Physical characteristics of the river basin

There are four key physical characteristics that have an impact on the Colorado River basin.


  • north/south divide in terms of temperature and rainfall
  • much of the lower basin experiences very high temperatures of 40˚ C or more
  • months of extremely high summer temperatures in much of the basin leads to excessively high rates of evaporation
  • total rainfall is low and unreliable
  • river flows in a largely desert region, much receiving less than 250 mm rainfall per annum
  • rainfall is seasonal, with thunderstorms and flash flooding a possibility

Rock types

  • mainly sedimentary rock, such as sandstone
  • high temperatures lead to expansion and contraction of the rock, which opens up rock fissures
  • the resulting landscape is stunning

Soils and vegetation

  • the soil is a thin, red desert soil
  • the soil is unable to support much vegetation

River flow

  • flow is seasonal - the river is fed by spring melt water
  • rainfall in the system is unpredictable
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