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Headwaters Magazine

Colorado River Basin HeadwatersAs the Colorado River flows through its seven-state, canyon carving traverse, it is tapped and retapped-- supporting acres of irrigated agriculture and desert communities. In Colorado we depend on this lifeline to the West and take pride in our namesake river.

In this issue of Headwaters, Water Education Colorado focuses on the Colorado River's mainstem and the river's many uses. Communities as distinct as Colorado's peach capital of Palisade, its high mountain ski country and its population center along the northern Front Range all share Colorado River flows.

Read featured articles below or view the online version here.

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Watered-Down River

An interpretive sign overlooking the Colorado River near Windy Gap Reservoir heralds “The Mighty Colorado.” It’s a long-time moniker for the artery that drains nearly a quarter-million square miles through seven states before terminating at the Gulf of California in Mexico. Yet the vista below the sign is of a river that is dammed and diverted, harnessed and held back.

By Wendy Worrall Redal

Last year, the Upper Colorado was designated one of America’s Most Endangered Rivers, earning the number-six spot on American Rivers’ 2010 list. Potential new water diversion projects could sap the life from the Upper Colorado, the conservation group noted, threatening already-challenged trout fisheries, boating and long-term sustainable water supply.

“We are currently at the point of an ecological collapse on portions of the upper part of the river,” says Ken Neubecker, executive director of the Western Rivers Institute and past-president of Colorado Trout Unlimited. “We’re losing a tremendous resource here that’s going to be hard to get back.”

Read more: Watered-Down River

Joy Ride

Beauty sets the stage for an economy based on outdoor play, water fuels the fun

By Joshua Zaffos


Tom Kleinschnitz, owner of Adventure Bound River Expeditions. Photo by Kevin Maloney.

Beneath skyscraping walls of sandstone and limestone, the Colorado River bubbles and bursts through Glenwood Canyon as it leaves the Rockies and heads toward the desert. The 12.5-mile stretch is punctuated by Shoshone Rapids, a whitewater obstacle course of standing waves and drops with names like “Maneater,” “Pinball” and “The Wall.” Through much of the summer and early fall, Shoshone’s intermediate Class III rapids are packed with commercial float trips and individual paddlers, making the run second only to the booming Arkansas River in terms of boating popularity in Colorado. According to the Colorado River Outfitters Association, commercial trips in Glenwood Canyon equaled nearly 62,000 user days and brought in $18.2 million in 2010.

Read more: Joy Ride

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Compacts Resources

Guide to Interstate Compacts explore how our water-sharing compact agreements were first created, how they succeed and fail, and how they have fostered enduring relationships among bordering states.Read or purchase the Citizen's Guide to Colorado's Interstate Compacts.

2ndeditioncoversmallCompact Articles Over time CFWE has published a variety of articles on different compacts. Browse the selected articles below to learn more about:

Water History Resources

Guide to Colorado's Water Heritage Explore how water shaped Colorado history, culture and identity. Read the water heritage guide.

water heritage guide

Guide to Colorado's Environmental Era Continue the journey through time to explore more recent years and see how the environmental movement has shaped Colorado's culture, communities and landscapes. Read, download, or purchase the environmental era guide.


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Publication of Headwaters magazine is made possible by the generous support of sponsors and advertisers. We would like to extend our appreciation and thanks to the following sponsors: 

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Support for Water Education Colorado is tax-deductible and provides numerous benefits, including discounts on publications and event registrations. Your membership supports development of new publications, outreach efforts across the state, and critical operational needs.

CO River Report & Webinar


On April 14, CFWE, in partnership with CoBank, hosted a webinar "Managing the Colorado River in the 21st Century." Access a recording of the webinar here or download a PDF of the presentations here.


A report on the Colorado River Basin released in partnership between CFWE and CoBank's Knowledge Exchange Division is available to read and download here

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