Colorado drainage basins

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Main article: Geography of Colorado

The U.S State of Colorado includes the headwaters of several important rivers. The state is divided into two major hydrographic regions by the Continental Divide of the Americas. East of the Continental Divide, surface waters flow via the South Platte River, the North Platte River, the Republican River, the Arkansas River, the Cimarron River, the Canadian River, or the Rio Grande to the Gulf of Mexico. West of the Continental Divide, surface waters flow via the Green River, the upper Colorado River[1] (formerly the Grand River), or the San Juan River into the Colorado River and on to the Gulf of California. Colorado also has three significant endorheic basins: the San Luis Closed Basin in the San Luis Valley, and the Bear Creek Basin and the White Woman Basin spanning the Colorado-Kansas border north and south of the Arkansas River.

List of major drainage basins[edit]

Major Drainage Basins of the State of Colorado

Basin Outlet Total Area[2] In-State Area[2] % In-State[2]
Colorado River[1][3] Gulf of California 001703,132 km2
271,481 mi2
001100,195 km2
38,686 mi2
Arkansas River[4] Mississippi River 002478,501 km2
184,750 mi2
00270,022 km2
27,036 mi2
Rio Grande (Rio Bravo del Norte)[5] Gulf of Mexico 003457,275 km2
176,555 mi2
00912,070 km2
4,660 mi2
Canadian River Arkansas River 004122,701 km2
47,375 mi2
073154 km2
59 mi2
Green River[6] Colorado River 005115,903 km2
44,750 mi2
00527,340 km2
10,556 mi2
North Platte River[7] Platte River 00680,755 km2
31,180 mi2
0185,129 km2
1,980 mi2
upper Colorado River (Grand River)[1] Colorado River 00767,993 km2
26,252 mi2
00357,680 km2
22,270 mi2
San Juan River[3] Colorado River 00864,560 km2
24,927 mi2
00815,175 km2
5,859 mi2
South Platte River[8] Platte River 00962,738 km2
24,223 mi2
00448,948 km2
18,899 mi2
Smoky Hill River Kansas River 01051,783 km2
19,994 mi2
0402,493 km2
963 mi2
Cimarron River Arkansas River 01144,890 km2
17,332 mi2
0165,481 km2
2,116 mi2
Yampa River Green River 01221,506 km2
8,304 mi2
00715,289 km2
5,903 mi2
Gunnison River[3][9] upper Colorado River (Grand River) 01320,851 km2
8,051 mi2
00620,851 km2
8,051 mi2
North Fork Republican River Republican River 01413,172 km2
5,086 mi2
01011,522 km2
4,449 mi2
White River Green River 01512,989 km2
5,015 mi2
0129,796 km2
3,782 mi2
Dolores River upper Colorado River (Grand River) 01611,998 km2
4,633 mi2
01110,619 km2
4,100 mi2
Laramie River[7] North Platte River 01711,961 km2
4,618 mi2
061989 km2
382 mi2
Little Snake River Yampa River 01810,629 km2
4,104 mi2
0224,412 km2
1,704 mi2
Purgatoire River[10] Arkansas River 0198,923 km2
3,445 mi2
0138,601 km2
3,321 mi2
Lodgepole Creek South Platte River 0208,374 km2
3,233 mi2
069496 km2
191 mi2
Rio Chama Rio Grande 0218,204 km2
3,168 mi2
071238 km2
92 mi2
San Luis Closed Basin[11][12] endorheic basin 0227,638 km2
2,949 mi2
0147,638 km2
2,949 mi2
Frenchman Creek Republican River 0237,398 km2
2,856 mi2
0362,539 km2
980 mi2
South Fork Republican River Republican River 0247,195 km2
2,778 mi2
0175,454 km2
2,106 mi2
San Luis Creek San Luis Closed Basin 0257,000 km2
2,703 mi2
0157,000 km2
2,703 mi2
Cache la Poudre River[13] South Platte River 0264,959 km2
1,915 mi2
0214,587 km2
1,771 mi2
Bear Creek Basin endorheic basin 0274,896 km2
1,890 mi2
0372,521 km2
973 mi2
Huerfano River[14] Arkansas River 0284,840 km2
1,869 mi2
0194,840 km2
1,869 mi2
Big Sandy Creek Arkansas River 0294,825 km2
1,863 mi2
0204,825 km2
1,863 mi2
Bear Creek Bear Creek Basin 0304,500 km2
1,737 mi2
0392,500 km2
965 mi2
North Fork Cimarron River Cimarron River 0314,462 km2
1,723 mi2
0432,225 km2
859 mi2
Arikaree River[15] North Fork Republican River 0324,429 km2
1,710 mi2
0234,265 km2
1,647 mi2
San Miguel River Dolores River 0334,060 km2
1,567 mi2
0244,060 km2
1,567 mi2
Stinking Water Creek Frenchman Creek 0343,862 km2
1,491 mi2
063966 km2
373 mi2
Roaring Fork River[16] upper Colorado River (Grand River) 0353,766 km2
1,454 mi2
0253,766 km2
1,454 mi2
Crow Creek South Platte River 0363,717 km2
1,435 mi2
0442,201 km2
850 mi2
Horse Creek Arkansas River 0373,680 km2
1,421 mi2
0263,680 km2
1,421 mi2
Ladder Creek Smoky Hill River 0383,645 km2
1,407 mi2
067663 km2
256 mi2
Bijou Creek South Platte River 0393,612 km2
1,395 mi2
0273,612 km2
1,395 mi2
White Woman Basin endorheic basin 0403,577 km2
1,381 mi2
065908 km2
351 mi2
Rush Creek Arkansas River 0413,570 km2
1,378 mi2
0283,570 km2
1,378 mi2
Animas River San Juan River 0423,562 km2
1,375 mi2
0302,971 km2
1,147 mi2
Saguache Creek San Luis Creek 0433,482 km2
1,345 mi2
0293,482 km2
1,345 mi2
Montezuma Creek San Juan River 0443,044 km2
1,175 mi2
062983 km2
380 mi2
White Woman Creek White Woman Basin 0453,000 km2
1,158 mi2
066800 km2
309 mi2
Beaver Creek South Platte River 0462,939 km2
1,135 mi2
0312,939 km2
1,135 mi2
Uncompahgre River Gunnison River 0472,921 km2
1,128 mi2
0322,921 km2
1,128 mi2
Tomichi Creek Gunnison River 0482,874 km2
1,109 mi2
0332,874 km2
1,109 mi2
Apishapa Creek[14] Arkansas River 0492,798 km2
1,080 mi2
0342,798 km2
1,080 mi2
Saint Vrain Creek[17] South Platte River 0502,572 km2
993 mi2
0352,572 km2
993 mi2
Eagle River upper Colorado River (Grand River) 0512,515 km2
971 mi2
0382,515 km2
971 mi2
Vermillion Creek Green River 0522,500 km2
965 mi2
0591,155 km2
446 mi2
North Fork Gunnison River Gunnison River 0532,492 km2
962 mi2
0412,492 km2
962 mi2
Fountain Creek[18] Arkansas River 0542,418 km2
933 mi2
0422,418 km2
933 mi2
Big Thompson River[13] South Platte River 0552,149 km2
830 mi2
0452,149 km2
830 mi2
Two Butte Creek Arkansas River 0562,107 km2
814 mi2
0462,107 km2
814 mi2
Mancos River San Juan River 0572,099 km2
810 mi2
0471,973 km2
762 mi2
Conejos River Rio Grande 0582,078 km2
802 mi2
0561,471 km2
568 mi2
North Fork Smoky Hill River Smoky Hill River 0591,965 km2
759 mi2
064947 km2
366 mi2
Sidney Draw South Platte River 0601,949 km2
753 mi2
070368 km2
142 mi2
South Fork Beaver Creek Beaver Creek 0611,939 km2
749 mi2
068522 km2
201 mi2
Sand Arroyo Creek North Fork Cimarron River 0621,938 km2
748 mi2
0571,314 km2
507 mi2
Chico Creek Arkansas River 0631,934 km2
747 mi2
0481,934 km2
747 mi2
Kiowa Creek South Platte River 0641,888 km2
729 mi2
0491,888 km2
729 mi2
Pawnee Creek South Platte River 0651,875 km2
724 mi2
0501,875 km2
724 mi2
McElmo Creek San Juan River 0661,842 km2
711 mi2
0531,654 km2
639 mi2
Blue River[19] upper Colorado River (Grand River) 0671,770 km2
683 mi2
0511,770 km2
683 mi2
Piedra River San Juan River 0681,770 km2
683 mi2
0521,770 km2
683 mi2
Piceance Creek White River 0691,630 km2
629 mi2
0541,630 km2
629 mi2
Little Beaver Creek Beaver Creek 0701,602 km2
619 mi2
072210 km2
81 mi2
Clear Creek[19] South Platte River 0711,497 km2
578 mi2
0551,497 km2
578 mi2
Taylor River[16] Gunnison River 0721,258 km2
486 mi2
0581,258 km2
486 mi2
Boulder Creek[20] Saint Vrain Creek 0731,160 km2
448 mi2
0601,160 km2
448 mi2
Cherry Creek South Platte River 0731,050 km2
405 mi2
0601,050 km2
405 mi2

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c The origin and route of the Colorado River was the subject of centuries of exploration and debate. United States Geological Survey (USGS) maps of the 19th century showed the river originating at the confluence of the Green River and the Grand River in what is now Canyonlands National Park in Utah. Thus, the namesake river of the State of Colorado did not flow through that state. On 25 July 1921, House Joint Resolution 460 of the 66th United States Congress changed the name of the Grand River to the Colorado River over the objections of the USGS, which noted that the drainage basin of the Green River was 70% more extensive than that of the Grand River, although the flow of the Grand River at the confluence frequently exceeded that of the Green River.
  2. ^ a b c Gustafson, Daniel L. (2003-01-24). "Hydrologic Unit Project". Montana State University, Environmental Statistics Group. Retrieved 2008-02-05. 
  3. ^ a b c The summit of Uncompahgre Peak at 14,321 feet (4365.0 m) is the highest point in the drainage basins of the Cimarron River, the Gunnison River, the former Grand River, the Colorado River, and the Gulf of California.
  4. ^ The summit of Mount Elbert at 14,440 feet (4401.2 m) is the highest point in the drainage basins of the Arkansas River and the Mississippi River.
  5. ^ The summit of Blanca Peak at 14,351 feet (4374 m) is the highest point in the drainage basin of the Rio Grande (Rio Bravo del Norte).
  6. ^ The headwaters of the Green River are located in the Wind River Mountains of the State of Wyoming.
  7. ^ a b The summit of Clark Peak at 12,960 feet (3950 m) is the highest point in the drainage basins of the Laramie River and the North Platte River.
  8. ^ The summit of Mount Lincoln at 14,293 feet (4356.5 m) is the highest point in the drainage basins of the South Platte River, the Platte River, and the Missouri River.
  9. ^ The Gunnison River Basin is the most extensive river basin exclusively within the State of Colorado.
  10. ^ The summit of Culebra Peak at 14,053 feet (4283 m) is the highest point in the drainage basin of the Purgatoire River.
  11. ^ The San Luis Closed Basin is the most extensive endorheic basin in the State of Colorado.
  12. ^ The summit of Crestone Peak at 14,300 feet (4359 m) is the highest point in the San Luis Closed Basin.
  13. ^ a b The summit of Hagues Peak at 13,573 feet (4137 m) is the highest point in the drainage basins of the Cache la Poudre River and the Big Thompson River.
  14. ^ a b The summit of West Spanish Peak at 13,631 feet (4155 m) is the highest point in the drainage basins of the Huerfano River and Apishapa Creek.
  15. ^ The point at which the Arikaree River flows out of the Colorado and into Kansas is the lowest point in the State of Colorado at 3317 feet (1011 m).
  16. ^ a b The summit of Castle Peak at 14,279 feet (4352.2 m) is the highest point in the drainage basins of the Roaring Fork River and the Taylor River.
  17. ^ The summit of Longs Peak at 14,259 feet (4346 m) is the highest point in the drainage basin of Saint Vrain Creek.
  18. ^ The summit of Pikes Peak at 14,115 feet (4302.31 m) is the highest point in the drainage basin of Fountain Creek.
  19. ^ a b The summit of Grays Peak at 14,278 feet (4352 m) is the highest point on the Continental Divide in North America and the drainage basins of the Blue River and Clear Creek.
  20. ^ Murphy, Sheila F. (2006). State of the watershed: Water quality of Boulder Creek, Colorado (PDF). U.S. Geological Survey Circular 1284. U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey. ISBN 1-4113-0954-5. Retrieved 2008-02-05. 

External links[edit]