, Between 1.8 million and 10,000 years ago, massive flows of basalt from the Uinkaret volcanic field in northern Arizona dammed the Colorado River within the Grand Canyon. After the immediate flooding threat passed, it was realized that a more permanent solution would be needed to rein in the Colorado. , Meanwhile, large-scale development was also beginning on the opposite end of the Colorado River.  These flow patterns have also made the Colorado more dangerous to recreational boaters; people are more likely to die of hypothermia in the colder water, and the general lack of flooding allows rockslides to build up, making the river more difficult to navigate. Modern river development has radically disrupted native species and habitats in the Colorado basin. [The Colorado is] a 'deficit' river, as if the river were somehow at fault for its overuse. With the guidance of Hopi Indians, Cárdenas and his men became the first outsiders to see the Grand Canyon. , It was not long before the Colorado River began to wreak havoc with its erratic flows.  Behind the dam rose Lake Mead, the largest artificial lake in the U.S., capable of holding more than two years of the Colorado's flow.  Major reservoirs in the basin dropped to historic lows, with Lake Powell falling to just one-third of capacity in early 2005, the lowest level on record since 1969, when the reservoir was still in the process of filling. Colorado State Location Map.  One Mormon settler Daniel Bonelli, remained, operating the ferry and began mining salt in nearby mines, bring it in barges, down river to El Dorado Canyon where it was used to process silver ore. From 1879 to 1887, Colorado Steam Navigation Company steamboats carried the salt, operating up river in the high spring flood waters, through Boulder Canyon, to the landing at Rioville at the mouth of the Virgin River.  This has resulted in more water being allocated to river users than actually flows through the Colorado. Updates? These early settlers were impressed by the extensive ruins of the Hohokam civilization that previously occupied the Gila River valley, and are said to have "envisioned their new agricultural civilization rising as the mythical phoenix bird from the ashes of Hohokam society". Most native peoples that inhabit the region today are descended from other groups that settled there beginning about 1,000 years ago. This is one of the most inaccessible regions of the continental United States. The Arkansas River is a major tributary of the Mississippi River.It generally flows to the east and southeast as it traverses the U.S. states of Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas.The river's source basin lies in the western United States in Colorado, specifically the Arkansas River Valley, where the headwaters derive from the snowpack in the Sawatch and Mosquito mountain ranges.  The most prominent riparian zones along the river occur along the lower Colorado below Davis Dam, especially in the Colorado River Delta, where riparian areas support 358 species of birds despite the reduction in freshwater flow and invasive plants such as tamarisk (salt cedar). As you can see in this map, the Colorado River’s watershed is huge, including almost 15% of Texas. The first federally funded irrigation project in the U.S. was the construction of an irrigation canal on the Colorado River Indian Reservation in 1867.  A variety of methods were employed to combat these problems, including the construction of large dams, but when a megadrought hit the region in the 14th century A.D. the ancient civilizations of the Colorado River basin abruptly collapsed. From its sources in the San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado, the Rio Grande flows to the southeast and south for 175 miles (280 km) in Colorado, southerly for about 470 miles (760 km) across New Mexico, and southeasterly for about 1,240 miles (2,000 km) between Texas and the Mexican states of Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo León, and Tamaulipas to the Gulf of Mexico. 2., San Diego, 1901. p.15-16. Crustal extension in the Basin and Range Province began about 20 million years ago and the modern Sierra Nevada began forming about 10 million years ago, eventually diverting the Colorado southwards towards the Gulf.  Human development of the Colorado River has also helped to create new riparian zones by smoothing the river's seasonal flow, notably through the Grand Canyon.  Steamboats quickly became the principal source of communication and trade along the river until competition from railroads began in the 1870s, and finally the construction of dams along the lower river in 1909, none of which had locks to allow the passage of ships.. , Agricultural runoff containing pesticide residues has also been concentrated in the lower river in greater amounts.  The San Diego Aqueduct branch, whose initial phase was complete by 1947, furnishes water to nearly 3 million people in San Diego and its suburbs. , The next contractors George Alonzo Johnson with his partner Benjamin M. Hartshorne, brought two barges and 250 tons of supplies arriving at the river's mouth in February 1852, on the United States transport schooner Sierra Nevada under Captain Wilcox. In 2018 a second and lower tunnel was completed to continue furnishing water to Las Vegas. We are three-quarters of a mile in the depths of the earth, and the great river shrinks into insignificance, as it dashes its angry waves against the walls and cliffs, that rise to the world above; they are but puny ripples, and we but pigmies, running up and down the sands, or lost among the boulders. Please select which sections you would like to print: Corrections? Mountain man Jedediah Smith reached the lower Colorado by way of the Virgin River canyon in 1826. , In Arizona, the river passes Lee's Ferry, 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.  Droughts have exacerbated the issue of water over-allocation. It is the largest Native American reservation in the United States, encompassing 27,000 square miles (70,000 km2) with a population of over 180,000 as of 2000. Houseboating and water-skiing are popular activities on Lakes Mead, Powell, Havasu, and Mojave, as well as Flaming Gorge Reservoir in Utah and Wyoming, and Navajo Reservoir in New Mexico and Colorado. Its headwaters are in the Rocky Mountains where La Poudre Pass Lake is its source. The river is chiefly supplied by snow melting in the Rocky Mountains and passes through seven U.S. states and part of Mexico. The C-BT now delivers more than 11 times the Grand Ditch's flow from the Colorado River watershed to cities along the Front Range.  Because most gold deposits along the upper Colorado River and its tributaries occur in lode deposits, extensive mining systems and heavy machinery were required to extract them. On August 9, the entire flow of the Colorado swerved into the canal and began to flood the bottom of the Imperial Valley. Joseph C. Ives, who surveyed the lower river in 1861, wrote that "the shifting of the channel, the banks, the islands, the bars is so continual and rapid that a detailed description, derived from the experiences of one trip, would be found incorrect, not only during the subsequent year, but perhaps in the course of a week, or even a day. Gregory, Herbert E., William Culp Darrah, and Charles Kelly, editors. Subsequently, wagons again were sent from the fort to haul the balance of the supplies overland from the estuary through the marshes and woodlands of the Delta. Full size. , One of the earliest water projects in the Colorado River basin was the Grand Ditch, a 16-mile (26 km) diversion canal that sends water from the Never Summer Mountains, which would naturally have drained into the headwaters of the Colorado River, to bolster supplies in Colorado's Front Range Urban Corridor. Nevada officials, believing that groundwater resources in the southern part of the state were sufficient for future growth, were more concerned with securing a large amount of the dam's power supply than water from the Colorado; thus they settled for the smallest allocation of all the states in the Colorado River Compact. Most of the upper river is a swift whitewater stream ranging from 200 to 500 feet (60 to 150 m) wide, the depth ranging from 6 to 30 feet (2 to 9 m), with a few notable exceptions, such as the Blackrocks reach where the river is nearly 100 feet (30 m) deep. Between its headwaters along the Continental Divide and its confluence with the Colorado River near Grand Junction, the Gunnison alternates between pristine trout fisheries, public recreation areas, heritage ranches, and tumultuous whitewater fed by snowmelt runoff from some of the tallest mountains in the Rockies. By Staff Writer Last Updated Mar 30, 2020 12:24:23 PM ET According to the International Boundary and Water Commission, the Rio Grande River starts in the San Juan Mountains in Colorado and continues 1,901 miles to the Gulf of Mexico. The Colorado River Land Company, formed by Los Angeles Times publisher Harry Chandler, his father-in-law Harrison Gray Otis, and others, developed the Mexicali Valley in Baja California as a thriving land company.  The three major upper tributaries of the Colorado—the Gunnison, Green, and San Juan—alone deliver almost 9 million acre feet (11 km3) per year to the main stem, mostly from snowmelt. ", "Information Database and Local Outreach Program for the Restoration of the Hardy River Wetlands, Lower Colorado River Delta, Baja California and Sonora, Mexico", "Historic "Pulse Flow" Brings Water to Parched Colorado River Delta", "Executive Summary, Green River Basin Water Plan", "Boundary Descriptions and Names of Regions, Subregions, Accounting Units and Cataloging Units", "USGS Gage #09315000 on the Green River at Green River, UT", "USGS Gage #09520000 on the Gila River near Dome, AZ", "USGS Gage #09379000 on the San Juan River near Bluff, UT", "Report, Findings, and Determination Regarding the Navigability of the Little Colorado River From its Headwaters to the Confluence with the Colorado River", "USGS Gage #09402300 on the Little Colorado River Above the Mouth near Desert View, AZ", "USGS Gage #09180000 on the Dolores River near Cisco, UT", "USGS Gage #09152000 on the Gunnison River near Grand Junction, CO", "USGS Gage #09415000 on the Virgin River at Littlefield, AZ", National Research Council (U.S.), Committee to Review the Glen Canyon Environmental Studies 1996, "USGS Gage #09421500 on the Colorado River below Hoover Dam", "Climatic Fluctuations, Drought, and Flow in the Colorado River Basin", "Runoff in the Upper Colorado River Basin Water Years, 1983–85, and Comparisons with Forecasts of Runoff to Lake Powell", "A Preliminary Water Balance for the Colorado River Delta, 1992–1998", "Colorado River Drought Threatens Power Production", "Study: Shortages Likely on Colorado River by 2050", "Mines, Farms Put Gila River on Life Support: Despite Lack of Regulation, Some Trying to Restore River to Its Natural Beauty and Wonder", "USGS Gage #09522000 on the Colorado River at Northerly International Boundary, Above Morelos Dam, Near Andrade, CA", "The Effects of Climate Change on the Hydrology and Water Resources of the Colorado River Basin", "USGS Gage #09522200 on the Colorado River at NIB, Above Morelos Dam, AZ – Annual Statistics", "USGS Gage #09010500 on the Colorado River below Baker Gulch near Grand Lake, CO", "USGS Gage #09070500 on the Colorado River near Dotsero, CO", "USGS Gage #09180500 on the Colorado River near Cisco, UT", "USGS Gage #09380000 on the Colorado River at Lees Ferry, AZ", "USGS Gage #09423000 on the Colorado River below Davis Dam, AZ–NV", "USGS Gage #09427520 on the Colorado River Below Parker Dam, AZ–CA", "USGS Gage #09429600 on the Colorado River Below Laguna Dam, AZ–CA", "USGS Surface-Water Annual Statistics for USA Grouped by Hydrologic Unit", "USGS Gage #09380000 on the Colorado River at Lee's Ferry, AZ", "Contributions of Watershed Management Research to Ecosystem-Based Management in the Colorado River Basin", "Streamflow Predictability in the Upper Versus Lower Colorado River Sub-Basins", "Colorado River Basin Salinity Control Program", "Colorado River Basin Water Management: Evaluating and Adjusting to Hydroclimatic Variability (Report in Brief)", "The Tectonic Evolution of the Gulf of California", "Reconstruction of Prehistoric Shorelines for Cultural Restraints using GIS", "A Fresh Look at Western Grand Canyon Lava Dams: Introduction", "Evidence for Rapid Formation and Failure of Pleistocene "Lava Dams" of the Western Grand Canyon, Arizona", "Geochemical Discrimination of Five Pleistocene Lava-Dam Outburst-Flood Deposits, Western Grand Canyon, Arizona", "Peak Discharge of a Pleistocene Lava-Dam Outburst Flood in Grand Canyon, Arizona, USA", "Water Development, Extraction, and Diversion", "Ancient Knowledge of the Chaco Canyon Anasazi", "Ancient Forest Management in the Chaco Canyon – From 600 AD to 1300 AD", "Sensitivity of the Colorado Plateau to Change: Climate, Ecosystems and Society", "Desert Farmers at the River's Edge: The Hohokam and Pueblo Grande", "Treaty Between the United States of America and the Navajo Tribe of Indians", "About the Mohave, Chemehuevi, Hopi and Navajo Tribes", "The Colorado River Indian Tribes (C.R.I.T.) Hoover was the tallest dam in the world at the time of construction and also had the world's largest hydroelectric power plant. Situated southeast of metropolitan Las Vegas, the dam is an integral component for management of the Colorado River, controlling floods and storing water for farms and cities in the lower Colorado River basin. Click to see large. Because of the dramatic drop in elevation of the two rivers, there were rumors of huge waterfalls and violent rapids, and Native American tales strengthened their credibility. Update: June 24, 2019 Pima County is releasing treated water into the Santa Cruz River below downtown at 22nd St. Central Arizona initially relied on the Gila River and its tributaries through projects such as the Theodore Roosevelt and Coolidge Dams – completed in 1911 and 1928, respectively. The area’s first human inhabitants were thought to be members of various American Indian tribes including the Shuswap, Nez Percé, Shoshone, Hopi, Pueblo, and Navajo as well as several nomadic tribes such as the Crow, Blackfoot, and Cheyenne. Melchior Díaz reached the delta in the same year, intending to establish contact with Alarcón, but the latter was already gone by the time of Díaz's arrival. The Green River is 730 miles long, beginning in the Wind River Mountains of Wyoming and flowing through Wyoming and Utah for most of its course, except for 40 miles into western Colorado. The Colorado River in Marble Canyon at the northeastern end of Grand Canyon National Park, northwestern Arizona. The Colorado River can be seen in dark blue at the topmost central part of this image. The Colorado River certainly starts out as mighty—mighty enough to have carved out the Grand Canyon—but nowadays it does not even end as a trickle. The Colorado River Basin Salinity Control Act was passed in 1974, mandating conservation practices including the reduction of saline drainage. , Beginning in the 17th century, contact with Europeans brought significant changes to the lifestyles of Native Americans in the Colorado River basin. A. Mellon in the Gila left El Dorado Canyon landing, steamed up through the rapids in Black Canyon, making record time to Callville and tied up overnight. Much of the route is through the Colorado … These settlements reached a peak population of about 600 before being abandoned in 1871, and for nearly a decade these valleys became a haven for outlaws and cattle rustlers. , Major river in the western United States and Mexico, Exploration and navigation below Fort Yuma, 1850–1854, Exploration and navigation above Fort Yuma, 1851–1887, Naming of the upper Colorado River and controversy, Before large irrigation and municipal diversions, the Gila River discharged about 1.3 million acre feet (1.6, American population (9.7 million) calculated from statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau, The average discharge of the Colorado (Grand) River at, The discrepancy between the natural flow at Lee's Ferry (13.5 million acre-feet/16.65 km, Dead pool refers to the lowest lake level at which water can be released through the dam.  This pulse reached the sea on May 16, 2014, marking the first time in 16 years that any water from the Colorado flowed into the ocean, and was hailed as "an experiment of historic political and ecological significance" and a landmark in U.S.–Mexican cooperation in conservation. Occasionally the International Boundary and Water Commission allows a springtime pulse flow to recharge the delta. They ride high and buoyant, for their loads are lighter than we could desire. For 17 miles the river forms the international boundary between the U.S. state of Arizona and Mexico. Large engineering works began around the start of the 20th century, with major guidelines established in a series of international and U.S. interstate treaties known as the "Law of the River".  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