Beginning with small bands of nomadic hunter-gatherers, Native Americans have inhabited the Colorado River basin for at least 8,000 years. [151]:78, Up until the mid-19th century, long stretches of the Colorado and Green rivers between Wyoming and Nevada remained largely unexplored due to their remote location and dangers of navigation. Agricultural and urban growth in Arizona eventually outstripped the capacity of local rivers; these concerns were reflected in the creation of a Pacific Southwest Water Plan in the 1950s, which aimed to build a project that would permit Arizona to fully utilize its 2.8-million-acre-foot (3.5 km3) allotment of the river. 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. by Jerd Smith | Mar 11, 2020 | Infrastructure, Law and Policy, Major River Basins, Water Quality, Water Supply, Water Supply | Lake Powell would become home to a special 500,000 acre foot drought pool if Colorado, Wyoming, Utah and New Mexico agree to save enough water to fill it. [175] In 1928, the ferry sank, resulting in the deaths of three men. The Spanish introduced sheep and goats to the Navajo, who came to rely heavily on them for meat, milk and wool. [81] This figure has been heavily affected by upstream diversions and reservoir evaporation, especially after the completion of the Colorado River Storage Project in the 1970s. [60], Between 85 and 90 percent of the Colorado River's discharge originates in snowmelt, mostly from the Rocky Mountains of Colorado and Wyoming. [82][83] Elevations range from sea level at the Gulf of California to 14,321 feet (4,365 m) at the summit of Uncompahgre Peak in Colorado, with an average of 5,500 feet (1,700 m) across the entire basin. The Green River takes drainage from the Wind River Range of west-central Wyoming, from Utah's Uinta Mountains, and from the Rockies of northwestern Colorado. What will it take to save the “lifeline of the West”? [64] Irrigation, industrial, and municipal diversions, evaporation from reservoirs, natural runoff, and likely climate change, have all contributed to this substantial reduction in flow, threatening the water supply for the future. [98], Sediments carried from the plateau by the Colorado River created a vast delta made of more than 10,000 cubic miles (42,000 km3) of material that walled off the northernmost part of the gulf in approximately 1 million years. [21] Here, the San Juan River, carrying runoff from the southern slope of Colorado's San Juan Mountains, joins the Colorado from the east. Other significant population centers in the basin include Tucson, Arizona; St. George, Utah; and Grand Junction, Colorado. [266] Average reservoir storage declined by at least 32 percent, further crippling the region's water supply and hydropower generation. [230] When these plans were publicized, the environmental movement – still reeling from the Glen Canyon controversy – successfully lobbied against the project. The Colorado's average temperature once ranged from 85 °F (29 °C) at the height of summer to near freezing in winter, but modern flows through the Grand Canyon, for example, rarely deviate significantly from 46 °F (8 °C). The Colorado River is being sucked dry by cities and farms and is also suffering the effects of climate change. We have an unknown distance yet to run; an unknown river yet to explore. [287] A further 40 species that occur in the river today, notably the brown trout, were introduced during the 19th and 20th centuries, mainly for sport fishing. [219] 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. This was primarily because of Glen Canyon's remote location and the result that most of the American public did not even know of the existence of the impressive gorge; the few who did contended that it had much greater scenic value than Echo Park. [242] In 1997, the USBR estimated that saline irrigation water caused crop damages exceeding $500 million in the U.S. and $100 million in Mexico. [178][179] 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. [138] The U.S. government has taken some actions to help quantify and develop the water resources of Native American reservations. [218] The Colorado River Aqueduct, which delivers water nearly 250 miles (400 km) from near Parker Dam to 10 million people in the Los Angeles metropolitan area, was completed in 1941. The Colorado's Cataract Canyon and many reaches in the Colorado headwaters are even more heavily used than the Grand Canyon, and about 60,000 boaters run a single 4.5-mile (7.2 km) section above Radium, Colorado, each year. Europeans first entered the Colorado Basin in the 16th century, when explorers from Spain began mapping and claiming the area, which became part of Mexico upon its independence in 1821. [140] The Navajo continue to seek expansion of their water rights because of difficulties with the water supply on their reservation; about 40 percent of its inhabitants must haul water by truck many miles to their homes. [164] Powell led a second expedition in 1871, this time with financial backing from the U.S. [210] 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. Both the Missouri and Arkansas rivers are part of the Mississippi River system. [80] The tables at right list data associated with eight of these gauges. [91], For a short stretch, the Colorado watershed meets the drainage basin of the Snake River, a tributary of the Columbia River, in the Wind River Range of western Wyoming. [33] The last major U.S. diversion is at Imperial Dam, where over 90 percent of the river's remaining flow is moved into the All-American Canal to irrigate California's Imperial Valley, the most productive winter agricultural region in the United States. Democrats are strongest in metropolitan Denver, the college towns of Fort Collins and Boulder, southern Colorado (including Pueblo), and a number of western ski resort counties. "[159][160], Until 1866, El Dorado Canyon was the actual head of navigation on the Colorado River. To the east of the line, all watersheds empty into the Atlantic Ocean, the Caribbean Sea, or the Gulf of Mexico. The men talk as cheerfully as ever; jests are bandied about freely this morning; but to me the cheer is somber and the jests are ghastly. This site uses third party cookies for analytics and advertising. Download (16 mb) BioTECH-City & H. It's a map packed with some cities where you can explore exc. PhD diss. Joseph C. Ives, REPORT UPON THE COLORADO RIVER OF THE WEST, EXPLORED IN 1857 AND 1858 BY LIEUTENANT JOSEPH C. IVES, CORPS OF TOPOGRAPHICAL ENGINEERS, UNDER THE DIRECTION OP THE OFFICE OF EXPLORATIONS AND SURVEYS, A. Occasionally the International Boundary and Water Commission allows a springtime pulse flow to recharge the delta. 2., San Diego, 1901. p.15-16. [41] The river and its tributaries drain most of western Colorado and New Mexico, southwestern Wyoming, eastern and southern Utah, southeastern Nevada and California, and nearly all of Arizona. [61] The remaining 10 to 15 percent comes from a variety of sources, principally groundwater base flow and summer monsoon storms. Some arid regions of the watershed, such as the upper Green River valley in Wyoming, Canyonlands National Park in Utah and the San Pedro River valley in Arizona and Sonora, supported extensive reaches of grassland roamed by large mammals such as buffalo and antelope as late as the 1860s. It was intended to boost supplies for the Lower Basin states of Arizona, California and Nevada as well as Mexico, thus allowing the Upper Basin states to retain native Colorado River flows for their own use. [71] In 1984, so much excess runoff occurred that some 16.5 million acre feet (20.4 km3), or 22,860 cubic feet per second (647 m3/s), poured into the sea. After the acquisition of the Colorado River basin from Mexico in the Mexican–American War in 1846, U.S. military forces commanded by Kit Carson forced more than 8,000 Navajo men, women and children from their homes after a series of unsuccessful attempts to confine their territory, many of which were met with violent resistance. Dams trapping sediment not only pose damage to river habitat but also threaten future operations of the Colorado River reservoir system. [149], Between 1850 and 1854 the U. S. Army explored the lower reach of the Colorado River from the Gulf of California, looking for the river to provide a less expensive route to supply the remote post of Fort Yuma. Download map Project - Colorado River. The U.S. federal government was the main driving force behind the construction of dams and aqueducts, although many state and local water agencies were also involved. We are now ready to start on our way down the Great Unknown. In 1852, the Uncle Sam was launched to provide supplies to the U.S. Army outpost at Fort Yuma. With a capacity of over 26,000 cubic feet per second (740 m3/s), the All-American is the largest irrigation canal in the world,[214] supplying water to 500,000 acres (2,000 km2) of California's Imperial Valley. [298] The Colorado's major reservoirs are also heavily traveled summer destinations. [117] 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. Cut off from the ocean, the portion of the gulf north of the delta eventually evaporated and formed the Salton Sink, which reached about 260 feet (79 m) below sea level. First in November 1850 to January 1851, by its transport schooner, Invincible under Captain Alfred H. Wilcox and then by its longboat commanded by Lieutenant George Derby. 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. [277], After a much lower-than-average snowpack in the 2018 water year, Bureau of Reclamation officials projected the odds of an official shortage declaration in 2020 at 52 percent, in 2021 at 64 percent, and in 2022 at 68 percent. Tectonic forces from the collision of the Farallon Plate with the North American Plate pushed up the Rocky Mountains between 50 and 75 million years ago in a mountain-building episode known as the Laramide orogeny. 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. [126] Ute peoples have inhabited the northern Colorado River basin, mainly in present-day Colorado, Wyoming and Utah, for at least 2,000 years, but did not become well established in the Four Corners area until 1500 A.D.[127][128] The Apache, Cocopah, Halchidhoma, Havasupai, Hualapai, Maricopa, Pima, and Quechan are among many other groups that live along or had territories bordering on the Colorado River and its tributaries. The 1,450-mile-long (2,330 km) river drains an expansive, arid watershed that encompasses parts of seven U.S. states and two Mexican states. Smith called the Colorado the "Seedskeedee", as the Green River in Wyoming was known to fur trappers, correctly believing it to be a continuation of the Green and not a separate river as others believed under the Buenaventura myth. On the Colorado, just recreation alone brings in over $25 billion annually. An early motive was the search for the Seven Cities of Gold, or "Cibola", rumored to have been built by Native Americans somewhere in the desert Southwest. The Colorado River rises on the Continental Divide at La Poudre Pass, in Rocky Mountain National Park, about 40 km (25 mi). [135] Some Mohave were also moved to the 432-square-mile (1,120 km2) Colorado River Indian Reservation on the Arizona–California border, originally established for the Mohave and Chemehuevi people in 1865. Most of the basin is arid, defined by the Sonoran and Mojave deserts and the expanse of the Colorado Plateau, although significant expanses of forest are found in the Rocky Mountains; the Kaibab, Aquarius, and Markagunt plateaus in southern Utah and northern Arizona; the Mogollon Rim through central Arizona; and other smaller mountain ranges and sky islands. [173] 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. [146], During the 18th and early 19th centuries, many Americans and Spanish believed in the existence of the Buenaventura River, purported to run from the Rocky Mountains in Utah or Colorado to the Pacific Ocean. [16] Farther downstream it receives the Dolores River and defines the southern border of Arches National Park, before passing Moab and flowing through "The Portal", where it exits the Moab Valley between a pair of 1,000-foot (300 m) sandstone cliffs. 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. Each was given rights to 7.5 million acre feet (9.3 km3) of water per year, a figure believed to represent half of the river's minimum flow at Lee's Ferry. "Three leave Powell's Grand Canyon expedition", "Historic 3D Photographs of the Second Powell Expedition (1871–1872)", "Geology of National Parks: Glen Canyon National Recreation Area", "Book Review: Steamboats on the Colorado River: 1852–1916", "Settlement and Growth of the Gila Valley as a Mormon Colony, 1879–1900", "Prospecting for Gold in the United States", "What Affects Water Quality in the Upper Colorado River Basin? The famed opposition to Glen Canyon Dam, the primary feature of the CRSP, did not build momentum until construction was well underway. Under pressure from climate change, they might be finding a path out. In early 1905, heavy floods destroyed the headworks of the canal, and water began to flow uncontrolled down the canal towards the Salton Sink. Colorado River, major river of North America, rising in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, U.S., and flowing generally west and south for 1,450 miles (2,330 kilometers) into the Gulf of California in northwestern Mexico. They were allegedly killed by Native Americans after making it to the rim of the canyon; two days later, the expedition ran the last of the Grand Canyon rapids and reached St. [38] During spring tide conditions, the tidal bore—locally called El Burro—formed in the estuary about Montague Island in Baja California and propagated upstream. University of California, Irvine 1988. [42] Both the Gunnison and San Juan rivers, which derive most of their water from Rocky Mountains snowmelt, contribute more water than the Gila contributed naturally. Sierra Club leader David Brower fought the dam both during the construction and for many years afterwards until his death in 2000. Explorer, and traveled up the river as far as Black Canyon. [143] Cárdenas was reportedly unimpressed with the canyon, assuming the width of the Colorado River at 6 feet (1.8 m) and estimating 300-foot (91 m)-tall rock formations to be the size of a man. [76], The drainage basin or watershed of the Colorado River encompasses 246,000 square miles (640,000 km2) of southwestern North America, making it the seventh largest on the continent. [282] Reduction of the delta's size has also threatened animals such as jaguars and the vaquita porpoise, which is endemic to the gulf. [59] Annual runoff volume has ranged from a high of 22.2 million acre feet (27.4 km3) in 1984 to a low of 3.8 million acre feet (4.7 km3) in 2002, although in most years only a small portion of this flow, if any, reaches the Gulf. Because of the large amount of power that would be required to pump Colorado River water to Arizona, the CAP originally included provisions for hydroelectric dams at Bridge Canyon and Marble Canyon, which would have flooded large portions of the Colorado within the Grand Canyon and dewatered much of the remainder. The Mohave have lived along the rich bottomlands of the lower Colorado below Black Canyon since 1200 A.D. [242] In 2013, the Bureau of Reclamation estimated that around $32 million was spent each year to prevent around 1.2 million tons of salt from entering and damaging the Colorado River. As demands for Colorado River water continue to rise, the level of human development and control of the river continues to generate controversy. Both civilizations supported large populations at their height; the Chaco Canyon Puebloans numbered between 6,000 and 15,000[115] and estimates for the Hohokam range between 30,000 and 200,000. 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