Rivers of Arizona
The Rivers of Arizona provide a precious resource to all who live in Arizona. Water is taken for granted in this arid State. It is ironic how more water is wasted by natural irrigation, agriculturally controlled irriagtion, evaporation, runoff and seepage than by the residents of Arizona.
The Colorado starts in La Poudre Pass Lake in Colorado just west of the Continental Divide in the Rocky Mountain National Park. It meanders Southwest through Utah to Lake Powell. The Glenn Canyon Dam releases the water captured in Lake Powell into the natural terrain of the North Eastern area of Arizona near a town called Page. The Colorado sends 4000 to 1,000,000 cubic feet per second down its beds. This all is dependant upon droughts and floods and the needs of the communities that are served by the Colorado.
The water travels through Horshoe Bend, which is named for its shape. The bend is beautiful too. Traveling through the bend, the waters continues past Lee's Ferry. Many people will start rafting trips near Page at Lee's Ferry. This area of the river is called Marble canyon, a pre-requisite to the Grand Canyon. The beauty of this area is so inspiring and enjoyable.
As the Colorado moves Westward it recives water from the Paria River and then again from the turquoise blue water of the Little Colorado. The Paria is muddy colored while the Little Colorado is laced with calcium carbonate, copper sulfate and phosphorous producing a clear and transparent and stunning blue color.
If you travel to the Little Colorado do not drink the blue and inviting water. It is so very enticing but it will trigger Montezuma's revenge! It is an amazing site to look at, as if a painter put the touches on a scene from a water color painting.
If you swim in it you can not see the color. If you are able to step back (or float) far enough away, the blue in contrast with the brown and green as it empties into the Colorado is incredibly striking.
Entering the Grand Canyon from the Marble Canyon is amazing. The colossal sheer walls of the Canyon demand that you capture your sense of smallness. Many of us do not realize we have this sense until you experience something like this. These walls seem to be thousands of feet high. Oh yes, They are! They have an average of a mile in heighth, which is 5,280 feet. Forget not; Most of this is below sea level.
So when you are down in the Canyon looking up, the Horizon is defined by the Rims North and South. But because of the winding of the Colorado it can also be the horizon East and West.
Imagine having that restriction and having your breath taken away from inner canyon haute design. On some days you will see daylight but will never see the Sun nor its rising or setting.
The tallest man made structure is just under 2200 linear feet in heighth, less than half a mile. Nature seems to always trump man somehow.
This is not like being at the bottom of a mountain. If you do nothing else in Arizona. Just once you need to hike to , raft through or camp at the bottom of the Grand Canyon on the banks of the Colorado River. It is a once in a lifetime experience.
The waterflow passes by Phantom Ranch. This is at the end of the most popular pathway to the water; Bright Angel Trail. Starting from the South Rim of the Grand Canyon it is about an 8.5 mile hike one way. You drop next to 5000 feet down.
This is a hike we highly recommend for all who are adequately healthy to make the trek. You can use the Mule train if necessary. You do need to make reservations to stay at the lodge at Phantom Ranch. Pemits to camp are usually requested by the National Park but many ignore this request and camp anyway.
We know of a fellow who rafted with a group from Lee's Ferry to Phantom Ranch and walked the Bright Angel Trail bragging that he would be the first one out and have done itBAREFOOT. He beat his group out of the Canyon in just over 2 hours. He said he wanted to "feel" it. Meaning, feel the earth under his feet making each step, rendering the experience to be more palpable, memorable, ecumenical... lol. There was no press, just about 30 witnesses.
There is never a moment without awe along the Colorado/Grand Canyon voyage. Some folks forget that the Grand Canyon harbors the Colorado River. One can not exist without the other.
The Colorado flows into Lake Mead which was formed by Hoover Dam. Lake Mead provides all of the Water for the City of Las Vegas. The Hoover Dam releases the Colorado to the South where it provides the natural border for Western Arizona between Nevada and California.
The Colorado continues to Mohave Lake that is formed by the Davis Dam. After, it flows into the Lake Havasu which was created by the Parker Dam. There are two irrigation diversions before it spills into the Gulf of California. However, the spill is more of a trikle with sediment. The Mexican fishermen do not like this too much. Yet the Mexican Farmers enjoy the seepage which fills their underground water tables allowing them to farm and irrigate from wells.
The Gila starts in New Mexico and is the main tributary to the San Carlos Reservoir. It is the largest desert waterway in the United States. The Salt River is one of the main tributarys to the Gila. Both the Salt and Gila are "dry" because of the diversion of water to municipalities and communities along the way. Way where? The Colorado River.
This is a short tributary that starts out at Alamo Lake. It follows a short series of canyons and spills into the Colorado just North of the Parker Dam.
The Salt starts in Northeastern Arizona and travels and fills several reservoirs and Lakes. The water from the Salt is used to serve the greater Phoenix area for drinking water and irrigation most of its water is diverted to the Hohokam canals. It is dry in the lower lands near South Mountain in Phoenix. Tempe, Arizona has made a beautiful town lake out of the Salt River it is truly a show piece for that University Town. Near Saguaro Lake intertubes are used to float from the Dam to the lower ends of the Salt before it is diverted to the Verde. It is beach party for teens and college kids. Sometimes even whole families will float down the Salt river. Watch out for the drinking. Thank goodness for shuttle buses.
The Verde is the water source for Camp Verde, Cottonwood and Clarksdale. It confluences with the Salt near the Towne of Fountain Hills.
All of these main waterways are major sources of life to man and animals alike. The forethought of the founder of Phoenix along with wise planning by the State of Arizona and the Federal Government in creating the Central Arizona Project has kept Arizona from suffering from a major drought in the last eight to ten years.
Bravo Arizona. The Desert blossoms because of very wise and miraculous planning. We do save more of the runnoff because of the CAP but we need to do a lot more if its possible. Millions of Gallons of water are wasted each year. Much of it is returned to the lower elevation water tables, so not all is lost.
Most of the water that is produce and delivered within the Arizona boarders never makes it to the ocean like it used to in the "olden good ol' days." The droughts should be over soon and the desert will blossom even more than ever before because of the lack of thirst anymore.
When it rains here, it is really a very great day!
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