The Colorado River by Ezra, 6th grade


The Colorado River lies 31 degrees north and 119 degrees west. It is 1,450 miles long. It begins at La Poudre Pass in the Colorado Rockies, and runs through five US. states and into Mexico. It starts in Colorado. Next it flows into Utah, and then turns down into Arizona. Next, it flows into Nevada, then into California. It cuts back into Arizona, and then continues down into Mexico. It also flows into other rivers, one of which drains into the Pacific. Roughly halfway through Arizona lies the famous Grand Canyon.

The Grand Canyon
The Colorado River flows through five States.


The Colorado River is fed by many smaller rivers. 90% of its tributaries are in the U.S., while only 10% are in Mexico. 90% of its non-tributary water comes from melting snow and ice. Only 10% comes from flash-floods and ground water.

Colorado River tributaries

Of that 90% that originates in the U.S., this is how water is sourced:

  • CA: 26.7%
  • CO: 23.5%
  • AZ: 17%
  • UT: 10.4%
  • WY: 6.4%
  • NM: 5.1%
  • NV: 1.8%


The first settlers on the Colorado River were probably the Paleo Indians. They lived alone there for many years. Later, they were joined by others, such as the ancient Puebloan (or Anasazi) Indians who developed the first system of supplying water from the lakes. This system was developed in Chaco Canyon, home to many Indians, like the Finasazi.

Ancestral Puebloan stone points

In the 17th century Europeans came, changing their lives greatly. The Indians were anything but pleased with their new neighbors. This caused many territorial fights, most of which the Indians lost.

In 1846, forces led by Kit Carson forced thousands of Indians out of their homes. After this they signed a treaty reserving 27,000 square miles for the Indians. By the year 2000, the population of this area was over 180,000.

Portrait of Christopher Houston "Kit" Carson

Indian's rights to water were ignored during resource development in the 19th and 20th centuries. The building of dams flooded many Indian villages and caused terrible droughts.


Until Commander John Wesley Powell mapped out the Colorado River in 1869, no one knew about its wild course. For weeks his team ran and portaged rapids and climbed cliffs. On August 28th, 1869, three men left them because the team was about to run a rapid too dangerous for them to consider possible. The three of them climbed out of the canyon. The others remained, and ran what is now known as the Separation Rapid. Powell's team finished charting the River and made it back alive. The three men who had left, however, were later found dead.

Commander John Wesley Powell

Lots of gold was found the during the Gold Rush. This attracted much of today's population on the river. In 1859, a team found a huge gold mine attracting even more settlers.

Gold-limonite mined in Colorado

In the early 20th century, over 40 million people directly relied on the Colorado River's waters. In 1922, the six U.S. States relying on its water divided it up. The "upper" half went to Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah. The "lower" half went to Arizona, California, and Nevada. Each State was allocated 7.5 million square acres of water per year.

The Hoover Dam

On September 30th, 1935, the United States Bureau of Reclamation (USBR) finished the Hoover Dam in Black Canyon. Behind the dam, Lake Mead rose, the largest artificial lake in the world. The dam stopped floods, stored water for droughts, and also powered one of the largest hydroelectric power plants in the world.

The Hoover Dam and Lake Mead


The Colorado River is unique in many ways. It is not only a huge water supply, certain parts of it, such as the Grand Canyon, serve as major tourist attractions. The Grand Canyon is the largest canyon in the world. As such a large tourist attraction, it produces lots of money for the states around it. This also causes population growth; Nevada alone had a population increase of 60% from 1990 to 2000. In that same time the population of Arizona increased by 40%.

It is also an important historical landmark. In its walls are fossilized aquatic life and plants. It's also one of the largest energy producers in the world that doesn't run on nuclear power.

Grand Canyon fossils


Over 16,000 species of plants live along the Colorado River. These plants range from cacti, to trees, to many other plants. Because of population growth, many plants have died.

Cactus growing along the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon

The river was originally home to 49 species of native fish. Dams and other construction projects on the river let water in only from deep parts of lakes which is much colder. The river's temperature has dropped from 85 degrees (29 Celsius) to just 46 degrees (8 Celsius). This rapid change has killed some native fish species, and endangers others. The change also invited other newer species, and there are now 40 new species that eat and endanger the original native species.

Conservationists are trying to save the Humpback Chub, one of the species of fish found only in the Colorado River

Why I Chose This Topic

I chose this topic since I saw a video of the Grand Canyon and wanted more info on it. I also had a lot of information on it, making it easier.

I always liked topics relating to water. In previous grades I did reports on other bodies of water, and became "thirsty" for more knowledge on it. My father bought us Blu Ray discs with videos on it, and even though I have watched them all, I still wanted to learn more.

So here I am doing a report on the Colorado River. Since I had never done reports on water basins surrounded by sand, I picked this one specifically.

Thank you for taking your time to read this.

For your viewing pleasure, one last spectacular picture of a horseshoe bend in the Colorado River
Created By
Ezra Forta
Created with images by werner22brigitte - "colorado river arizona landscape" • werner22brigitte - "grand canyon national park arizona" • Free Grunge Textures - - "Colorado Grunge Flag" • Free Grunge Textures - - "Utah Grunge Flag" • Az_Manny_322 - "State Flag of Arizona" • Free Grunge Textures - - "Nevada Grunge Flag" • Free Grunge Textures - - "California Grunge Flag" • nan palmero - "Aspen - June 2011" • Petrified Forest Ranger - "Petrified Forest National Park ancestral Puebloan stone points" • Ron Cogswell - "Kit Carson Portrait Taos (NM) 2013" • U.S. Geological Survey - "John Wesley Powell" • jsj1771 - "Gold-limonite, Buckhorn Mine, Crystal Hill Mining District, southern Colorado" • K.Oliver - "Hoover Dam" • Grand Canyon NPS - "16177 Grand Canyon Trilobite Fossil" • kyle simourd - "Interior of the Grand Canyon" • Grand Canyon NPS - "302 Grand Canyon_Humpback Chub Translocation in Shinumo Creek" • LoggaWiggler - "horseshoe bend colorado river usa"

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