Colorado River

View from Dead Horse Point
  The Colorado River is 1,450 miles long and stretches across the states of Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming.  Starting in the Rocky Mountains, the Colorado River set its course roughly 10 to 15 million years ago but only within the recent past has humanity been able to divert some of its waters with the dams, which has both positive and negative connotations.

  The overall importance of the Colorado River, as well as the Green River, would have to be their immense influence on the overall geography of the land around them, due to the way that over time, they have eroded downward and into the land, causing the immense amount of canyons that can range into the thousands of feet in depth!  As much as they have shaped the geography, they also constantly influence the economy of the cities that are located near them due to their reliance on the dams and river travel.
  The Colorado River was at one point unmapped and was a treacherous journey for anyone that attempted to travel it.  John Wesley Powell was the one-armed American Civil War veteran that chose to explore this dangerous river in 1869 and again in 1871 and 1872, which then provided a map of the entire area.  His exploration helped many travelers as well as settlers, eventually leading to much more use of the river system.
  Today the river is noticeably managed by the multiple dams that are able to provide large amounts of cities in the desert with much needed water, , flood control, and electricity.  There was even a time of friction between the seven states that the Colorado River flows through due to these dams being built.  The Colorado River Contract of 1922 was signed in order to make sure that the water that would be diverted from the river, as well as its tributaries, by the dams would be divided equally between those states.  The Hoover Dam is especially interesting, which we were able to visit on Saturday, June 4th.  One of the main ideas behind the tour that we took was the fact that this dam is so powerful and such a big accomplishment for humanity, also that it provides so much for the people that live in areas that would otherwise be uninhabitable.
Another view from Dead Horse Point
  What was not mentioned at all at the Hoover Dam was the effects of the dam on the ecosystems.  Talking to a park ranger at Dead Horse Point was where I received most of the explanation, but was simply not enough.  Surprisingly the shift in ecosystems on one side of the dam to the other is extremely different.  The dam filters out all of the silt that builds up along the river system, which allows many different kinds of species to survive. Once all of it is filtered out, the leftover water is filtered back out into Lake Mead, the man-made lake, making this side of the dam an entirely diverse ecosystem, with completely different species, especially those living in the water.  It also causes a large drop in the amount of marshes that can be found now along the Colorado River because of the amount that is being controlled.  In this case, the river is a friend to modern civilization, and yet foe to the ecosystem and the creatures that rely on the river as it is.
  Overall, the Colorado River is very influential, whether it is for good or bad, and for many people it is not even a question as to which one it is.  The enormity of the influence is outstanding, especially due to how many families it can provide water and electricity for.  The ecosystem also being quite diverse is important, especially due to the changes from dam interaction with the river.  Good or bad, the Colorado River is an immense water system that is simply gigantic in influence as well as its size!

Maegan Smith

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