The river in the Gila Box Canyon in eastern Arizona
Map of the Gila River watershed
|Source||Confluence of East and West Forks|
|⁃ location||Grant County, New Mexico|
|⁃ elevation||5,551 ft (1,692 m)|
|118 ft (36 m)|
|Length||649 mi (1,044 km)|
|Basin size||58,200 sq mi (151,000 km2)|
|⁃ location||Dome, AZ; 12 mi (19 km) from the mouth|
|⁃ average||247 cu ft/s (7.0 m3/s)|
|⁃ minimum||0 cu ft/s (0 m3/s)|
|⁃ maximum||200,000 cu ft/s (5,700 m3/s)|
|⁃ left||San Simon River, San Pedro River, Santa Cruz River|
|⁃ right||San Francisco River, Salt River, Agua Fria River, Hassayampa River|
The Gila River ( // ; O'odham [Pima]: Keli Akimel or simply Akimel, Quechan: Haa Siʼil) is a 649-mile (1,044 km)-long tributary of the Colorado River flowing through New Mexico and Arizona in the United States. The river drains an arid watershed of nearly 60,000 square miles (160,000 km2) that lies mainly within the U.S., but also extends into northern Sonora, Mexico. Indigenous peoples have lived along the river for at least 2,000 years, establishing complex agricultural societies before European exploration of the region began in the 16th century. However, European Americans did not permanently settle the Gila River watershed until the mid-19th century.
During the 20th century, human development of the Gila River watershed necessitated the construction of large diversion and flood control structures on the river and its tributaries, and consequently the Gila now contributes only a small fraction of its historic flow to the Colorado. 1,900 cubic feet per second (54 m3/s), and is now only 247 cubic feet per second (7.0 m3/s). These engineering projects have transformed much of the river valley and its surrounds from arid desert to irrigated land, and supply water to the more than five million people, mainly in the Phoenix and Tucson metropolitan areas, who live in the watershed.The historic natural discharge of the river is around
The Gila River has its source in western New Mexico, in Sierra County on the western slopes of Continental Divide in the Black Range. It flows southwest through the Gila National Forest and the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument, then westward into Arizona, past the town of Safford. After flowing along the southern slope of the Gila Mountains in Graham County through a series of canyons, the Gila is impounded by Coolidge Dam in San Carlos Lake south of Peridot.
It emerges from the mountains into the valley southeast of Phoenix, Arizona, where it crosses the Gila River Indian Reservation as an intermittent stream due to large irrigation diversions. Well west of Phoenix, the river bends sharply southward along the Gila Bend Mountains, then it swings westward again near the town of Gila Bend. It flows southwestward between the Gila Mountains to the south and the Languna and Muggins ranges to the north in Yuma County, and finally it empties into the Colorado at Yuma, Arizona.
The Gila is joined by many tributaries, beginning with the East and West Forks of the river, which combine to form the main stem near Gila Hot Springs in New Mexico. Above Safford, it is joined by the San Francisco River and the intermittent San Simon River. Further downstream, it is joined by the San Carlos River from the north in San Carlos Lake. At Winkelman, Arizona, it picks up the San Pedro River and then is joined by the Santa Cruz River south of Casa Grande. The Salt River, its main tributary, joins in the Phoenix metropolitan area, and further west the Gila receives its last two major tributaries, the Agua Fria and Hassayampa Rivers, from the north.
Although the Gila River flows entirely within the United States, the headwaters of two tributaries – the San Pedro and Santa Cruz Rivers – extend into Mexico. About 1,630 sq mi (4,200 km2), or 2.8% of the Gila's 58,200-square-mile (151,000 km2) watershed, is in Mexico. A further 3,300 sq mi (8,500 km2) or 5.7% lies within New Mexico, while the remaining majority, 53,270 sq mi (138,000 km2) or 91.5%, is in Arizona.
A band of Pima (autonym "Akimel O'odham", river people), the Keli Akimel O'odham (Gila River People), have lived on the banks of the Gila River since before the arrival of Spanish explorers. Popular theory says that the word "Gila" was derived from a Spanish contraction of Hah-quah-sa-eel, a Yuma word meaning "running water which is salty". 200 miles (320 km) of canals. The upper Gila was inhabited by the Mogollon culture over most of the same time period, in settlements like those at Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument in the later period.Their traditional way of life (himdagĭ, sometimes rendered in English as Him-dak) was and is centered at the river, which is considered holy. Traditionally, sand from the banks of the river is used as an exfoliant when bathing (often in rainstorms, especially during the monsoon). Indigenous peoples such as the Hohokam were responsible for creating large, complex civilizations along the Middle Gila River and Salt River between 600 and 1450 AD. These native civilizations depended largely on irrigated agriculture, for which they constructed over
The first European to see the Gila River was possibly Spanish explorer and missionary Juan de la Asunción. Asunción reached the Gila in 1538 after traveling northwards along one of its tributaries, either the San Pedro or Santa Cruz.In 1540, Hernando de Alarcón sailed up the Colorado and Gila Rivers; maps drawn by his expedition show the river as the Miraflores or Brazos de la Miraflores.
During the Mexican–American War, General Stephen Watts Kearny marched 100 cavalrymen from the 1st U.S. Dragoons along the Gila River in November 1846.This detachment was guided by Kit Carson. The Mormon Battalion followed Kearny's troops, building a wagon trail roughly following the river from December 1846 to January 1847.
After the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo in 1848, the Gila River served as a part of the border between the United States and Mexico until the 1853 Gadsden Purchase soon extended American territory well south of the Gila. The confluence of the Gila with the Colorado River was also used as a reference point for the southern border of California. Beginning in 1871, mainly Mormon settlers populated the Gila River valley around present-day Phoenix, using the Gila, Salt, and San Pedro Rivers for irrigation and establishing at least six major settlements.
In 1944, 25 German prisoners of war pulled off the largest and most spectacular escape from an American compound during the war, digging a 178-foot (54 m) tunnel out of the Navy’s Papago Park Prisoner of War Camp in Arizona. All of the men were eventually captured, though some remained at large for more than a month. Among the last to be captured were three German soldiers who had based their audacious but ill-fated escape plans on a stolen highway map of Arizona, which showed the Gila River leading to the Colorado River, which in turn led to Mexico. Devising a scheme to flee by water, the Germans constructed a collapsible kayak under the noses of their American captors, tested it in a makeshift pool within the prison compound, then sneaked it out through the tunnel. Their plan was perfect – except for the map. The Gila, shown as a healthy blue waterway, turned out to be little more than a dry rut.
The only major dam on the Gila River is Coolidge Dam, 31 miles (50 km) southeast of Globe, Arizona, which forms San Carlos Lake. The Painted Rock Dam crosses the Gila near Gila Bend, although the river is a transient one at that point. A number of minor diversion dams have been built on the river between the Painted Rock Dam and the Coolidge Dam, including the Gillespie Dam, which was breached during a flood in 1993. Many dams have also been built on tributaries, including Theodore Roosevelt Dam on the Salt River, New Waddell Dam on the Agua Fria River, and Bartlett Dam on the Verde River. Many major dams in the Gila River system were built and operated by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which also constructed most of the large dams throughout the Colorado River basin. Others, such as Coolidge Dam, are owned by local water supply agencies, irrigation districts, or Native American tribes.
The Gila River and its main tributary, the Salt River, would both be perennial streams carrying large volumes of water, but irrigation and municipal water diversions turn both into usually dry rivers. Below Phoenix to the Colorado River, the Gila is usually either a trickle or completely dry, as is also the lower Salt from Granite Reef Diversion Dam downstream to the Gila, but both rivers can carry large volumes of water following rainfall. A long time ago, the Gila River was navigable by large riverboats from its mouth to near Phoenix, and by smaller craft from Phoenix nearly to the Arizona – New Mexico border. The width varied from 150 to 1,200 feet (46 to 366 m) with a depth of 2 to 40 feet (0.61 to 12.19 m). The natural discharge of the river was roughly 1,300,000 acre feet (1.6 km3) per year, with a mean flow of about 1,800 cubic feet per second (51 m3/s) at the mouth. The river's present discharge near the mouth is less than 180,000 acre feet (0.22 km3) per year, with an average flow of just 247 cubic feet per second (7.0 m3/s). Overdraft from the Gila River system has prompted the construction of the Central Arizona Project, which delivers some 1,500,000 acre feet (1.9 km3) annually from the Colorado River to supplement water supplies in the basin.
The upper Gila River, including its entire length within New Mexico, is a free-flowing one. Recent efforts to allow for damming or otherwise diverting this stretch have met with stiff political resistance, having been named as one of the nation's most endangered rivers due to proposed dam projects such as Hooker Dam. During his time in office, former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson had promised to block any such attempt during his term, and he had even considered pushing for a statutory prohibition against any such projects on the state's portion of the river.
The Gila River between Virden, New Mexico, and Solomon, Arizona, is navigable during spring snowmelt and after summer and autumn storms. The river passes through many scenic canyons and stretches of Class I to III whitewater. Due to its desert surroundings, the river is characterized by erratic flows and flash floods that reach high peaks and drop off just as quickly. The Gila's Salt River tributary has even more difficult whitewater, ranging up to Class IV in places, and often has higher and more dependable flows than the Gila.
Boating and fishing are popular on San Carlos Lake and other basin reservoirs, including Lake Pleasant and Theodore Roosevelt Lake. The river system has 36 fish species,including largemouth bass, sunfish, channel catfish, flathead catfish, and Gila trout (Oncorhynchus gilae gilae).
The Gila River has also been known as:
The Rio Grande is one of the principal rivers in the southwest United States and northern Mexico. The Rio Grande begins in south-central Colorado in the United States and flows to the Gulf of Mexico. After passing through the length of New Mexico along the way, it forms part of the Mexico–United States border. According to the International Boundary and Water Commission, its total length was 1,896 miles (3,051 km) in the late 1980s, though course shifts occasionally result in length changes. Depending on how it is measured, the Rio Grande is either the fourth- or fifth-longest river system in North America.
The Colorado River is one of the principal rivers in the Southwestern United States and northern Mexico. The 1,450-mile-long (2,330 km) river drains an expansive, arid watershed that encompasses parts of seven U.S. states and two Mexican states. Starting in the central Rocky Mountains of Colorado, 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. 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 Little Colorado River is a tributary of the Colorado River in the U.S. state of Arizona, providing the principal drainage from the Painted Desert region. Together with its major tributary, the Puerco River, it drains an area of about 26,500 square miles (69,000 km2) in eastern Arizona and western New Mexico. Although it stretches almost 340 miles (550 km), only the headwaters and the lowermost reaches flow year-round. Between St. Johns and Cameron, most of the river is a wide, braided wash, only containing water after heavy snowmelt or flash flooding.
The San Juan River is a major tributary of the Colorado River in the Southwestern United States, providing the chief drainage for the Four Corners region of Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Arizona. Originating as snowmelt in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado, it flows 383 miles (616 km) through the deserts of northern New Mexico and southeastern Utah to join the Colorado River at Glen Canyon. The river drains a high, arid region of the Colorado Plateau and along its length it is often the only significant source of fresh water for many miles. The San Juan is also one of the muddiest rivers in North America, carrying an average of 25 million US tons of silt and sediment each year.
The Salt River is a river Gila and Maricopa counties in Arizona, United States, that is the largest tributary of the Gila River. The river is about 200 miles (320 km) long. Its drainage basin is about 13,700 square miles (35,000 km2) large. The longest of the Salt River's many tributaries is the 195-mile (314 km) Verde River. The Salt's headwaters tributaries, the Black River and East Fork, increase the river's total length to about 300 miles (480 km). The name Salt River comes from the fact that the river flows over large salt deposits shortly after the merging of the White and Black Rivers.
The Pima are a group of Native Americans living in an area consisting of what is now central and southern Arizona. The majority population of the surviving two bands of the Akimel O'odham are based in two reservations: the Keli Akimel Oʼotham on the Gila River Indian Community (GRIC) and the On'k Akimel O'odham on the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community (SRPMIC).
The Imperial Diversion Dam is a concrete slab and buttress, ogee weir structure across the California/Arizona border, 18 miles (29 km) northeast of Yuma. Completed in 1938, the dam retains the waters of the Colorado River into the Imperial Reservoir before desilting and diversion into the All-American Canal, the Gila River, and the Yuma Project aqueduct. Between 1932 and 1940, the Imperial Irrigation District (IID) relied on the Inter-California Canal and the Imperial Canal and Alamo River.
The Painted Rock Dam is an earthfill embankment dam located west of Gila Bend, Arizona. It is primarily used for flood control purposes.
Navajo Dam is a dam on the San Juan River, a tributary of the Colorado River, in northwestern New Mexico in the United States. The 402-foot (123 m) high earthen dam is situated in the foothills of the San Juan Mountains about 44 miles (71 km) upstream and east of Farmington, New Mexico. It was built by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) in the 1960s to provide flood control, irrigation, domestic and industrial water supply, and storage for droughts. A small hydroelectric power plant was added in the 1980s.
The Gila River Valley is a multi-sectioned valley of the Gila River, located primarily in Arizona. The Gila River forms in western New Mexico and flows west across southeastern, south-central, and southwestern Arizona; it changes directions as it progresses across the state, and defines specific areas and valleys. The central portion of the river flows through the southern Phoenix valley region, and the final sections in southwestern Arizona form smaller, irrigated valleys, such as Dome Valley, Mohawk Valley, and Hyder Valley.
Arizona is a landlocked state situated in the southwestern region of the United States of America. It has a vast and diverse geography famous for its deep canyons, high- and low-elevation deserts, numerous natural rock formations, and volcanic mountain ranges. Arizona shares land borders with Utah to the north, the Mexican state of Sonora to the south, New Mexico to the east, and Nevada to the northwest, as well as water borders with California and the Mexican state of Baja California to the southwest along the Colorado River. Arizona is also one of the Four Corners states and is diagonally adjacent to Colorado.
Interbasin transfer or transbasin diversion are terms used to describe man-made conveyance schemes which move water from one river basin where it is available, to another basin where water is less available or could be utilized better for human development. The purpose of such designed schemes can be to alleviate water shortages in the receiving basin, to generate electricity, or both. Rarely, as in the case of the Glory River which diverted water from the Tigris to Euphrates River in modern Iraq, interbasin transfers have been undertaken for political purposes. While ancient water supply examples exist, the first modern developments were undertaken in the 19th century in Australia, India and the United States; large cities such as Denver and Los Angeles would not exist as we know them today without these diversion transfers. Since the 20th century many more similar projects have followed in other countries, including Israel, Canada and China. Utilized alternatively, the Green Revolution in India and hydropower development in Canada could not have been accomplished without such man-made transfers.
The Klamath Diversion was a federal water project proposed by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation in the 1950s. It would have diverted the Klamath River in Northern California to the more arid central and southern parts of that state. It would relieve irrigation water demand and groundwater overdraft in the Central Valley and boost the water supply for Southern California. Through the latter it would allow for other Southwestern states—Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah—as well as Mexico to receive an increased share of the waters of the Colorado River.
The Yuma Project is a U.S. Bureau of Reclamation project built to irrigate over 68,000 acres (280 km2) of land in Yuma County, Arizona and parts of Imperial County, California. The project is designed to exploit year-round farming conditions and water from the Colorado River. It consists of the Laguna Diversion Dam, pumping plants, a power plant, a 53-mile (85 km) system of canals, 218 miles (351 km) of lateral canals, levees and drains. The project began in 1903 and the majority of the work was completed by 1915. It was the first dam and reclamation project on the Colorado River and workers had to overcome many natural and logistical obstacles to build and maintain it. The Laguna Diversion Dam was replaced by the Imperial Dam as the Project's water source between 1941 and 1948. Today, it serves 275 farms and over 94,000 people.
Agriculture in the Southwest United States is very important economically in that region.
The San Juan–Chama Project is a U.S. Bureau of Reclamation interbasin water transfer project located in the states of New Mexico and Colorado in the United States. The project consists of a series of tunnels and diversions that take water from the drainage basin of the San Juan River – a tributary of the Colorado River – to supplement water resources in the Rio Grande watershed. The project furnishes water for irrigation and municipal water supply to cities along the Rio Grande including Albuquerque and Santa Fe.
The Colorado River is a major river of the western United States and northwest Mexico in North America. Its headwaters are in the Rocky Mountains where La Poudre Pass Lake is its source. Located in north central Colorado it flows southwest through the Colorado Plateau country of western Colorado, southeastern Utah and northwestern Arizona where it flows through the Grand Canyon. It turns south near Las Vegas, Nevada, forming the Arizona–Nevada border in Lake Mead and the Arizona–California border a few miles below Davis Dam between Laughlin, Nevada and Needles, California before entering Mexico in the Colorado Desert. Most of its waters are diverted into the Imperial Valley of Southern California. In Mexico its course forms the boundary between Sonora and Baja California before entering the Gulf of California. This article describes most of the major features along the river.
The Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District (MRGCD) was formed in 1925 to manage the irrigation systems and control floods in the Albuquerque Basin. It is responsible for the stretch of river from the Cochiti Dam in Sandoval County in the north, through Bernalillo County, Valencia County and Socorro County to the Elephant Butte Reservoir in the south. It manages the Angostura, Isleta and San Acacia diversion dams, which feed an extensive network of irrigation canals and ditches.
The Middle Rio Grande Project manages water in the Albuquerque Basin of New Mexico, United States. It includes major upgrades and extensions to the irrigation facilities built by the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District and modifications to the channel of the Rio Grande to control sedimentation and flooding. The bulk of the work was done by the United States Bureau of Reclamation and the United States Army Corps of Engineers in the 1950s, but construction continued into the 1970s and maintenance is ongoing. The project is complementary to the San Juan-Chama Project, which transfers water from the San Juan River in the Colorado River Basin to the Rio Grande. Although distribution of water from the two projects is handled through separate allotments and contracts, there is some sharing of facilities including the river itself. The ecological impact on the river and the riparian zone was the subject of extended litigation after a group of environmentalists filed Rio Grande Silvery Minnow v. Bureau of Reclamation in 1999.
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