The vast Colorado River begins atop the snowy peaks of the Rockies as hundreds of snow-fed streams. Over the course of its nearly 1,500 mile journey to the Gulf of California in Mexico, it passes through some of the most breathtaking and rugged scenery on earth: the Colorado Plateau, the Grand Canyon, Lake Mead, and more.
Colorado is one of the most popular recreational rivers in the U.S., attracting tens of thousands of campers and adventure enthusiasts every month of the year. With a huge range of water and land-based activities to offer, there’s something for everyone with the Colorado River.
Camping by the Colorado
The Grand Canyon: Thousands of tourists come each year to camp right by the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon. It’s the dream of a lifetime for many to spend the night next to the mighty Colorado, surrounded by the towering walls of the canyon. Camping requires a permit provided by the backcountry office.
Camping on the Mojave Desert: As the Colorado winds through the Mojave on its way to Lake Mead and Lake Havasu, it goes past picturesque scenery that draws many campers and nature lovers. Winters in the area tend to be warm and suitable for overnight camping.
Having fun in the waters of the Colorado
Downriver camping: From the Hot Sulfur Springs to Lake Havasu in Arizona, the Colorado offers great opportunities of action to anyone who loves canoeing, rafting and kayaking. The flow of the river is powerful in these areas, and is only recommended for experienced rafters. According to Colorado River recreation experts at Colorado River Discovery, quieter, smoother water follows as the river widens past the Glenwood Springs Whitewater Park. Some areas of the river in these parts have mild rapids that are suitable for white water rafting beginners. West Water Canyon and Cataract Canyon are full-blown whitewater areas that rafters require permits to enter. Parts of the river below Hoover Dam are much smoother. River activity enthusiasts along any of these parts tend to have fun on the river all day, and to camp overnight.
As the Colorado slows down near Hoover Dam: The stretch of the Colorado near the Hoover Dam is excellent for smooth water kayaking and rafting. Its calm currents let you enjoy the sights of the Rocky Mountains around you. One of the most interesting features of the Colorado in this area is its geothermal activity. Hot water falls, hot springs and steamy sauna caves are all within easy reach once you get to this part of the Colorado. Points of interest include the Dragon’s Back, the Weeping Wall and the Liberty Bell Arch.
Places of interest along the Colorado
Many people don’t expect to see much wildlife around the Rockies; its 120° F heat and arid climate make the possibility seem remote. However, the course of the river is home to hundreds of species of birds and animals. For example, the Cibola National Wildlife Refuge just after Blythe is a great place to go bird watching. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the area is home to roadrunners, egrets, herons and songbirds.
The Blythe Intaglios are six gigantic ancient figures carved into the ground of the Colorado Desert. The figures are so large, they remained a mystery until a pilot flew over the area and reported on the figures in 1932.
The course of the Colorado is a wild and beautiful environment that could take repeated visits to explore in full.
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