The Gunnison River in Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.
Map of the Gunnison River, its tributaries and major cities
|Cities||Gunnison, Grand Junction|
|Source||East River confluence with the Taylor River|
|⁃ elevation||8,008 ft (2,441 m)|
|4,553 ft (1,388 m)|
|Length||180 mi (290 km)|
|Basin size||7,928 sq mi (20,530 km2)|
|⁃ location||Near Grand Junction|
|⁃ average||2,570 cu ft/s (73 m3/s)|
|⁃ minimum||106 cu ft/s (3.0 m3/s)|
|⁃ maximum||35,200 cu ft/s (1,000 m3/s)|
|⁃ left||Tomichi Creek, Cebolla Creek, Lake Fork Gunnison River, Cimarron River, Uncompahgre River|
|⁃ right||Smith Fork, North Fork Gunnison River, Kannah Creek|
The Gunnison River is a tributary of the Colorado River, 164 miles (264 km) long, in the Southwestern state of Colorado. It is the largest tributary of the Colorado River in Colorado, with a mean flow of 2,570 cu ft/s (73 m3/s).
A tributary or affluent is a stream or river that flows into a larger stream or main stem river or a lake. A tributary does not flow directly into a sea or ocean. Tributaries and the main stem river drain the surrounding drainage basin of its surface water and groundwater, leading the water out into an ocean.
The Southwestern United States, also known as the American Southwest, Desert Southwest, or simply The Southwest, is the informal name for a region of the western United States. Definitions of the region's boundaries vary a great deal and have never been standardized, though many boundaries have been proposed. For example, one definition includes the stretch from the Mojave Desert in California to Carlsbad, New Mexico, and from the Mexico–United States border to the southern areas of Colorado, Utah, and Nevada. The largest metropolitan areas are centered around Phoenix, Las Vegas, Tucson, Albuquerque, and El Paso. Those five metropolitan areas have an estimated total population of more than 9.6 million as of 2017, with nearly 60 percent of them living in the two Arizona cities—Phoenix and Tucson.
In the United States, a state is a constituent political entity, of which there are currently 50. Bound together in a political union, each state holds governmental jurisdiction over a separate and defined geographic territory and shares its sovereignty with the federal government. Due to this shared sovereignty, Americans are citizens both of the federal republic and of the state in which they reside. State citizenship and residency are flexible, and no government approval is required to move between states, except for persons restricted by certain types of court orders.
The Gunnison River is formed by the confluence of Taylor and East rivers at Almont in eastern Gunnison County. Just past the town of Gunnison, the river begins to swell into the expanse of Blue Mesa Reservoir, a 36-mile-long (58 km) reservoir formed by Blue Mesa Dam, where it receives the Lake Fork of the Gunnison. Just downstream it is dammed again to form Morrow Point Reservoir, then just downstream of that dam for the final time to form Crystal Reservoir. The reservoirs produce hydroelectric power and supply water for the surrounding areas for both municipal and irrigation use. The reservoirs are the upper part of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, one of the longest, narrowest, and deepest gorges in the world. Below Crystal Dam it begins to roar through massive cataracts and flows through the deepest part of the gorge. At the outlet of the canyon it receives the North Fork River, then downstream near Delta, Colorado, is joined by the Uncompahgre River. It then winds through desert canyonlands, where it receives Kannah Creek, before it empties out of the Dominguez Canyon into the Colorado in Grand Junction, some years rivaling the Colorado River for equal volume.
The Taylor River rises close to Castle Peak in Colorado’s Elk Mountains in the northeast part of Gunnison County, near the Continental Divide. Flowing southeast, the river goes through Taylor Park Reservoir, created by the Taylor Park Dam. From there it flows southwest. At Almont, the Taylor River joins with the East River to form the Gunnison River. The river is 48.2 miles (77.6 km) long.
East River is a 38.3-mile-long (61.6 km) stream in central Colorado. It flows south from Emerald Lake in the Maroon Bells Wilderness to a confluence with the Taylor River that forms the Gunnison River.
Almont is an unincorporated community and U.S. Post Office in Gunnison County, Colorado, United States. The ZIP Code of the Almont Post Office is 81210.
The Gunnison River ranges in width from 100 to 1,000 feet (30 to 305 m) and 3 to 50 feet (1 to 15 m) in depth. The river's powerful current and many rapids make upstream travel nearly impossible. It is navigable for small craft throughout its course and by larger boats below the Black Canyon. Parts of the Black Canyon are non-navigable to any sorts of craft because of giant cataracts[ clarification needed ]. Navigation through the entire canyon is dangerous and for experienced boaters only.
The first non-native to see and record information of the Gunnison River was Juan Maria de Rivera, who came to the banks of the river just below its confluence with the Uncompahgre River in 1761 and 1765. It was again seen in 1776 by Silvestre Vélez de Escalante. At the time the Spanish name for the river was Rio de San Javier (Xavier), and the Native American name was Tomichi. Escalante noted that Rivera thought it was "the great Rio del Tizon", the long used Spanish name for the lower Colorado River.
Juan Maria Antonio Rivera was an 18th-century Spanish explorer who explored southwestern North America, including parts of Southern Rocky Mountains. In 1765, at the request of Governor Tomás Vélez Cachupin of New Mexico, he led an expedition from Santa Fe northward through present-day Utah and Colorado, partly in search of silver but also to help thwart the expansion of European powers in the region. His expedition passed through regions inhabited by the Ute and Southern Paiute tribes. His expedition cross the Los Animas River near present day Durango, Colorado, which he may have named. The ore samples he brought back to Santa Fe were among the first recorded discoveries of gold in present-day Colorado, although they created no particular interest at the time.
The Uncompahgre River is a tributary of the Gunnison River, approximately 75 mi (121 km) long, in southwestern Colorado in the United States. Lake Como at 12,215 ft (3723m) in northern San Juan County, in the Uncompahgre National Forest in the northwestern San Juan Mountains is the headwaters of the river. It flows northwest past Ouray, Ridgway, Montrose, and Olathe and joins the Gunnison at Confluence Park in Delta.
Silvestre Vélez de Escalante was a Franciscan missionary and explorer of the Southwest United States during the late 18th century. He is known for his journal, in which he described the expeditions he went on. These included a failed overland expedition in 1776.
Through the mid-1800s, the river was variously named the Eagle, Eagle Tail, South Fork of the Grand, Grande, and Grand River. Exploration reports and published maps in the 1850s and 1860s most commonly referred to the river as the Grand River. In subsequent years, however, the river was renamed for U.S. Army Captain John W. Gunnison of the Topographic Engineers who was ambushed and killed by Pahvant Utes while mapping a trail west in Utah Territory in 1853.
Pahvant was a band of Ute people that lived in present-day Utah. Called the "Water People", they fished and hunted waterfowl. They were also farmers and hunter-gatherers. In the 18th century they were known to be friendly and attentive, but after a chief's father was killed by emigrating white settlers, a group of Pahvant Utes killed John Williams Gunnison and seven of his men during his exploration of the area. The bodies of water of their homeland were dried up after Mormons had diverted the water for irrigation. Having intermarried with the Paiutes, they were absorbed into the Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah and relocated to reservations.
Ute people are Native Americans of the Ute tribe and culture and are among the Great Basin classification of Indigenous People. They have lived in the regions of present-day Utah and Colorado for centuries, hunting, fishing and gathering food. In addition to their home regions within Colorado and Utah, their hunting grounds extended into Wyoming, Oklahoma, and New Mexico. They had sacred grounds outside of their home domain that were also visited seasonally. Spiritual and ceremonial practices were observed by the Utes.
The lower section of the Gunnison River is designated as gold medal water and wild trout water. The designation begins 200 yards below the Crystal Dam and stretches through the Gunnison Gorge to the confluence of the North Fork and Gunnison rivers.
Part of the river's water is diverted to irrigate the Uncompahgre Valley via the 5-mile-long (8 km) Gunnison Tunnel, which was built between 1905 and 1909. The Blue Mesa Dam, Morrow Point Dam, and Crystal Dam are part of the Colorado River Storage Project, and were built between the 1960s and the 1970s.
Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is an American national park located in western Colorado and managed by the National Park Service. There are two primary entrances to the park: the south rim entrance is located 15 miles (24 km) east of Montrose, while the north rim entrance is 11 miles (18 km) south of Crawford and is closed in the winter. The park contains 12 miles (19 km) of the 48-mile (77 km) long Black Canyon of the Gunnison River. The national park itself contains the deepest and most dramatic section of the canyon, but the canyon continues upstream into Curecanti National Recreation Area and downstream into Gunnison Gorge National Conservation Area. The canyon's name owes itself to the fact that parts of the gorge only receive 33 minutes of sunlight a day, according to Images of America: The Black Canyon of the Gunnison. In the book, author Duane Vandenbusche states, "Several canyons of the American West are longer and some are deeper, but none combines the depth, sheerness, narrowness, darkness, and dread of the Black Canyon."
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 Green River, located in the western United States, is the chief tributary of the Colorado River. The watershed of the river, known as the Green River Basin, covers parts of Wyoming, Utah, and Colorado. The Green River is 730 miles (1,170 km) long, beginning in the Wind River Mountains of Wyoming and flowing through Wyoming and Utah for most of its course, except for 40 miles (64 km) into western Colorado. Much of the route is through the Colorado Plateau and through some of the most spectacular canyons in the United States. It is only slightly smaller than the Colorado when the two rivers merge, but typically carries a larger load of silt. The average yearly mean flow of the river at Green River, Utah is 6,121 cubic feet (173.3 m3) per second.
The Dolores River is a tributary of the Colorado River, approximately 241 miles (388 km) long, in the U.S. states of Colorado and Utah. The river drains a rugged and arid region of the Colorado Plateau west of the San Juan Mountains. Its name derives from the Spanish El Rio de Nuestra Señora de Dolores, River of Our Lady of Sorrows. The river was explored and possibly named by Juan Maria Antonio Rivera during a 1765 expedition from Santa Fe.
Roaring Fork River is a tributary of the Colorado River, approximately 70 miles (110 km) long, in west central Colorado in the United States. The river drains a populated and economically vital area of the Colorado Western Slope called the Roaring Fork Valley or Roaring Fork Watershed, which includes the resort city of Aspen and the resorts of Aspen/Snowmass.
The Salt River is a river in the U.S. state of Arizona. It 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 Salmon River is located in Idaho in the northwestern United States. The Salmon is also known as "The River of No Return". It flows for 425 miles (685 km) through central Idaho, draining a rugged, thinly populated watershed of 14,000 square miles (36,000 km2) and dropping more than 7,000 feet (2,100 m) between its headwaters, near Galena Summit above the Sawtooth Valley in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area, and its confluence with the Snake River. Measured at White Bird, its average discharge is 11,060 cubic feet per second. It is one of the largest rivers in the continental United States without a single dam on its mainstem.
The North Fork Gunnison River is a tributary of the Gunnison River, 33.5 miles (53.9 km) long, in southwestern Colorado in the United States. It drains part of the southwestern flank of the Elk Mountains northeast of Delta.
Curecanti National Recreation Area is a National Park Service unit located on the Gunnison River in western Colorado. Established in 1965, Curecanti is responsible for developing and managing recreational facilities on three reservoirs, Blue Mesa Reservoir, Morrow Point Reservoir and Crystal Reservoir, constructed on the upper Gunnison River in the 1960s by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to better utilize the vital waters of the Colorado River and its major tributaries. A popular destination for boating and fishing, Curecanti offers visitors two marinas, traditional and group campgrounds, hiking trails, boat launches, and boat-in campsites. The state's premiere lake trout and Kokanee salmon fisheries, Curecanti is a popular destination for boating and fishing, and is also a popular area for ice-fishing in the winter months.
The Uncompahgre Plateau in western Colorado is a distinctive large uplift part of the Colorado Plateau. Uncompahgre is a Ute Indian word that describes the water: "Dirty Water" or "Rocks that make Water Red".
Blue Mesa Reservoir is an artificial reservoir located on the upper reaches of the Gunnison River in Gunnison County, Colorado. The largest lake located entirely within the state, Blue Mesa Reservoir was created by the construction of Blue Mesa Dam, a 390-foot tall earthen fill dam constructed on the Gunnison by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation in 1966 for the generation of hydroelectric power. Managed as part of the Curecanti National Recreation Area, a unit of the National Park Service, Blue Mesa Reservoir is the largest lake trout and Kokanee salmon fishery in Colorado.
Crystal Dam is a 323-foot-tall (98 m) double curvature, concrete thin arch dam located six miles downstream from Morrow Point Dam on the Gunnison River in Colorado, United States. Crystal Dam is the newest of the three dams in Curecanti National Recreation Area; construction on the dam was finished in 1976. The dam impounds Crystal Reservoir. Crystal Dam and reservoir are part of the Bureau of Reclamation's Wayne N. Aspinall Unit of the Colorado River Storage Project, which retains the waters of the Gunnison River and its tributaries for agricultural and municipal use in the American Southwest. The dam's primary purpose is hydroelectric power generation.
The Crooked River is a tributary, 125 miles (201 km) long, of the Deschutes River in the U.S. state of Oregon. The river begins at the confluence of the South Fork Crooked River and Beaver Creek. Of the two tributaries, the South Fork Crooked River is the larger and is sometimes considered part of the Crooked River proper. A variant name of the South Fork Crooked River is simply "Crooked River". The Deschutes River flows north into the Columbia River.
U.S. Route 50 (US 50) is a part of the U.S. Highway System that travels from West Sacramento, California, to Ocean City, Maryland. In the U.S. state of Colorado, US 50 is a major highway crossing through the lower midsection of the state. It connects the Western Slope with the lower Front Range and the Arkansas Valley. The highway serves the areas of Pueblo and Grand Junction as well as many other smaller areas along its corridor. The long term project to upgrade the highway from two lanes to a four lane expressway between Grand Junction and Montrose was completed in January 2005. Only about 25% of the remainder of highway 50 in Colorado is four lane expressway.
The Colorado River Storage Project is a United States Bureau of Reclamation project designed to oversee the development of the upper Colorado River basin. The project provides hydroelectric power, flood control and water storage for participating states along the upper portion of the Colorado River and its major tributaries.
Crystal Reservoir is a 340-acre artificial reservoir on the Gunnison River in western Colorado. Located in the upper Black Canyon of the Gunnison, the lake was created in 1976 by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation as part of a larger plan to impound the upper section of the Gunnison for the generation of hydroelectric power, water storage, and public recreation. Crystal Reservoir is managed by the National Park Service as an element of the Curecanti National Recreation Area. Located at the far western end of Curecanti, Crystal Reservoir is the smallest, least developed, and least accessible of the three reservoirs within the park.
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.
Smith Fork is a tributary of the Gunnison River that flows in Gunnison and Delta counties in western Colorado. The river is signed as "Smith Fork Creek" where it goes under Colorado State Highway 92 in Crawford, Colorado.
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