Known for its dramatic canyons and whitewater rapids, the Colorado is a vital source of water for agricultural and urban areas in the southwestern desert lands of North America. The river and its tributaries are controlled by an extensive system of dams, reservoirs and aqueducts, which furnish irrigation and municipal water supply for almost 40 million people both inside and outside the watershed. The Colorado's large flow and steep gradient are used for generating hydroelectric power, and its major dams regulate peaking power demands in much of the Inter-mountain West. Since the mid-20th century, intensive water consumption has dried the lower 100 miles of the river such that it no longer reaches the sea except in years of heavy runoff.
Grand Canyon West
The Grand Canyon is a steep-sided canyon carved by the Colorado River in Arizona. It is contained within and managed by Grand Canyon National Park, the Hualapai Tribal Nation, and the Havasupai Tribe. President Theodore Roosevelt was a major proponent of preservation of the Grand Canyon area, and visited it on numerous occasions to hunt and enjoy the scenery. It is considered one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World.
The Grand Canyon is 277 miles long, up to 18 miles wide and attains a depth of over a mile. Nearly two billion years of the Earth's geological history has been exposed as the Colorado River and its tributaries cut their channels through layer after layer of rock while the Colorado Plateau was uplifted. While the specific geologic processes and timing that formed the Grand Canyon are the subject of debate by geologists, recent evidence suggests the Colorado River established its course through the canyon at least 17 million years ago. Since that time, the Colorado River continued to erode and form the canyon to its present-day configuration.
Hoover Dam, once known as Boulder Dam, is a concrete arch-gravity dam in the Black Canyon of the Colorado River, on the border between the US states of Arizona and Nevada. It was constructed between 1931 and 1936 during the Great Depression and was dedicated on September 30, 1935, by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Its construction was the result of a massive effort involving thousands of workers, and cost over one hundred lives. The dam was controversially named after President Herbert Hoover.
Since about 1900, the Black Canyon and nearby Boulder Canyon had been investigated for their potential to support a dam that would control floods, provide irrigation water and produce hydroelectric power. In 1928, Congress authorized the project. The winning bid to build the dam was submitted by a consortium called Six Companies, Inc., which began construction on the dam in early 1931. Such a large concrete structure had never been built before, and some of the techniques were unproven. The torrid summer weather and the lack of facilities near the site also presented difficulties. Nevertheless, Six Companies turned over the dam to the federal government on March 1, 1936, more than two years ahead of schedule.
Lake Mead is the largest reservoir in the United States in maximum water capacity. It is located on the Colorado River about 24 mi from the Strip southeast of Las Vegas, Nevada, in the states of Nevada and Arizona. Formed by the Hoover Dam, Lake Mead is 112 miles long when the lake is full, has 550 miles of shoreline, is over 500 feet at greatest depth, with a surface elevation of 1,221.4 feet above sea level, and has 247 square miles of surface, and when filled to capacity, 28 million acre-feet of water. However, the lake has not reached this capacity since 1983 due to increasing droughts.
Lake Mohave is a reservoir formed by Davis Dam on the Colorado River, which defines the border between Nevada and Arizona in the United States. The lake lies at an elevation of 647 feet near Laughlin, Nevada, Searchlight, Nevada, Cottonwood Cove, Nevada, and Bullhead City, Arizona, The Lake starts at the Hoover Dam on the Colorado River and runs to the Davis Dam. The lake and adjacent lands forming its shoreline are part of the Lake Mead National Recreation Area administered by the U.S. National Park Service. Lake Mohave encompasses 28,260 acres of water.
Water leaving Lake Mohave flows south into Lake Havasu. Lake Havasu is more crowded and well-known than Lake Mohave, but Lake Mohave is a much larger, deeper, and cleaner lake than Lake Havasu.
Las Vegas is the most populous city in Nevada. Las Vegas is an internationally renowned major resort city known primarily for gambling, shopping, fine dining, and nightlife and is the leading financial and cultural center for Southern Nevada. The city bills itself as The Entertainment Capital of the World, and is famous for its consolidated casino–hotels and associated entertainment. A growing retirement and family city, Las Vegas is the 31st-most populous city in the United States, with a population at the 2010 census of 583,756. The 2010 population of the Las Vegas metropolitan area was 1,951,269. The city is one of the top three leading destinations in the United States for conventions, business, and meetings. Today, Las Vegas is one of the top tourist destinations in the world.
Established in 1905, Las Vegas was incorporated as a city in 1911. At the close of the 20th century, Las Vegas was the most populous American city founded in that century (a distinction held by Chicago in the 19th century). The city's tolerance for various forms of adult entertainment earned it the title of Sin City, and this image has made Las Vegas a popular setting for films and television programs. There are numerous outdoor lighting displays on Fremont Street, as well as elsewhere in the city. Click here for the Las Vegas website.
Laughlin is a town and census-designated place in Clark County, Nevada and a port located on the Colorado River. Laughlin is 90 miles south of Las Vegas, located in the far southern tip of Nevada. It is best known for its gaming, entertainment, and water recreation. As of the 2010 census, the population was 7,323.
The nearby communities of Bullhead City, Arizona; Needles, California; Fort Mohave; and Mohave Valley bring the Laughlin area's total population to about 100,000. Its name comes from Don Laughlin, an Owatonna, Minnesota, native who purchased the southern tip of Nevada in 1964 (informally called South Pointe). At the time, Don Laughlin operated the 101 Club in Las Vegas. He opened what would become the Riverside Resort, offering all-you-can-eat chicken dinners for 98 cents, 12 slot machines and two live gaming tables, along with eight motel rooms. He wanted to call the community Riverside or Casino, but the post office opted for Laughlin instead.
Laughlin is the third most visited casino and resort destination in the state after Las Vegas and Reno, and is one of the top five destinations for American RV enthusiasts.
Laughlin is advertised as a family-friendly destination. Being located on the river, it emphasizes outdoor and family activities. Many of the casinos that line the Colorado River are linked by an unofficial pedestrian thoroughfare known as the Laughlin Riverwalk. Click here to view the Laughlin, NV website.
Oatman, Ghost Town, Wild Burros
Oatman is a former mining town in the Black Mountains of Mohave County, Arizona, United States. Located at an elevation of 2,710 feet, it began as a tent camp soon after two prospectors struck a $10 million gold find in 1915, though the area had been already settled for a number of years. Oatman's population grew to more than 3,500 in the course of a year.
Oatman has undergone a renaissance of sorts in recent years thanks to burgeoning worldwide interest in Route 66 and the explosive growth of the nearby gaming town of Laughlin, Nevada, which promotes visits to the town. Wild burros freely roam the town and can be hand-fed carrots and "burro chow," both readily available in practically every store in town. Though normally gentle, the burros are in fact wild and signs posted throughout Oatman advise visitors to exercise caution. The donkeys are descended from pack animals turned loose by early prospectors, and are protected by the US Department of the Interior.
Weekends in Oatman can see anything from classic car rallies to mock "Wild West" shootouts right down the middle of old 66. Independence Day celebrations include a contest where participants attempt to cook an egg on the sidewalk with the aid of solar devices known as the Oatman Egg Fry.
Along with the rest of Arizona's US 66 towns, Oatman is fiercely proud of its Route 66 heritage and replicas of 66's black-on-white US highway shield are posted all over the town. Route 66 souvenirs abound and many tourists have pasted autographed one-dollar bills on the walls and ceiling of the Oatman Hotel's bar and restaurant. Estimates of the number of bills run into the thousands.
From Laughlin, Needles or Bullhead City, Arizona, Oatman is a short drive on State Route 95 to its intersection with Boundary Cone Road in Fort Mohave. About 10 miles east of SR 95, Boundary Cone Road meets with old 66, now named the "Oatman Highway."