Lower Colorado River

Morales Dam to Imperial Dam

    The Lower Colorado River in Arizona abounds with scenic beauty and recreational opportunities. The Morales Dam is found where California meets the Mexican Border. This is the start of the YumAZone virtual river journey that continues north to the Palo Verde Diversion Dam near Blythe Ca. Join us on a virtual journey to explore the Colorado River waters from the Morales Dam north to the Imperial Dam. On the Next Page we will continue North on the Colorado River from the Imperial Dam to the Palo Verde Diversion Dam.

The Morales Dam and the Alamo Canal

     Morales Dam in Los Algodones, Baja California, Mexico is the diversion point for the Alamo Canal waters which flow west to Mexicali. The primary user of water diverted at this dam is Agriculture. The Morales Dam and Alamo Canal when first built supplied water to the thirsty farmland of Imperial Valley. Imperial Valley farmers now use water from the All American Canal. The Colorado River stretches 22 miles down stream from the Morales dam (mile 22) along the Arizona border with Mexico to San Luis AZ (mile 0).

Continue 1/3 mile to primitive boat launch on East bank. This area is known as the Morales Dredge Launch and is a popular with local anglers that fish from the bank.(mile 22.3)

Continue North 2/3 mile to California Border with Baja California, Mexico on West bank. (mile 23)

Pilot Knob Yuma Arizona.

Continue North 1 mile to Pilot Knob Hydroelectric Plant on West Bank. On the East bank is the Main Outlet Drain Extension #2 (MODE II), another popular area for fishing from the bank.(mile 24)

Continue North past Cocopah Bend Golf Course on East Bank to Cocopah Bend (Mile 25).

The trip up river will turn towards the East for the next 4 miles.

Yuma West Wetlands Park

     The Yuma West Wetlands Park (mile 29) is a one mile stretch of restored wetlands. Since the planting of hundreds of trees in the area, this former landfill is now filled with many species of birds and other wildlife. There is a small boat ramp built at the Yuma West Wetlands Park. With plentiful parking for boat trailers, rest rooms, and playground equipment, the Wetlands Park is a popular destination for Yuma residents.

Continue East 1 mile to 4th Ave. Bridge (mile 30)

Continuing East pass Yuma Quartermaster Depot State Park, Gateway Park, & Interstate 8 Bridge spanning the Colorado River between California and Arizona.

Downtown Yuma and
the Ocean to Ocean Bridge

The Yuma railroad bridge with Ocean to Ocean Bridge in background

     While traveling the river near Historic Downtown Yuma you will see the Ocean to Ocean Bridge (Mile 30.5) that was constructed in 1915 for a cost of $73,800. The bridge linked the West Coast of the U.S. with points East. Before the Ocean to Ocean Bridge was built, the Yuma Crossing here was the ferry point on the Colorado River for travelers to and from California. With the completion of the bridge, the last barrier to driving an automobile coast to coast was removed, it was now literally possible for early American motorist to drive from Ocean to Ocean. The railroad bridge is adjacent to the Ocean to Ocean Bridge.

Yuma Territorial Prison watchtower as seen from the Colorado River.

The River diverges a bit from its original path into Arizona and we leave California for awhile. Continuing East, we pass the rail road bridge, Saint Thomas Yuma Indian Mission, Yuma Territorial Prison, & Riverside Park. Traveling upriver will show the work underway to complete the Yuma East Wetlands Park.

Continue upstream as your YumAZone virtual river trip gently turns in a northerly direction until reaching the confluence of the Gila River (mile 34).

Gila River

The Gila River stretchs eastward to the Continental Divide. The Gila River is one of the largest desert rivers in the world. Due to large diversions of water the Gila is often dry between Yuma and Phoenix. Once serving as the border with Mexico, the Gadsen Purchase permanently located both banks of the Gila River firmly in the United States.

Continue North 9 miles, entering California (at mile 38), to Laguna Dam.(mile 43)

Laguna Dam

      Laguna Dam, 12 miles North of Yuma, was the first dam constructed on the Colorado River. Construction took place from July 1905 until March 1909. Steamboat traffic on the Lower Colorado River was no longer possible as a result of this dam being completed, forever blocking access to points north. The symbol found inscribed on and near this bridge served for 3000 years to represent good luck, life, power, strength, and sun. It was not till years after the Laguna Dam was built that this symbol became the hated symbol of Nazi Germany, the swastika! With the construction of the Imperial Dam, the Laguna Dam became redundant and the dam no longer diverts water from the Colorado River.

Continue North 2 miles, entering Arizona (mile 44), to Mittry Lake Wildlife Area (mile 45).

Mittry Lake Wildlife Area and
Betty’s Kitchen Interpretive Area

Mittry Lake Wildlife Area is located between the Imperial and Laguna dams. Offering 750 acres of water surface surrounded by 2400 acres of marsh and upland, Mittry Lake Wildlife Area is a prime bird watching area. Boating, Camping, Fishing, and Hunting opportunities also abound at this beautiful lake 15 miles NE of Yuma. Located at the south end of Mittry Lake, Betty’s Kitchen Interpretive area is named after a 1930s cafe which stood on the shore of the lake. A scenic 1/2 mile trail describes the natural and human history of the Colorado River Corridor.

Continue North 2 miles, then begin California on West bank (mile 48) to Imperial Dam (mile 49).

Imperial Dam and
the All American Canal

     Imperial Dam is the source of California’s All American Canal and Arizona’s Gila Gravity Main Canal. Water also flows to the Coachella Valley and the Yuma Project from this point. Located 18 miles Northeast of Yuma, the Imperial Dam’s construction was completed in 1938.

Due to the political instability inherent in Mexico, farmers in the Imperial Valley felt they needed a supply of water not dependent on Mexico’s Alamo Canal. The Imperial Dam & the All American Canal were built to ensure that American farmers in the Imperial Valley would always have a steady supply of water from the Colorado River.

In an ironic twist of history, Mexican farmers not long ago won a injunction order against the United States government to stop the concrete lining of the All American Canal. The U.S. government recognizing that millions of gallons of water were being lost to seepage from the unlined canal wanted to stop the loss of water in the drought stricken southwest. Mexican farmers that had been pumping water from shallow wells replenished by the All American Canal seepage sued in response to the plan. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco has since rejected the litigants’ arguments.

Recreational water enthusiast will find 95 Miles of navigable river between the Imperial Dam and the Palo Verde Dam above Blythe California. Please see our next page to continue our YumAZone virtual voyage on the Lower Colorado River!


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