Lower Colorado River

Lower Colorado River
There is no better illustration of the paradoxical existence of water in the desert than the ribbon of life we call the Colorado River.

A desert by definition is an environment lacking water, yet the very contours of a desert are shaped by this resource that we usually never see in this environment. As the massive Colorado marks the border between California, Nevada and Arizona, it has also marked a colorful history as humans through the years have settled it, founded it as a nerve center for commerce and finally caused it to become the most litigated river in the world.


A trip down this section of California’s “East Coast” displays a lush riparian environment filled with birds and wildlife spanning two national wildlife refuges. Naturalists at Large has perfected delivering a consistent experience for hundreds of participants from student to adult as they paddle forty miles downriver. Guided by our naturalists, participants learn to handle a canoe, begin discussions of southwestern water history, learn arid land camping strategies, explore environmental/political issues associated with the river, learn firsthand where water comes from in the southwest and foster strong bonds with their groups as everyone works together toward a successful trip.

Educational Overview

Sense of Place: An introductory activity geared toward gaining an appreciation for not only the variety of landscapes California offers, but how our site fits into it both historically and in present day.

Geology: Learn about the Chocolate Mountains, the peaks of Picacho and how they became what we see today.

Desert/Riparian Zone Ecology: So odd it is called un-earthly, this juxtaposition of water and aridity has puzzled many a scientist. Study how these two zones form a unique set of conditions that flora and fauna alike must adapt to.

Human History: Study the colorful history of Native Americans, miners, ranchers and river men who learned to thrive in an inhospitable environment.

Water Politics: Discover where water comes from in the southwest and discuss some of the environmental and political issues surrounding the “most litigated river in the world.”

Evening Programs: Astronomy, Sensory Awareness and Campfire

Group building: Activities facilitated by your naturalist to help your trail group grow as a functional unit.

Trust Initiatives: Trust building activities to support individual challenge activities.

Additional Options:
  • Scheduled Ranger Talks
  • Service Projects: Microtrash pick-up
Site Facilities:

Primitive camping along the river with composting toilets.

Activities Available:
  • Canoeing: Canoe handling, paddle skills, self-rescue. Discover the Sonoran and Mojave deserts from the seat of a canoe!
  • Sandbar play/Swimming: Sandbars are the ideal midday play zone allowing great opportunities for group bonding and priceless memories.
  • Hiking: Small hikes are available near our outpost sites as well as a historical hike at Picacho Peak State Park.
  • Sunrise Paddle: An experience unique to Naturalists at Large. Spend the wee hours of the morning snoozing in your canoe and eat breakfast as the sun rises over the majestic Colorado River.