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Colorado River

Colorado River

Colorado River Overview

Known for its dramatic canyons, whitewater rapids, and multiple areas managed by the United States National Parks, the Colorado River is a key component of outdoor fun in the southwest. (And…, it’s also an important water source to wildlife and residents of the Southwest.)

National Parks on the Colorado River 

Colorado River
Along the many miles of the river, you will find multiple National Parks, National Monuments, National Recreational Areas, and National Historic Places. As we visit and document each one, we will link the articles below for you to learn more about each.

National Parks

  1. Arches National Park (Utah)
  2. Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park (Colorado)
  3. Bryce National Park (Utah)
  4. Canyonlands National Park (Utah)
  5. Capital Reef National Park (Utah)
  6. Chaco Culture National Historical Park (New Mexico)
  7. Grand Canyon National Park (Arizona)
  8. Mesa Verde National Park (Colorado)
  9. Petrified Forest National Park (Arizona)
  10. Rocky Mountain National Park (Colorado)
  11. Zion National Park (Utah)

National Monuments

  1. Canyon de Chelly National Monument
  2. Cedar Breaks National Monument (Utah)
  3. Colorado National Monument
  4. Dinosaur National Monument
  5. Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument (Utah)
  6. Natural Bridges National Monument
  7. Sunset Crater Walnut Canyon National Monument
  8. Wupatki National Monument

National Recreation Areas

  1. Flaming George National Recreation Area
  2. Glen Canyon National Recreation Area (Arizona and Utah)
  3. Lake Mead National Recreation Area (Arizona and Nevada)

National Historic Places

  1. Desolation Canyon

Colorado River

Where is the Colorado River

The Colorado River rises from the Rocky Mountains in Colorado, passing through seven southwest states, and ends by flowing into the Gulf of California.

How Long is the Colorado River

The Colorado River is 1,450 miles long, making it the 6th longest river in the United States.

Where Does the Colorado River Start

Starting at the La Poudre Pass in the Never Summer Mountains (in the Rocky Mountain National Park) in Colorado above sea level at 10,184′.

Where Does the Colorado River End

The endpoint has changed through time from ending in the Gulf of California to just slowly seeping into the desert sands of the Sonoran Desert. In the Spring of 2014, the Colorado River reached the Pacific Ocean.

Does the Colorado River Reach the Ocean

Due to various reasons (overuse and climate change), the Colorado River no longer reaches the Pacific Ocean or the Gulf of California.

How Many Dams Are on the Colorado River

With 15 dams on the main stem of the Colorado River, the river is home to the most damns than any other river in the United States.

What Feeds the Colorado River

About 85 % – 90% of the Colorado River’s discharge originates in melting snowpack from the Rocky Mountains of Colorado and Wyoming. The three major upper tributaries of the Colorado River – the snow-fed Gunnison, Green, and San Juan 

What States Does the Colorado River Run Through

The river flows through two divided basins, the Upper Basin and the Lower Basin. These basins are located in the southwest area of the United States and include:

  1. Arizona (Lower Basin)
  2. California (Lower Basin)
  3. Colorado (Upper Basin)
  4. Nevada (Lower Basin)
  5. New Mexico (Upper Basin)
  6. Utah (Upper Basin)
  7. Wyoming (Upper Basin)

How Old is the Colorado River

According to the National Park Service, the Colorado River is “between 70 and 30 million years ago, through the action of plate tectonics, the whole region was uplifted, resulting in the high and relatively flat Colorado Plateau. Finally, beginning just 5-6 million years ago, the Colorado River began to carve its way downward.”

Does the Colorado River Run Through the Grand Canyon

Yes, it does! Most of the flow of the Colorado River runs through the Grand Canyon.

Colorado River

Can You Swim in the Colorado River

If you enjoy swimming in colder waters, then yes you can swim in the Colorado River. The average water temperature is 50° year round with warmer waters in side streams and waterfalls.
I have enjoyed it near Lake Powell and while cold, it was very refreshing on a hot summer day.

Is the Colorado River Fresh or Saltwater

While the snowpack from the Rocky Mountains releases millions of freshwater into the river but the Colorado River consists of freshwater, brackish water, and tidal wetlands. 

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Colorado River