Adsactly Education - Colorado River

in education •  5 months ago

Adsactly Education: Colorado River

The United States has six truly great rivers. The Colorado, Snake, Columbia, Missouri, Mississippi, and the Rio Grande. This series will chronicle each one.

The Colorado River is one of the most well known of all the rivers. In 1869 John Wesley Powell made the first trip through the Grand Canyon by boat and the romance with the Colorado has grown steadily since then. By the time it reaches the Pacific Ocean at the Gulf of California it has passed through seven American and two Mexican states. A river that rises up high in the Rocky Mountains, it’s canyons and desert vistas excite us all. It is also a river in great jeopardy. It is a complex and fragile system.

The Colorado River from the North Rim Photo Courtesy of the author

The River Runs It’s Course

The Colorado River starts as a tiny trickle in La Poudre Pass, Colorado, at an elevation of 10,184 ft (3104m) and ends in the dry and dusty delta 1450 miles (2,344 km) away. In between it runs in a torrent on the west slope of the Rockies, gathering in tributaries of streams and minor rivers. It tears through the first of it’s many canyons just before meeting up with the Gunnison River at Grand Junction, Colorado. There are at least five more canyons before it flows into Glen Canyon, the site of the first major dam on it’s run.

Glen Canyon Dam was built in the 1960s under tremendous pressure from the newly burgeoning environmental movement. Glen Canyon is now completely flooded with an enormous reservoir known as Lake Powell. The river then runs through Lee’s Ferry which was a natural crossing point of the river. It is here that the ‘official flow’ of the Colorado is measured for apportionment to the seven remaining states in it’s travels.

Next is the Grand Canyon, one of the 8 wonders of the world. 277 miles of free running river in one of the most spectacular settings known to man. Past the Grand Canyon is Lake Mead, the impoundment behind Hoover Dam. It is the former Black Canyon and is the largest reservoir in the nation.


From there the river turns almost straight to the south and heads for the Pacific Ocean and the Gulf of California. The first dam on the shared border between Arizona and California is Parker Dam, was originally built primarily as an impoundment basin to pump water to the LA basin and the Central Arizona Canal.

Laguna Dam and Imperial Dam on the lower river are mainly used to control floods and provide irrigation water to the valleys of California and Arizona where a huge fraction of the nations winter vegetables and other crops are raised.

After the river leaves Yuma, Arizona, the remaining flow is less than 7000 cubic feet per second, and every single drop of that is used for irrigation and drinking water in Mexico. Not one drop of Colorado River water makes it to the sea. An extensive delta that was built up over centuries is entirely dry.


Why Does It Matter?

The Colorado River is a legendary stream in the US. It was the last major river that was fully explored and John Wesley Powell made it absolutely famous with his 1869 journey through the Grand Canyon by boat. Since then it has grown in stature as it winds it’s way through the desert Southwest. It is mostly remote and often found in a spectacular canyon.

The average flow of the Colorado River (as measured at Lee’s Ferry) is something over 22,000 Cubic Feet per Second (CFS). It provides drinking water for over forty million people in the US and Mexico, as well as irrigation water for millions of acres of productive farmland. The Colorado River is an important source of hydroelectric power for a vast region as well as being a huge part of the tourism in the area. The river flows through or around 7 National Parks.

The San Juan River, tributary of the Colorado. Photo Courtesy of the author.

It’s The Water

More than 35 million people get their drinking water at least partially from the Colorado River. Los Angeles, San Diego, Phoenix, Tucson and many more rely on the river for household water. Golf courses, parks and recreational facilities across the vast region rely on the river.

Agriculture needs are enormous. Millions of acres of high production farm ground is watered by the Colorado in the states of Colorado, Utah, Arizona, California, Sonora and Baja California, using the river to grow crops. This is principally fruit and vegetable growing, the area provides the whole country with winter crops of tomatoes, lettuce, carrots, and all table vegetables. Citrus takes a large bite from the pie as does soft fruit, nuts and sweet corn.

Tourism is a massive piece of the puzzle that is the Colorado River. From the obvious lure of the Grand Canyon to rafting on the upper parts of the river, many people spend a lot of money to experience the river directly. Boating on the lower river is extremely popular with all forms of recreational boating. Lake Mead and Lake Powell both have a rental houseboat industry that is extensive.

Vermillion Cliffs. Photo courtesy of the author.

Geology of the River

The river starts just west of the Continental Divide in the West Slope of Colorado. The Rockies are a relatively young set of upthrust mountains that are old and very stable mostly igneous rock. The west slope is an inhospitable and rugged territory so the early part of the river is largely un traveled. At one point in history, the river ran almost straight west, possibly emptying in Monterey Bay, California.

At some point in the last few million years the Kaibab Plateau rose and Baja California split off from the rest of Mexico, giving the river a new course to follow to the sea and allowing it to cut through multiple sedimentary structures forming the canyons that are so beloved today.

Volcanic events in the more recent past have also given the Colorado some of it’s character. Basalt, Limestone, Sandstone, Granite. The Colorado knows them all.

Glen Canyon Photo courtesy of the author

Where Does the River Go From Here?

The ecology of the river is, generally speaking, a mess. Not that the water isn’t pretty clean, it really is a priority with 40,000,000 million people depending on the ability to drink the water.

The impoundments, particularly behind Glen Canyon Dam and Hoover Dam are filling with silt at an alarming rate. Lake Powell (behind Glen Canyon) is expected to silt completely full within 500 years. The Grand Canyon is a maze of sand bars that have changed the very character of the river. Lake Mead (behind Hoover Dam) is the repository for the silt that grinds out of the Grand Canyon every year and will soon be feeling the effects of it.

Lack of available water makes it so the silt can’t be washed out of anyplace. None of the dams on the river can stand the pressure and lack of water flow means it can’t be washed into the Gulf of California and the Delta under any circumstances. It is a large problem that will get nothing but larger as time goes on.

Lake Mead is low. Photo courtesy of the author.

The Colorado is just plain oversubscribed. The water allocated by treaty is not near enough to fulfill the needs. Agricultural land, good useable land, is going unused. Cities buy the water allocation from farmers to provide for their ever growing needs. No water? No farming. This is very arid land. How much food production can this country and this world afford to do without?

Tourism is already suffering. The canyons remain ever popular, as do the national parks. The incredibly low levels of Lake Powell and Lake Mead have really cut into the boating industry and with it ‘tourist services’ like lodging and food. Gas stations and stores suffer all along those two lakes.

The Delta is dry. Not one single drop of Colorado River water makes it to the ocean. As the Delta dies, the local weather changes. Dust from the many acres of silt in the Delta is easily wind borne and makes problems on a regular basis. It is a cycle that can’t be broken under the current set up.


What Can Be Done?

Right now, today, the single best hope is conservation. But that will take some cooperation between very disparate factions. Frankly, most people don’t care a bit so long as their water runs out of the tap.

Extreme conservation measures could buy the watershed perhaps as much as 50 years at the current usage rates. The numbers stated when Glen Canyon Dam was built are now known to be too optimistic. There is said to be a major drought in the entire basin, but the truth is, I suspect that the situation is way closer to normal or the new normal than not. I think that not only were the numbers used for the last treaty optimistic, but that the situation is even more grave today.

For the record, I live in Yuma, Arizona. The last stop in the US for the Colorado. The answers to these questions are incredibly important to me and to the future of the region. The entire river system is in peril. Our very lives and the lives of 40,000,000 million others depend on it.

While the words and ideas in this post are strictly those of the author two sources were referred to by me to insure numerical and historical accuracy.
Wikipedia: Colorado River
American Rivers: Colorado River

Unsourced Photos are used courtesy of the author.

Authored by: @bigtom13

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THE AGRICULTURAL LOBBY MUST BE CRUSHED. In California, farms use 80% of Colorado River water, yet account for only 2% of the state's economic output, including the alfalfa & almonds they export to China. Yet they are so powerful that politicians constantly bend over for them. Every day they're asking for new dams & diversions to be built with taxpayer money. They were the only group exempt from drought cutbacks. They've illegally drawn so much groundwater that many sections of land have collapsed. This industry doesn't give a damn about the environment, just their own profits.


Ahhhh. I grew up on a farm that became an irrigated farm in an endangered aquifer So I don't think the agricultural lobby needs to be crushed. I do think it needs to be 'part of' the negotiating process for the available water. The desert southwest, the drainage area of the Colorado, is highly productive farm ground, it feeds many millions of people. Agriculture needs to be represented.

The Colorado River is truly the country's largest water artery. Her beauty and greatness are admired. Moreover, the river is used for the needs of agriculture and brings great benefits to the entire industry. But of course, the Colorado River acts as a natural sight and attracts many tourists with its beauties.
However, your remark about that: "Not a single drop of the Colorado River water reaches the ocean." As Delta dies, local weather changes." sound sad. But the facts are such that people are self-centered and until the changes do not personally touch them (the water will not cease to flow from the tap) they will not take concrete measures. If to speak more globally the situation with drying up of the rivers and lakes is actual in different parts of the planet. People need to solve these problems before it's too late.
Thanks for the interesting post!


It is certainly not the largest by flow. The Columbia flows about 20x at the mouth, but it is much the largest by the number of people that use it for personal use. There are a couple of measures to revive the Delta being discussed, but those take a back seat to drinking water and agricultural water.

The United States has six truly great rivers. The Colorado, Snake, Columbia, Missouri, Mississippi, and the Rio Grande.

Even your first sentence made me learn something new. I personally swam in two large rivers of the US. Tennessee and Delaware rivers. It’s a first time I hear about Snake and Columbia rivers. I guess I have a lot to learn about US geography 😆. Well, as an immigrant it’s not surprising. Between you and me, sometimes US born know less lol.

An extensive delta that was built up over centuries is entirely dry.

I hope we don’t end up with this wonder of nature completely disappearing. Can you imagine so many people loosing it’s source of drinking water including source for agriculture? 😱 That would make a huge impact all over the US including part of Mexico. Knowing that California is producing most of the craps, vegetables and fruits for the entire US, that is really scary.

Frankly, most people don’t care a bit so long as their water runs out of the tap.

That’s exactly what crossed my mind. No one cares as long as they have food and water on their table. It’s tooo difficult to start doing something to change the inevitable course.
As you mentioned “It’s a mess!”.


People are being forced to care in the Southwest. The water shortage hangs over us all.

Notice that I didn't say a peep about the long term and global warming. The current prognosis for the Basin is even more bleak in one hundred years. There are some options in the future that might help, and consideration is being given to them. California has a serious option for a sea level canal and desalinization to provide drinking water to the LA and San Diego area.

Future generations are being set up to fail simply because conservation is not given the emphasis it deserves by government officials. It is appalling that California authorities waited so long to implement mandatory water cutbacks, furthermore, building pipelines to capture ocean=bound fresh waters, creating appropriate new reservoirs, reforestation to decrease evaporation, are measures worthy of investment and could help sell water to business users to recoup public investments. Arguing about the problem without offering solutions is a waste of effort. Enough said is the key. We can stop bickering and get to work now, legislators!


Conservation is certainly the short term key. While the long term prognosis is dismal, short term could be helped lots by simply eliminating private grass. No more lawns in the whole basin would result in a huge lift in available water. There are multiple other things like eliminating the export of alfalfa hay. Essentially we are exporting millions of acre feet every year.

Very thoughtful comment.

What an excellent post from @bigtom13. The Colorado river is a living legend about which we study in our geography text books. This river flows through the most intricate geographical regions and also creates so many geographical structures. Its meandering course and the deep canyons created by this river is unparalleled in this world. The great canyon, a part of the Colorado river basin is a remarkable geographic structure. This river has created this structure by the process of erosion for millions of the years which are also a means for us to see the geographical timeline of this place. It also helped study the formation of the earth.
Long live the Colorado river.


It is truly a geographic and geologic masterpiece. I just love the tantalizing clues to the structure of the earth that are offered up here. I also just love the look of them.

wow! Hope one day I will see it by myself! Really beautiful mother nature;)


It is a gloriously beautiful place.

Your post are always outstanding

What an informative and educative write up


#upvoted, resteem and I follow you

This river has survived for millions of years, but we have managed to damage it, possibly irrevocably, in a matter of decades. Somewhere along the way, as we strive to harness the planet for our own personal advancements and comfort, we have forgotten the most important fact...natural resources are finite.


Yes. There is at least one too many dams on the river, and as a result silt is becoming a huge problem. It will bite future generations, of that there is no doubt. Short sighted, indeed.

That was eye opening. Every time i watch the news you see thing about someones feelings getting hurt. Then you look at things like this and see what is really important to not just a few but many.


Yes. For certain there are critical issues that could and should be addressed sooner rather than later. The good news about the River is that people are engaged and working on long term solutions.

Good post
Have a nice day

Colarado river is definitely a great source of drinking doubt!!!

Wow this is Colorado River .just a very beautiful river and I realize that this river is historical place and thanks a lot for sharing this your valuable post to share with us..
And your all post helpful for us and I realize that this is educational post and all steemians gain knowledge about ecology just a great idea and to share for us..
Carry on your activities all steemians support to you..
So go ahead ..


Thank you. Glad you enjoyed it.

Nice post... keep supporting

wow.. nice pics..

nice concept sir..

The estimated age of the Earth is 4.6 - 4.7 billion years. Anyone who's ever taken a geology class can tell you that. The Colorado River was consolidated to it's present course over 2 million years ago. Which is fairly recent in geologic time, when you consider that the oldest rocks exposed at the bottom of the Grand Canyon are 2 billion years old.


Yep, very accurate comment. The rocks in the bottom of the Canyon are among the oldest on earth.

@adsactly You analyzed all of us, the United States 6 rivers, we found out about these rivers, these are the names of these great rivers, 1) Colorado, 2) Snake, 3) Colombia, 4) Missouri, 5) Mississippi And 6) Rio Grande And through this series, we all very well understand about these rivers, how the rivers originate, who has discovered this river, the extraordinary work, the article,I think, if you are involved with you, we will know a lot about futures, have taught us many, many thanks to @ steamit community, so many many thanks @adsactly


I'm glad you liked it. I have started researching the Snake and am really looking forward to it too...


@bigtom13 It is a very happy news, to tell the truth, I have always been curious to know the river, the natural resources of the river, the main source of nature's beauty, a country lives from a river, with the river water. Many crops are cultivated, people live by drinking river water, our lives in the river, I have upvote, commented, followed yousignature_1.gif

This is an awesome scene of Colorado river.
keep it up by sharing these kinds of historical places


Thank you!

Excellent article on Colorado River eduticativo!, congratulations on the efforts and great work @bigtom13, thanks to @adsactly to meet such great people. I would like to some day, some of my educational content, appeared here in @adsactly. God bless you all.

Crystal Ball Colorado River Upside-Down.


Thank you. That is simply beautiful.

Nice perception about river and informative to us and one thing I want to add that we can use it as a electricity ....


Thank you. Glad you enjoyed it.

I live in the East Valley area of Phoenix, AZ. I am grateful for the Colorado River and for the water it provides my state and others. Such an important and amazing river! :)


I live in Yuma, and share your sentiments exactly!

@adsactly-witness "All we need to do is systematically approach these obstacles one at a time"

You echo an ancient wisdom there. As Confucius said: "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step."

I like how you conclude your post: "Be the one that will shine and create new smiles every day."

It's our own responsibility to make the world around us. And it's not so hard to do, either.
sir plz upvote and comments on my blogs coz i want to join your community and and just wanna go ahead of you...hahaha....ya but it's true