The Colorado River's Help and Hindrance of Settlement in the Western United States

opinion Essay
4952 words
4952 words

The Colorado River's Help and Hindrance of Settlement in the Western United States

Geographers can tell you that the one thing that most rivers and their

adjacent flood plains in the world have in common is that they have rich

histories associated with human settlement and development. This

especially true in arid regions which are very dependent upon water. Two

excellent examples are the Nile and the Tigris-Euphrates rivers which

show use the relationship between rivers and concentrations of people.

However, the Colorado River is not such a good example along most

segments of its course. There is no continuous transportation system

that parallels the rivers course, and settlements are clustered. The

rugged terrain and entrenched river channels are the major reasons for

sparse human settlement. We ask ourselves, did the Colorado River help

or hinder settlement in the Western United States?

As settlers began to move westward, the Southwest was considered

to be a place to avoid. Few considered it a place to traverse, to spread

Christianity, and a possible source of furs or mineral wealth. Finding a

reliable or accessible water source, and timber for building was

difficult to find. There was a lack of land that could be irrigated


By the turn of the century, most present day cities and towns

were already established. Trails, roads, and railroads linked several

areas with neighboring regions. Although the Colorado River drainage

system was still not integrated. In the mid 1900’s many dams had been

built to harness and use the water. A new phase of development occurred

at the end of the second World War. There was a large emphasis on

recreation, tourism, and environmental preservation.

The terrain of the Colorado River is very unique. It consists of

Wet Upper Slopes, Irregular Transition Plains and Hills, Deep

Canyonlands, and the Dry Lower Plains.

Wet Upper Slopes: Consist of numerous streams that feed into the

Colorado River from stream cut canyons, small flat floored valleys often

occupied by alpine lakes and adjacent steep walled mountain peaks. These

areas are heavily forested and contain swiftly flowing streams, rapids,

and waterfalls. These areas have little commercial value except as

watershed, wildlife habitat, forest land, and destinations for hikers,

fishermen, and mountaineers.

Irregular Transition Plains and Hills: These areas are favorable

for traditional economic development. It consists of river valleys with

adequate flat land to support farms and ranches. Due to the rolling

hills, low plateaus, and mountain slopes, livestock grazing is common.

In this essay, the author

  • Opines that few considered it a place to traverse, to spread.
  • Explains how the sea of cortez carves out tons of silt along its path.
  • Opines that the grand canyon plays a large role in western tourism.
  • Opines that the alamo canal was no match for diverting the water.
  • Opines that all the waters of the gila river in arizona would go to arizona.
  • Describes the flat plain of sand and silt where the sea of cortez washes the last drops.
  • Explains that a threat of water allocation is an affliction to people or communities.
  • Proposes a water bank for storage if all parties agree to this.
  • Opines that there will be a long and drawn out battle over this idea.
  • Opines that the salton sea is now a lost sea.
  • Explains that they put in power lines and 250 miles of water lines.
  • Narrates how they bought land on the other side of the sea and sank more than $2 million.
  • Opines that the salton sea has done, no matter how polluted it is today.
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