The Colorado River is the primary river of the Southwest. This river originates in Rocky Mountain National Park, at an elevation of 9,100 feet and flows to the Gulf of California into the Pacific Ocean. In all, the Colorado River stretches more than 1,400 miles. The Colorado River is the river that for the last six million years or so has carved the Grand Canyon. The Colorado, which enters the Grand Canyon at Lee’s Ferry, is the star river of this region given its role in carving the Grand Canyon, America’s most popular natural wonder.
John Wesley Powell, the man credited with the first run of the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon, named the river. Powell completed his tour of the river and Grand Canyon’s interior in 1869 after a trip that spanned three months and which began in Green River, UT.
The Little Colorado River originates at Mt. Baldy in Arizona’s White Mountains, and is a 300-mile-long tributary to the Colorado River in eastern Arizona. It provides the principal drainage to the Painted Desert. The Little Colorado joins the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon, about 70 miles north of Flagstaff, AZ.
Gila River is a major river in Arizona. As far as paddling/floating this river, early to late spring is the best, and sometimes, only opportunity as flows after that decline to non-navigable levels. The Gila River originates as three forks (North Fork, Middle Fork and South Fork) north of Silver City and west of Truth or Consequences. The river flows west, ultimately flowing through Yuma, AZ and then along the Mexican border into California to the Colorado River. Three major tributaries of the Gila River are in southeastern Arizona, and include the San Carlos, San Francisco and San Simon rivers.
Verde River originates at Sullivan Lake southwest of Flagstaff, AZ. It is the north and northwest watershed of the Salt River-Verde River Watershed that co-join before entering the Gila River in Phoenix, AZ.
Bill Williams River is in west-central Arizona in Mojave County. The river is a major drainage into the Colorado River of the Lower Colorado River Valley south of Hoover Dam/Lake Mead. The two tributaries to the Bill Williams are the Big Sandy River and the Santa Maria River. In addition, Alamo Lake is a major fishing and recreation region on the Bill Williams River. The Colorado River confluence region and the Bill Williams River Delta and the entire riparian environment has state parks and wilderness areas, including Buckskin Mountain State Park, Cattail Cove State Park.
San Juan River is a tributary of the Colorado River, and meanders 400 miles through Colorado, New Mexico and Utah. A very popular stretch of this river is in southern Utah, between Bluff, UT and Mexican Hat, UT, just north of the famous and striking Monument Valley.