The Colorado River | Location And Facts

The Colorado River is one of the major rivers in the Southwest United States and northern Mexico, alongside the Rio Grande. The river, which stretches for 1,450 miles (2,330 kilometres), drains an expansive, arid watershed that includes parts of seven US states and two Mexican states.
Starting in Grand Lake, Colorado in the central Rocky Mountains, the river flows southwest across the Colorado Plateau and through the Grand Canyon before turning south toward the international border at Lake Mead on the Arizona–Nevada border. The Colorado River enters Mexico and heads for the mostly dry Colorado River Delta at the Gulf of California's tip, between Baja California and Sonora.


  • The Colorado River originates in the Rocky Mountains and flows through the southwest United States and into Mexico.
  • Snowmelt from the Rocky and Wasatch mountains feeds the river, which flows over 2,250 kilometres across seven states and into Mexico (river Ganga flows over 2,500 kilometres).
  • The Upper (Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and northern Arizona) and Lower (Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and northern Arizona) Basins of the Colorado River are separated (parts of Nevada, Arizona, California, southwestern Utah and western New Mexico).
  • The Hoover Dam controls floods and regulates water delivery and storage in the Lower Basin.
  • The Hoover Dam's water release is regulated by the Davis Dam, Parker Dam, and Imperial Dam, in addition to the Hoover Dam itself.
  • The Hoover Dam in Southern Nevada created Lake Mead in the 1930s, making it the largest reservoir in the United States in terms of volume.
  • Its primary source of water is snowmelt and runoff from the Rocky Mountains.
  • Lake Powell, the reservoir created by the Glen Canyon Dam in Arizona, is the other.


Today, the name "Colorado" is the mighty river that rises in Colorado's Rocky Mountains. Before 1921, however, this was not the case.
Various explorers wandered through the West for many years, naming landmarks as they went. The Grand River was named after the river that began at the Continental Divide in northwest Colorado and flowed south and west out of the state. 
When the Green River met it in southeastern Utah, the river's name was changed from "Grand" to "Colorado," and it continued through the Grand Canyon and out to sea. 
The Rio San Rafael River, the Bunkara River, the North Fork of the Grand River, and the Blue River were all names given to sections of the river before it was named the Grand River in 1836. 
The name "Colorado" comes from the Spanish word "colour red," which refers to the river's muddy colour as it flows through the canyons of Arizona and Utah. 
However, "Colorado" was just the latest in a long line of names for this incredible river. The river was given the name Rio del Tizon by Spanish explorers in the 16th century, which means River of Embers or Firebrand River. 

Later explorers may have named some sections of the river Rio de Buena Guia, Rio Colorado de los Martyrs, Rio Grande de Buena Esperanza, Rio Grande de los Cosninos, and El Rio de Cosminas de Rafael. 
However, by the time John Wesley Powell navigated and mapped the Grand Canyon in 1869, "Colorado" had become the accepted name for the canyon's river.


  • The Colorado River and its tributaries are a vital source of water for 40 million people, with dramatic canyons, whitewater rapids, and eleven U.S. National Parks.
  • Paleo-Indians of the Clovis and Folsom cultures, who first arrived on the Colorado Plateau around 12,000 years ago, were most likely the first humans in the Colorado River basin. There was very little human activity in the watershed until the rise of the Desert Archaic Culture, which accounted for the majority of the region's human population from 8,000 to 2,000 years ago.
  • The Colorado River watershed is home to over 1,600 plant species, ranging from the Sonoran and Mojave Desert's creosote bush, saguaro cactus, and Joshua trees to the Rocky Mountain and other uplands' forests, which are primarily made up of ponderosa pine, subalpine fir, Douglas-fir, and Engelmann spruce.
  • As late as the 1860s, some arid regions of the watershed, such as Wyoming's upper Green River valley, Utah's Canyonlands National Park, and Arizona and Sonora's San Pedro River valley, supported extensive stretches of grassland roamed by large mammals like buffalo and antelope.
  • In the Colorado River basin, there were once 49 species of native fish, 42 of which were endemic. Engineering projects and river regulation have resulted in the extinction of four species and severe population declines in 40 others.
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  • The most endangered species are the bonytail chub, razorback sucker, Colorado pikeminnow, and humpback chub, which are all unique to the Colorado River system and well adapted to the river's natural silty conditions and flow variations. Dams have changed the habitat characteristics of these and other Colorado River basin fishes by releasing clear, cold water.
  • A total of 40 species, including the brown trout, were introduced into the river during the 19th and 20th centuries, primarily for sport fishing.


Due to a historic drought, the US federal government declared a water shortage for the Colorado River basin for the first time, resulting in water cuts in some southwestern states beginning in October 2021.
Reasons for the scarcity
•    This river basin has been experiencing a prolonged drought since the year 2000.
•    Seven states signed the Colorado River Compact almost a century ago, determining how much river water each state receives.
•    Due to the persistent drought, water levels in the basin's reservoirs have been reduced to meet demand over time.
•    Despite the basin's large water storage capacity, demand for water from the basin has increased over time, while supply has been limited.

What will happen in case of shortage?

Seven states signed the Colorado River Compact almost a century ago, determining how much river water each state receives.
According to the agreement, states in the upper Colorado River basin — Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, and New Mexico — must keep a certain amount of water in the river to ensure that the flow reaches states in the lower basin, such as Arizona, California, and Nevada. In the 1940s, the agreement was amended to ensure that river water reached Mexico as well.
If the river continues to dry up, the agreement may be broken soon. For the first time, this could result in a formal water delivery shortage and a "compact call." As a result, upper-basin states, including Colorado, may be forced to cut off some water users to ensure that the river has enough water to flow downstream.

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