How the Grand Canyon River Quenches The West's Thirst for Growth
When Spanish explorers first came across this roiling, muddy waterway, in the 16th century they called it Rio Colorado. It has since lost its characteristic reddish hue due to dams and other water projects, but the Grand Canyon river system still remains one of the United States' most amazing sights.
The river, according to scientists, started carving out the Grand Canyon some 17 million years ago. The gorge is now more than a mile deep and up to 18 miles wide and getting deeper daily. The canyon is one of the few places on the planet where you can see exposed rock that's nearly 2 billion years old!
The Colorado River snakes through three of the most arid regions of the U.S. and is the region's one true water source. The first inhabitants were the Pueblo Indians and other Native American groups, who successfully built settlements along the river's verdant banks. The villages were at their apex when the Spanish Conquistadors and their expeditions arrived.
In most cases, rivers that etch out deep channels and gorges end up being narrow and fast. But the Grand Canyon River is different. It's wide and expansive and perfect for the construction of dams (Hoover Dam, Glen Canyon Dam are two examples), irrigation systems and hydroelectric plants. The river is also a vital source of drinking water. Considering all the demands made of the river, it's now wonder that it ends up dry just miles before it reaches the Sea of Cortez in Mexico.
Rafting the Grand Canyon
There are several ways to experience the Colorado River. The most fun are one-day, river rafting tours. There are several at the South Rim. These trips depart from the National Park and go to Glen Canyon Dam. There you climb aboard an adventure-class pontoon water raft and float 15 miles to Lee's Ferry. The more expensive of these two-day trips shuttles you by airplane and includes a Jeep tour of Antelope Canyon. There's also a rafting trip at the West Rim. It comes with a helicopter flight to the bottom of Grand Canyon West before setting you loose on an 11-mile raft trip from Hoover Dam to Willow Beach.
Grand Canyon River Tours by Bus
Bus tours from Las Vegas also let you interact with the river. The most popular trips are to the West Rim, where you can fly a helicopter to the bottom and take a boat ride. The river can also be seen from the Grand Canyon Skywalk and Hoover Dam, where you can stroll the top of the dam and see Lake Mead on one side and the unfettered Colorado River on the other.
For your convenience, here are the top canyon tours that include the Grand Canyon River (click on link for more information):
Truly one of the most important and scenic waterways in all the U.S., this stretch of the Colorado River that forms the Grand Canyon river system is absolutely worth a visit, be it at the bottom of Grand Canyon West, the edge of the South Rim or from the top of Hoover Dam. It's your chance to see the primordial forces of nature at work. Make sure not to miss it!
Have a Grand Day,
P.S. Not sure who to travel with? Check out my Grand Canyon Bus tour reviews. I base my ratings on quality, safety and price.