Cutting its way through the western landscape over millions of years the Colorado River is iconic, synonymous with the historical natural heritage of the North American Continent. These photographs taken at various times of the day in different seasons, show the river as it serpentinely twists and turns through the harsh canyons along the border of Arizona and Nevada. These lands are harsh and difficult but stark as they may seem they present a wonderful tapestry of color and texture; beautiful reminders of the diversity of shapes, colors, and the natural creativity of our wondrous planet.
In this first image, taken late in the afternoon at dusk, Alpenglow spreads streaks of light through the mountains in the west (to the right in this image) casting long shadow fingers across the rippled desert of Black Canyon and the Colorado River. In the distance to the middle left in this image, where the river widens, is Lake Mojave.
An interesting fact is that before the Gulf of California was formed (where the Colorado River currently empties into) around 12 to 5 million years ago, the Colorado River flowed due west all the way to empty into the Pacific Ocean, they are not certain exactly where – possibly Monterey Bay on the Central California coast, forming the Monterey submarine canyon.
It was the uplift of the Sierra Nevada mountains which began around 4.5 million years ago, that diverted the Colorado River southwards towards the Gulf. As the Colorado Plateau continued to rise between 5 and 2.5 million years ago, the river maintained its ancestral course (as an antecedent stream) and began to cut through the Grand Canyon and subsequent canyons as seen here below.
Taken early in the morning from an altitude of 1,200 feet (365m) above ground, this image below is the Colorado River south of Boulder City, Nevada. To the left is west and those are the El Dorado Mountains along the horizon. This area is known as Black Canyon and was formed about 15 million years ago during the Miocene Basin and Range uplift. Black Canyon gets its name from the black volcanic rocks that are found throughout the area. On the right side of the river lays Fire Mountain, Malpias Flattop Mesa and the Black Mountains on the Colorado River. This very clear faulted ridge-line runs alongside the Colorado River, forming the border between Nevada and Arizona.
This image is an aerial close up of the shallow water along the eastern shoreline of Lake Mojave on the Arizona side of the Colorado River. Taken in the later winter you can see the purplish colors of the sage brush on the shore.
Zedekiah: “I love the different colors of green and blue water and the rippling effect from the wind along the surface of the river. If you look close enough under the water you can see fish and rivulets where strong water drainage from rainstorms cut a path into the floor of the river as they flow from the mountains surrounding the river into the lake.”
In this image, the Colorado River is barely visible as it peeks out from within Iceberg Canyon and Pearce Ferry, where the river exists from its long passage through the Grand Canyon. In the distance lie the Gyp Hills, Hidden Hills and the Grand Canyon Parashant National Monument.
The first humans of the Colorado River basin were likely First Nations Paleo-Indians such as the Clovis and Folsom cultures, who arrived on the Colorado Plateau around 12,000 years ago. Very little human activity occurred in the watershed until the rise of the Desert Archaic Culture, which from 8,000 to 2,000 years ago constituted most of the region’s human population. These prehistoric inhabitants led a generally nomadic lifestyle, gathering plants and hunting small animals (though some of the earliest peoples hunted larger mammals that became extinct in North America after the end of the Pleistocene epoch).
Another notable early group was the Fremont culture, whose peoples inhabited the Colorado Plateau from 2,000 to 700 years ago. The Fremont were likely the first peoples of the Colorado River basin to domesticate crops and construct masonry dwellings; they also left behind a large amount of rock art and petroglyphs, many of which have survived to the present day.
In this image, the sun sets in the west creating a golden atmospheric hue over the Colorado River as it passes through Black Canyon.
The mountains on either side of the river in this area are absolutely full of small precious metals mines dating back 150 years or so. With names like Blackfoot Mine, Silver Hill, Luck Boy Mine, Eureka Mine, New Moon Mine, New Jersey Mine, Clyde Mine and White Eagle Mine, you can find these tiny one man or small group mines all over the hillsides. Sometimes they are no more than a hole just large enough for one person to delicately crawl through, others are larger with room for mule or old gas-powered equipment that they used to bring the ore up and get it to market. It must have been a very rough life!
On the Colorado River and the Mojave Desert the air is oftener pink, yellow, lilac, rose-color, sometimes fire-red. In this image below, the rippled shoreline of the Colorado River in southern Lake Mojave in the Mojave Desert glows a purplish color from all the coloring of the atmosphere.
This dusk-time image is of the Colorado River as it flows into Lake Mojave. The Newberry Mountains stand on the horizon while the small black hill on the western (right) side of the lake is known as Opal Mountain. This area is called the Cottonwood Valley.