The most prominent feature in the Grand Canyon, besides the deep gorges exposing millions of years of rock layers, lies at the bottom—the Colorado River. Named in 1776 by a Spanish missionary, Padre Francisco Tomás Garcés, it means “red” in Spanish, which is how the river would have appeared back then. Due to the construction of Glen Canyon Dam in northeastern Arizona in 1964 the river is now clear, clean, and cold.

The river begins as a tiny stream in Rocky Mountain National Park, eventually flowing into Lake Powell, formed by the Glen Canyon Dam. Below the dam it begins its journey through Marble Canyon by joining with the Paria River. At the confluence of the Little Colorado River does the Colorado finally enter Grand Canyon National Park, flowing 217 miles until it reaches Lake Mead Recreation Area.