Nevada Water Science Center

Colorado River

The Colorado River is one of the longest rivers in the Western United States. It begins in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado and flows southwestward until it reaches Mexico where it becomes a small stream or dry riverbed. The Colorado River forms the border between southeastern Nevada and northwestern Arizona. In Nevada, Hoover Dam and Davis Dam control the flow of the river and create two reservoirs, Lake Mead, and Lake Mohave. Hoover Dam and Davis Dam both generate hydroelectric power for Nevada and neighboring states.

Use of water from the Colorado River is carefully controlled by the Colorado River Compact, a 1922 agreement which specifies the allocation of water rights between Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, New Mexico, Arizona, California, and Nevada. In addition to the Colorado River Compact, several other laws, contracts, and guidelines define the "Law of the River."

The Colorado River Basin (Region 13) covers just over 2,500 square miles in southern Nevada and includes the following hydrographic areas: Dry Valley, Rose Valley, Eagle Valley, Spring Valley, patterson Valley, panaca Valley, Clover Valley, Lower Meadow Valley Wash, Kane Springs Valley, White RIver Valley, pahroc Valley, pahranagat Valley, Coyote Springs Valley, Three Lakes Valley, Las Vegas Valley, Colorado River Valley, piute Valley, Black Mountains Area, Garnet Valley, Hidden Valley, California Wash, Muddy River Springs Area, Lower Moapa Valley, Tule Desert, Virgin River Valley, Gold Butte Area, and Greasewood Area.

USGS Nevada Water Science Center maintains several streamflow gages on the Colorado River.


Real-Time Streamflow :: Daily Values :: Peak-Flow :: Water Quality

Research in the Colorado River Basin:

Characterizing Local Climate and Soils, Spring Mountains and Sheep Range

Delineation of vegetation Using Satellite Imagery, phase 2

Drilling in the Carbonate Aquifer

Endocrine Disruption in Lake Mead

Evaluating Groundwater Discharge Rates, Nye County

Lake Mead Evaporation Rates

Lake Mead Water Quality

Spring and Well Data for Federal Lands, Clark County


Colorado River Basin Bibliography: List of USGS Nevada WSC publications about the Colorado River Basin, including cooperative State publications.

Lake Mead Bibliography

Hoover Dam

Hoover Dam is probably the most famous dam on the Colorado River. Construction began on the Dam in 1931 during an extremely hot summer: daily temperatures averaged 119°F. An average of 3,500 men worked on the dam daily until it's completion in 1936. One of the toughest jobs at the dam site was that of "high scaler". These men climbed down the canyon walls on ropes and removed loose rock. The following story, from the Bureau of Reclamation Hoover Dam web site illustrates the amazing abilities of these men:


"perhaps the most famous feat any of the high scalers ever performed was a daring midair rescue. Burl R. Rutledge, a Bureau of Reclamation engineer, fell from the canyon rim. Twenty-five feet below, high scaler Oliver Cowan heard Rutledge slip. Without a moment's hesitation, he swung himself out and seized Rutledge's leg. A few seconds later, high scaler Arnold parks swung over and pinned Rutledge's body to the canyon wall. The scalers held Rutledge until a line was dropped and secured around him and the shaken engineer was pulled, unharmed, to safety."


High scalers above the Colorado River, 1932. photo courtesy of the Historic photo Collection, Bureau of Reclamation.


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page Last Modified: May 1, 2012