The Colorado River is the Lifeblood of the American Southwest. It’s power provided by the amount of water flowing through it, and the area it covers all allows for it to be used for many purposes including irrigation, a water source, and a source of Hydroelectric power for the town and cities all along the way. Where does the Colorado River Begin and End?
The Colorado Rivers begins at La Poudre Pass in the Southern Rocky Mountains of Colorado, at 10,184 ft above sea level. After a short run south, it turns west below Grand Lake, then south 1,450 mi. gaining strength, from many tributaries to the Sea of Cortez in northwestern Mexico, where it ends.
Along with the way great The Colorado River Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, Nevada, Arizona, and California. For 17 miles the river forms the international boundary between the U.S. state of Arizona and Mexico
How Long is the Colorado River
The Colorado River is more than a River in the Western United States. The 1,450-mile-long (2,330 km) river is a lifeline and has been for millions of years. It drains an expansive, arid watershed that encompasses parts of seven U.S. states and two Mexican states. Millions of people in the western U.S. drink water that comes from the river along the way.
Millions of people and more use of electricity generated by hydroelectric power plants along the rivers more than 1,400-mile course. Those numbers are dependent on the water from the river is expected to grow that will endanger Colorado in the upcoming years
Starting in the central Rocky Mountains of Colorado, the river flows generally southwest across the Colorado Plateau and through the Grand Canyon before reaching Lake Mead on the Arizona–Nevada border, where it turns south toward the international border. After entering Mexico, The Colorado River approaches the mostly dry Colorado River Delta at the tip of the Gulf of California between Baja California and Sonora.
The headwater of the Colorado River is fed from a lake in Rocky Mountain National Park called La Poudre Pass. As it flows southwest, it gains strength from many small tributaries, as well as larger ones along its way.
What Is The Continental Divide In Colorado
A Continental Divide is a boundary that separates a continent’s river systems. Each river system feeds into a distinct ocean, bay, or sea. The Loveland Pass is a continental divide in Colorado that separates water flowing into the Atlantic and Pacific ocean basins. Continental divides are found on every continent.
Continents that are bordered by more than two bodies of water may have more than one continental divide. For example, North America has between three and five divides. Scientists have not yet agreed on a specific number because the exact border between ocean basins is not universally accepted.
The Great Divide, above, separates the watersheds of North America between the Pacific (west) and the Arctic, Atlantic, and Gulf of Mexico (east). The Great Divide, above, separates the watersheds of North America between the Pacific (west) and the Arctic, Atlantic, and Gulf of Mexico (east).
Colorado River Map USA
The headwater of the Colorado River is fed from a lake in Rocky Mountain National Park called La Poudre Pass. Then flows south to Lake Granby and Grand Lake. Until 1921 the Colorado River used to be called the Grand River.
As the water moves south it gets diverted, pumped out, and used by homes and businesses along the eastern part of the mountains. The river water is healthier at the headwaters in Colorado but the more south it runs towards Utah, California, and Arizona the more stress the river encounters.
Higher temperatures from Global Warming mean less snow cap in the Rocky Mountains and more evaporation rates on this enormous waterway all mean less water in the Colorado River all the way down to California. The river depends on that snow to make drinking water that sources the river and makes it available to residents of the Southwest.
The Department of Agriculture can monitor the amount of snow in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains and see how much water will be available to States south of Colorado who also has water rights.
On the Colorado River Map, you can see the extremely complex system and job, the Colorado River does keeping the Southwest part of the United States sourced from the snow caps in Colorado. Moving on to Southwest Grand Junction where is around 90 miles from the border of Colorado and Utah.
In Utah, the Colorado River meets up with the Green River while continuing to flow south combining together to form Lake Powell and formed with the help of the Glen Canyon Dam. These rivers together create amazing landscapes that are featured throughout the state cutting through rock as this massive amount of water of the 2 rivers over millions of years moved south towards Mexico.
Lake Powell is over 180 miles long with over 1900 miles of shoreline. Colorado puts the largest amount of water into the lake but The Green and another smaller river called The San Juan help increase the size of Lake Powell. There are more than 3 million visitors that come to Lake Powell each year for vacation and to enjoy the sites.
Just before the river gets to the Grand Canyon it is divided into two Basins for Water Right purposes. The first Basin is called the Upper Basin and the Lower Basin.
The Upper Basin is located in parts of Utah and Arizona. New Mexico, Arizona, Wyoming, and Colorado. Then the Lower Basin is located in other parts of Utah, New Mexico, and Arizona as well as Nevada and California. The 2 Basins provide the complicated Water Rights for the numerous States that are involved that were allocated in 1921. Every state is guaranteed a certain amount of water from the two Basins.
Once the river leaves Glen Canyon Dam it enters the Grand Canyon for a 217-mile journey. It has taken the Colorado River’s water more than 6 million years to carve out the mile-deep landscape of the world’s most famous canyon located in Northern Nevada.
After the Grand Canyon, the River stops at Hoover Dam at Lake Meade which is one of the largest reservoirs in the Nation. Lake Meade is not without problems. Lower levels over the years have been a constant but conservation efforts have made a difference.
Continuing south the Colorado River moves on south through the gambling town Laughton Nevada and Lake Havasu Arizona to the Mexican border town of Huma. Some of this water heads off into different directions like Southern California and southern Arizona to be used for agriculture.
Finally, the Colorado River, which flows 1,450 miles (2,334 kilometers) from its headwaters in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado to the Sea of Cortez (Gulf of California) in northwestern Mexico, will have reached its final, natural destination.
Is the Colorado River Drying Up
A century ago, the waters of the Colorado River flowed freely through the Mexican border town known as San Luis Rio Colorado, a place where you could catch a steamboat that would take you upstream as far as Yuma, Ariz., or even pull a fish from the river as big as a man’s arm. Now the mighty Colorado River that starts as a raging river through norther states turns to a trickle at the end in Mexico.
The Colorado River made its way here after snaking across more than 1,400 miles of the North American continent, tumbling over waterfalls among the snow-covered Rocky Mountains and cascading through canyons in Arizona, coursing all the way through high plains and deserts to the Gulf of California, where it once fanned out in a delta full of all kinds of wildlife.
But today, there’s nothing left of the riverbed here but some hardscrabble desert plants and an ocean of dry sand. What was once an estuary where trees, birds, and countless varieties of marine life made their home, now thousands of parched, lifeless acres lie baking in the open sun, the only things left in a region starved for water?
The Colorado River today is the most endangered river in America. The growing populated areas across the region that supply water to industry, businesses, and cities along its banks also suffer from continuous draughts that dwindle water supplies. The river suffers from unsustainable development with a growing thirst for more. Dams are built for developing cities that are in desert regions and take water from the Colorado River without replenishing it.
Starting with The Hoover Dam built-in 1935 it was the Hoover that changed the course of Colorado and made it possible to develop cities in places that were impossible to do so before. It made Lake Meade the biggest reservoir in the country to be built and open cities in the Southwestern parts of the country.
Water was available for Southern California Phonex Arizona and Tuzon Arizona. Water has been steadily taken out of the Reservoir but wasn’t recharged. The level of Lake Meade and the Colorado River is noticeable where the river was and where it used to be.
Lake Meade is 40% lower than its original level. Still, populations in places like Las Vegas continue to pull at higher levels. The Reservoir is supposed to hold water and use that water during dryer seasons and then recharging with rain filling places like Lake Meade back up to normal levels.
That kind of Water Management meets the responsibility of the city to provide water to its consumers but places like California are in the middle of the longest drought in their history. The Reservoirs haven’t been recharged creating State Emergencies in cities that rely on the Colorado River’s water to farm and drink from.
Facts About The Colorado River
- The Colorado River Compact of 1922 apportioned 7.5 million acre-feet of river water annually to the Upper Basin
- 7.5 million acre-feet annually to the Lower Basin.
- The Lower Basin’s 7.5 million acre-feet were further apportioned by the Boulder Canyon Project Act to the Lower Division States as follows:
- 4.4 million acre-feet to California,
- 2.8 million acre-feet to Arizona,
- 300,000 acre-feet to Nevada. Later,
- the Mexican Water Treaty of 1944 recognized the United States’ obligation to annually deliver 1.5 million acre-feet of Colorado River water to Mexico. (One acre-foot is equal to approximately 326,000 gallons)
- Although the water temperature of the Colorado River once reached over 80°F, today, because of damming and other activities, it does not exceed 47°F.
- The Grand Canyon is about 277 river miles long, but requires about 650 miles to walk.
- Besides it’s a important supply of water used for agriculture, industry, and municipalities, from Denver to Tijuana, which fuels a $1.4 trillion annual economy. Fishing, whitewater paddling, boating, backpacking, wildlife viewing, hiking, and myriad other recreational opportunities contribute to a $26 billion alone.
Horseshoe Bend Arizona
This bend in the Colorado River is getting plenty of attention from those looking for the Grand Canyon. It is located approximately 140 miles from both the South Rim and the North Rim of the Grand Canyon – but only 5 miles from the beginning of Grand Canyon National Park.
You can experience Horseshoe Bend when traveling from Rim to Rim via Highway 89/89A by simply taking a short 18 miles up to Page, Arizona. Approximately 5 miles downstream from the Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Lake Powell and is accessible by a small hike.
Following years of bad water management policies and practices, demand for the river’s water now exceeds its supply, and storage levels at Lake Powell and Lake Mead are critically low. More dams and diversions are planned, particularly in the upper basin in Colorado, where 50 percent of the headwater flows are already diverted east of the Continental Divide.
As famous as Colorado maybe, it’s equally infamous for the stresses placed upon it due to over-allocation, overuse, and more than a century of manipulation. The watershed spanning a remarkable 8 percent of the continental U.S. funnels into the sixth-longest river in the nation.
Its caused by over 6 million years of erosion and water cutting through the rock of the Grand Canyon which is one of 8 Wonders of the World. It is only about a 3/4 mile walk out to the edge overlooking Horseshoe Bend. At Horseshoe Bend, as you stand on the edge of the canyon you can see the river and take incredible photos. It is one of the most captivating views when you discover the Colorado River and the Grand Canyon.
Fish in Colorado River
Besides Guided Whitewater Rapid Raft Trips on the Colorado River, Fishing guided trips have been gaining popularity. From the top of the lakes that make up Colorado River desert impoundments, Lake Powell’s trout population, including those found in the Glen Canyon Dam south to the Lees Ferry stretch of the river, is known to provide excellent fishing opportunities year-round. The area is known for its largemouth and smallmouth bass, striped bass, black crappie, and walleye fishing.
Four critically endangered fish species, the Humpback Chub, the Bonytail, the Razorback Sucker, and the Colorado Pikeminnow, reside in this river. They are highly-protected species, and recovery efforts are being made to save them from extinction.
March to November is the prime fishing season. Crappies swim into the shallows to spawn in the spring; fishing shoreline brush then is a good bet. Fish in deep waters during the cooler months to catch walleye. Before your first cast, check with a marina store for the necessary licenses, fish limits, and other regulations.
Lake Mead and Lake Mohave just below the Vegas strip give the visitor an all-round and all species fishing opportunity rarely found anywhere around the country. Here you’ll find Largemouth bass, the most popular Rainbow Trout, striped bass, channel catfish, black crappie, and bluegill are all popular catches. Along with Striped Bass. Nevada and Arizona share Jurisdiction so check with Ranger Station to see if you’ll need a Fishing Licence.
JimGalloway Author Editor