Monday, October 10, 2011

The Colorado River

The Colorado River is one of the most important rivers in the United States. It is the largest and most relied upon river in the southwestern part of the United States. It is a vital source of water for agriculture, drinking water, hydroelectric power, and recreation for millions of residents in the largely desert American southwest.

The Colorado River starts at high elevations in the Rocky Mountains in the northern part of the state of Colorado. Near its source at Grand Lake is its first dam, one of dozens it encounters as it makes its way towards the Gulf of California in Mexico. The river flows through or adjacent to five states: Colorado, Utah, Arizona, Nevada, and California. Streams and rivers from seven states feed the Colorado, the largest rivers being the Gunnison, Green, San Juan, Gila, and the Virgin.

The Colorado River is approximately 1,450 miles long. However its course is interrupted in several places by large reservoirs such as Lake Mead, Lake Powell, and Lake Mohave. Lake Mead is 110 miles in length and was formed by the impounding of the Colorado by the Hoover Dam. It is the largest reservoir in the United States. The Colorado is most famously known for carving the spectacular Grand Canyon in Arizona. The Grand Canyon, which is visited by more than 5 million people annually, is considered one of the seven wonders of the natural world.

The Colorado is so heavily used that by the time it reaches its lower course near Yuma, Arizona, it no longer consistently reaches the Gulf of California in Mexico. This has lead to significant habitat destruction in the Colorado River delta area in Mexico. Agricultural use drains the vast majority of the Colorado's water. There are fourteen native species of fish in the Colorado. Some of the fish are now threatened species.


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