Beginning with small bands of nomadic hunter-gatherers, Native Americans have inhabited the Colorado River basin for at least 8,000 years.
Most native peoples that inhabit the basin today are descended from other groups that settled in the region beginning about 1,000 years ago.
The Colorado River (Spanish: Río Colorado) is one of the principal rivers of the Southwestern United States and northern Mexico (the other being the Rio Grande). After entering Mexico, the Colorado approaches the mostly dry Colorado River Delta at the tip of the Gulf of California between Baja California and Sonora. The river and its tributaries are controlled by an extensive system of dams, reservoirs, and aqueducts, which in most years divert its entire flow to furnish irrigation and municipal water supply for almost 40 million people both inside and outside the watershed.
The 1,450-mile (2,330 km) Colorado River drains an expansive, arid watershed that encompasses parts of seven U. 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 Intermountain West.
After the greater Colorado River basin became part of the U. in 1846, the bulk of the river's course was still largely the subject of myths and speculation.
Several expeditions charted the Colorado in the mid-19th century, one of which, led by John Wesley Powell in 1869, was the first to run the rapids of the Grand Canyon.
American explorers collected valuable information that would later be used to develop the river for navigation and water supply.
Large-scale settlement of the lower basin began in the mid- to late-19th century, with steamboats providing transportation from the Gulf of California to landings along the Colorado River that linked to wagon roads into the interior of New Mexico Territory.
S., the river flows generally southwest across the Colorado Plateau and through the Grand Canyon before reaching Lake Mead on the Arizona–Nevada border, where it turns south toward the international border. National Parks, which include dramatic canyons and whitewater rapids, the Colorado River system is also a vital source of water for agriculture and urban areas in much of the southwestern desert lands of North America.
This intensive consumption has dried up the lower 100 miles (160 km) of the river, such that it has reached the sea only a few times since the 1960s.
Europeans first entered the Colorado Basin in the 16th century, when explorers from Spain began mapping and claiming the area, which later became part of Mexico upon its independence in 1821.
Early contact between foreigners and natives was generally limited to the fur trade in the headwaters and sporadic trade interactions along the lower river.