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The Formation of the Colorado River

written by: Finn Orfano • edited by: SForsyth • updated: 1/5/2012

Are you wondering how the Colorado River was formed? Find out more about one of the continent's most important rivers by reading this article.

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    About the Colorado River

    Colorado River The Colorado River is a major river that runs through the Southwestern United States.

    The source or headwaters of the Colorado River, where the water originates, are located in Wyoming and in Colorado at the world famous Rocky Mountain National Park.

    The mouth of this river is located in the Gulf of California. The Colorado River is 1,450 miles in length and it covers over five major states. Some exciting natural scenic attractions among the Colorado River include Horseshoe Bend, Davis Dam, Lee’s Ferry, and the Grand Canyon.

    So how did this enormous river one day come to be? Read further to find out.

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    The Formation of the Colorado River

    75 million years ago, the Rocky Mountains began to take shape out of the flat seascape. According to information provided by geologists, this was when the Colorado River was first born. The Colorado River then began to divert into the northeastern direction into what is now known as Wyoming.

    The uplifts of mountain ranges in Utah and Wyoming caused the Colorado River to divert further in the eastern direction. The lower part of the Colorado River began to form much later, and it was originated separately from the river in upper Colorado. The lower part of the river was originally a gorge of the Kanab Creek.

    Over millions of years, the continuous erosion from water flowing west began to shape the western portion of the Grand Canyon. The Colorado River then attributed to the formation of the Grand Canyon.

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    And now you know the answer to the question "How was the Colorado River formed?" The time period of this formation begins in what scientists call the Cretaceous and into the Miocene period of the Earth’s history. The Colorado River is divided into an upper and lower basin. The watershed of the Colorado River covers 240,000 square miles.

    The existence of the Colorado River was first publicly acknowledged in recent history when Francisco de Ulloa made his discovery of it in a sailing adventure in 1539. According to an article from Summit Daily, the Colorado River was known at a time in history as the Grand River. You can read more about this in the article about the Colorado River in the Summit Daily.

    A river is often said to be a metaphor for life. The Colorado River is mention as “the heartland of the west" in the publication entitled 'A River No More'. This river's many peaks and valleys continues to be one of the most popular attractions of the United States with many people learning more about it every day.

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    Davis Dam

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    Horseshoe Bend

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    1. A River No More: (

    2. Colorado River Article From Summit Daily: (

    Image Credit: Colorado River (

    Image Credit: Horseshoe Bend (

    Image Credit: Davis Dam (