The Colorado River

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Geographers can tell you that the one thing that most rivers and their

adjacent flood plains in the world have in common is that they have rich

histories associated with human settlement and development. This

especially true in arid regions which are very dependent upon water. Two

excellent examples are the Nile and the Tigris-Euphrates rivers which

show use the relationship between rivers and concentrations of people.

However, the Colorado River is not such a good example along most

segments of its course. There is no continuous transportation system

that parallels the rivers course, and settlements are clustered. The

rugged terrain and entrenched river channels are the major reasons for

sparse human settlement. We ask ourselves, did the Colorado River help

or hinder settlement in the Western United States?

As settlers began to move westward, the Southwest was considered

to be a place to avoid. Few considered it a place to traverse, to spread

Christianity, and a possible source of furs or mineral wealth.

Finding a

reliable or accessible water source, and timber for building was

difficult to find. There was a lack of land that could be irrigated


By the turn of the century, most present day cities and towns

were already established. Trails, roads, and railroads linked several

areas with neighboring regions. Although the Colorado River drainage

system was still not integrated. In the mid 1900's many dams had been

built to harness and use the water. A new phase of development occurred

at the end of the second World War. There was a large emphasis on

recreation, tourism, and environmental preservation.

The terrain of the Colorado River is very unique. It consists of

Wet Upper Slopes, Irregular Transition Plains and Hills, Deep

Canyonlands, and the Dry Lower Plains.

Wet Upper Slopes: Consist of numerous streams that...