The Colorado River flows from the Rocky Mountains through the Grand Canyon to the Gulf of California between Baja and Sonora in a southwestern direction for 1,450 miles - 2,330 km; it drains an expansive, arid watershed that encompasses parts of seven U.S. and two Mexican states. With dramatic canyons and whitewater rapids, the Colorado is a vital source of water for agricultural and urban areas.
The river and its tributaries are controlled by an extensive system of dams, reservoirs, and aqueducts, which in most years divert its entire flow to furnish irrigation and municipal water supply for almost 40 million people both inside and outside the watershed. Its large flow generates hydroelectric power.
Native Americans have inhabited the Colorado River basin for at least 8,000 years. Between 2,000 and 1,000 years ago, it fostered large agricultural civilizations which collapsed from severe drought and poor land use practices. Europeans first entered the Colorado Basin in the 16th century. Large-scale settlement of the lower basin began latter 19th century, with steamboat landings along the Colorado River that linked to horse drawn wagons. Gold strikes took place in the 1860s and 1870s.
Development of the river basin began in the 20th century with guidelines established in a series of domestic and international treaties known as the Law of the River with hydraulic engineering projects. Most of the major dams were built between 1910 and 1970; Hoover Dam was completed in 1935.
The Upper River is a swift whitewater stream ranging from 200 to 500 feet - 60 to 150 m - wide, and depths ranging from 6 to 30 feet = 2 to 9 m. The Colorado Plateau is a vast desert centered at the Four Corners of the southwestern United States.
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Your anchor locations when visiting the Colorado River include
In Utah the Colorado is characterized by narrow canyons and unique folds created by the tilting of sedimentary rock layers along faults. Here, the San Juan River joins the Colorado from the east. The Colorado then enters northern Arizona where Glen Canyon forms Lake Powell.
Lee’s Ferry was an important crossing for early explorers and settlers and since the early 20th century the principal point where Colorado River flows are measured for apportionment to the seven U.S. and two Mexican states in the basin.
Lake Mead is the largest reservoir in the continental United States, formed by Hoover Dam and southeast of Las Vegas. The Lower Colorado River Valley LCRV is a desert region dependent on irrigation, agriculture and tourism and is also home to Indian Reservations.
The Imperial Valley is the most Productive Winter Agricultural Region in the United States
Tributaries The Colorado is joined by over 25 significant tributaries, of which the Green River is the largest by both length and discharge. The Gila River is the second longest and drains a greater area than the Green. Both the Gunnison and San Juan rivers, which derive most of their water from Rocky Mountains snow melt, contribute more water.
Recreation the Colorado is one of the most desirable whitewater rivers in the United States. Grand Canyon trips typically range from one to eighteen days for commercial trips and from two to twenty-five days for private trips. Several other sections of the river and its tributaries are popular whitewater runs, and many of these are also served by commercial outfitters. Eleven U.S. national parks are in the watershed, in addition to many national forests, state parks and recreation areas. Hiking, backpacking, camping, skiing, house boating, water-skiing and fishing are among the recreation opportunities offered in these areas.
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