The Colorado River is the major river system in the Southwestern United States. It provides water to the parched states of Utah, Arizona, Nevada and Southern California.
The Colorado River cuts through the soft uplifted sandstone of the Colorado Plateau and carves what is arguably the most graceful canyon system on the planet. The Colorado River Basin is dotted with national parks including Arches, Canyonlands, Zions National Park, Bridges, Bryce and the The Grand Canyon. There are thousands of square miles in Utah that would be roped off and protected as a National treasure if they existed in any other state.Â
Utahns who love to boat, play golf on bright green fields and drive ATVs don't know what they are destroying, so the state depends on the world to protect us from ourselves!
In the original survey, the Colorado River began in Canyonlands at the confluence of the Grand and Green Rivers. The Colorado Governor thought the Colorado River should run through Colorado and the Grand River was renamed to the Colorado River. With the flip of a legislative wrist, the Grand was renamed; So today, Colorado River begins its voyage to the sea in the high peaks of Rocky Mountain National Park in Central Colorado. It runs through the impressive mile deep Gore Canyon and Glenwood Canyon on I70. The Upper Colorado River joins the Gunnison River in Grand Junction, Colorado. The Gunnison River took an even more impressive ride through the Black Canyon of the Gunnison.
At Grand Junction, the river feeds the rich agricultural lands of the Grand Valley and begins its journey through the Colorado Plateau. The Grand Valley has a long standing reputation as a fruit growing region. In recent years, it has developed a reputation for its fine vineyards and wines.
Moving west, the canyon drops into West Water Canyon and meets the Dolores River a mile or so east of the Dewey Bridge. You can follow this section of the Colorado River on highway 128. The drive through Professor Valley provides you with enchanting views of the river and Domed Plateau to the east, and the not so subtle serenity of Castle Valley to the south.
The river defines the southern end of Arches National Monument which exhibits a number of impressive arches cut into the Entrada Sandstone. It then drops into the desert Mecca of Moab, Utah. You can follow the river by car as far as the Potash Plant below Dead Horse Point. Traveling further requires permits and a boat.
The river takes a gentle ride through Canyonlands to the Confluence of the Green, then drops into Cataract Canyon and into Lake Powell. Lake Powell fills what was deemed to be the most spectacular canyon on the river's voyage to the sea. The Escalante, Dirty Devil San Juan and other rivers join the Colorado in Lake Powell creating hundreds of interesting coves for boaters to explore.
The river is held back by the Glenn Canyon Dam in Arizona. The Dam is a few miles east of historic Lee's Ferry--the put in for Marble and the Grand Canyon. The water at Lee's Ferry comes from the bottom of the dam, and is chilled to a cool 45 degrees. The chilling temperature of the water provides a stark contrast to the blistering heat of the sand and rocks, adding credence to the adage that one is as likely to die of hypothermia in the desert as they are to die of heat stroke. Boaters on the canyon must wear wet suits in 100 degree weather to prevent hypothermia in the off chance they fall from the boat.
The Grand Canyon ends a few miles above Lake Mead, which defines the southern reaches of Nevada. Lake Mead was developed by the construction of the Hoover Dam. West of Lake Mead the river flows through the agricultural lands of California deserts and Mexico and disappears in the sand before reaching the Sea of Cortez.
- Zion National Park (66 pictures) Zion National Park on the Virgin River displays towering cliffs of Navajo Sandstone on the western edge of the Colorado Plateau near Saint George
- Colorado National Monument (66 pictures) Colorado National Monument near Grand Junction provides the Grand Valley with views of massive Wingate Sandstone.
- (1 pictures) Dinosaur Hill is in Western Colorado in an outcrop of Morrison Sandstone that yeilded several dinosaur fossils.
- Utah State (59 pictures) The Colorado River carved a border to border chain of National Parks and incredible scenery that defines Southern Utah.
- Interstate 70 (51 pictures) I70 follows the Colorado River through Glenwood Canyon.
- Moab, Utah (138 pictures) Moab is the last town on the Colorado River before it begins its descent through Canyonlands, Glen Canyon, Marble Canyon and the Grand Canyon.
- Arches National Park (151 pictures) Arches National Park includes sand stone formations in the Entrada Sandstone just north of the Colorado River near Moab.
- Moonflower Campground (19 pictures) Moonflower Canyon and Pictograph Panel is west of Moab on Kane Canyon Road.
- Castle Valley (53 pictures) Castle Valley flows into the Colorado River near Moab.
- Dewey Bridge (19 pictures) The Dewey Bridge spans the Colorado in Eastern Utah. This historic bridge is now part of the Kokopelli Trail.