now all the sites are under the control of the authorities who monitor drainage and regulate the catchments.

The water lost its red color after the construction of Glen Canyon Dam. It blocked the channel and the brown silt stopped flowing into it. Since 1963, the origin of the name became unclear.

With the development of railroads, river shipping lost its importance in the U.S. economy. And by the end of the 20th century. The Colorado began to dry up, and much of the channel became inaccessible to large ships. Now rowing and motor boats, pleasure boats and small barges go along some parts of the river. But the industry has no commercial value.

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