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The history of the colorado river

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http://www.scenic.com/visitor-information/grand-canyon/inner-canyon-activities-and-tours | The Colorado River was millions of the years in the making and remains a vital part of American history. Learn about the wild and wonderful past of this legendary waterway, from the prehistoric era all the way to present day.

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The history of the colorado river

  1. 1. The History of the Colorado River The Colorado River is by far one of the most significant rivers in the United States, boasting a long and fascinating history dating all the way back to prehistoric ages. While today it’s primarily used as a source of water and hydroelectric power, in addition to being enjoyed by travelers for everything from white water rafting to Grand Canyon tours, it has played an important role in history long before the United States as we know it even existed. Scientists presently theorize that Arizona’s majestic Grand Canyon was originally formed by the Colorado River over the course of six million years, primarily through the process of water erosion and ice expansion.1 In prehistoric times, the river served as a boundary between Ancestral Puebloan cultures. These ancient Native American populations, also known as Anasazi, were settled in what is now known as the Four Corners, comprised of the adjoining borders between Utah, Arizona, Colorado, and New Mexico. This area was inhabited by different Native American tribes for many centuries to come. There is still some debate about when the first documented discovery of the Colorado River originally took place by Europeans. Many historians agree, however, that it was first found by Spanish explorers looking for gold, sometime between the years 1510 and 1554. The area was also believed to be mapped in the early 1600s by explorer Francisco de Bolanos. It wasn’t until the mid-19th century that the river’s surrounding region was fully mapped through various expeditions, later settled by early Mormon pioneers and other white settlers, with the river being used as a mode of both trade and transportation. It began to find a growing population among miners and travelers alike; however, mining proved to be an unsuccessful feat for many men seeking riches, forcing them to travel elsewhere in search of much-sought after, yet ever-elusive minerals. John Wesley Powell, also known as “The Father of Reclamation,” led one of the first and most daring expeditions regarding irrigation starting in 1867, mapping probable locations for dam construction that eventually led to future funding through The Reclamation Act of 1902. The early 1900s found even further development of the river’s potential uses through government sponsored investigations of flood control, as well as water supply and hydropower possibilities through the newly founded Bureau of Reclamation. The construction of dams and other impoundments began shortly thereafter, including one of the most famous dams in existence today—the Boulder Dam, later to be renamed Hoover Dam after President Herbert Hoover. Located on the Colorado River’s Black Canyon along the border of Nevada and Arizona, the Hoover Dam’s massive creation was one of triumph and tragedy, as it became the world’s tallest dam to ever be constructed at the time of its completion in 1938; 1 http://grandcanyonhistory.clas.asu.edu/history_coloradoriver.html
  2. 2. however, its construction also cost over one hundred workers’ lives. It later became, and still is, a hugely popular sightseeing staple for tourists seeking to experience versatile Las Vegas tours that extend beyond “the Strip.” The 1960s and 70s saw new advancements, including the construction of the Glen Canyon Dam, which generated the creation of nearby Lake Powell. This period of time also observed the construction of canals and aqueducts for transporting water to major neighboring cities, including Las Vegas, Phoenix, and Los Angeles. Not only is the Colorado River still an extensive water source for the southwestern United States, today it also remains a place for travelers to take part in exciting outdoor activities, ranging from kayaking, to fly fishing, to ziplining, and much, much more. The rich history of this historic river has played an important role in native and western civilization for thousands upon thousands of years, and it remains a crucial component for both present-day and future generations to come.