Colorado River – I have a huge poster of the Grand Canyon, a gorgeous picture, that I bought on that first, brief trip past the canyon. Since then I’ve learned that it’s actually the book cover of “Time and the River Flowing” by Francois Leydet. The book is full of photos of the canyon, and quotes and stories from its explorers. The “river flowing” is the Colorado River, and I thought I should know something about it before the hike.
It’s easy to get overwhelmed by facts and numbers about this river, because there are so many. Here are a few that I found informative:
- It’s one of two major rivers that cross the southwest of our country, the Rio Grande being the other one.
- It’s part of amazing scenery everywhere it runs as evidenced by the 11 national parks that it goes through.
- It starts in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado where 90% of its water is snow melt, the rest coming from tributaries along the way.
- It’s a very managed river in that there are many dams, reservoirs and claims on its water for irrigation of crops.
- By the time it passes the surrounding crop areas in Mexico, on its way to the Gulf of California, every bit of its flow has been apportioned. The last 100 miles are dry most of the year.
- There has been much controversy surrounding the building of dams and restriction of the flow. ” The ages have been at work on it, and man can only mar it.” Theodore Roosevelt
- It used to have a delta and tidal bores much like other larger rivers.
- It provides the water needs for 40 million people in towns and cities along its course.
The Colorado River was one of the forces creating the Grand Canyon. It’s mind boggling to view the depth and breadth of this chasm and realize that the water, way down there at the bottom, was responsible for this wonder of nature. It took a long, long time. I found this quote that illustrates just how long it took to form the many layers of rock, compared to the time the river has been doing its work.
“if the two billion years that have elapsed since the creation of the schists of the Inner Gorge were telescoped into a single day, each minute would represent about 1.4 million years. If the schist formed at 12:01 am of that day, the Paleozoic Era began about 6 pm and ended three hours later. Shortly after 11:00 pm the Mesozoic rocks were eroded away and the Paleozoic strata were uplifted. The Colorado River began to carve the Grand Canyon sometime between 11:45 and 11:58 pm. The entire span of human existence has occurred in the last minute before midnight. “A Field Guide to the Grand Canyon by Stephen Whitney p.242
I’m told the river is cold, swift and has lots of exciting rapids. We will get to hike along it, perhaps wade in it a little on the day we explore the bottom of the canyon. I can’t wait to see it.