Nevada is the seventh largest state in the US but it is the ninth least populous. A large part of the state consists of desert and semi-desert within the Great Basin. Because of the dry climate conditions, Nevada relies on rivers for commercial and domestic water use. The following are the longest rivers in Nevada.
Longest Rivers In Nevada
The Colorado River is the sixth longest river in the United States. It flows for 1,450 miles from the Rocky Mountains in Colorado to the Gulf of California. It cuts across seven American and two Mexican states. The river is considered the “lifeline of the Southwest” because it provides water for over 40 million people. In Nevada, the Colorado River provides water for the Davis Dam and the Hoover Dam along the Nevada-Arizona border. A large percentage of Nevada population is concentrated in the south especially in Clarke County because of the availability of water from the river.
The Owyhee River flows for 346 miles from northeastern Nevada to the Snake River along the Oregon-Idaho border. The Owyhee River basin covers an area of about 11,049 square miles making it one of the largest sub-basin in the United States. The river discharges an average of 995 cubic ft/s. The river’s main tributaries include the Little Owyhee, North Fork Owyhee, and the West Little Owyhee. The river provides water for the Wild Horse Reservoir in Nevada and the Owyhee Dam in Oregon.
The Humboldt River is the longest river that is located entirely within the state of Nevada. The river flows for 330 miles from the East Humboldt Range in Elko County and drains into the Humboldt Sink. The Humboldt is the third longest river in the great basin after the Sevier and Bear. The river has the largest drainage basin (16,600 sq mi) among the rivers in the US that do not drain into the ocean. The flow of the river is significantly affected by the high temperatures and human activities such as irrigation. The discharge varies from a high of 17,000 cu ft/s to no discharge at all.
The Amargosa River is a 185-mile long waterway that flows from southern Nevada into the eastern edge of California. The river originates from the Oasis Valley in Nye County; it flows through the Mojave desert before disappearing into an underground aquifer in California’s Death Valley. During heavy rains, the discharge rises to 10,600 cu ft/s and stops flowing during the dry season. The Amargosa River flows below the ground for a large part of its course except for a stretch in Beatty in Nevada and Amargosa Canyon in California.
Disappearing Rivers of Nevada
Rivers are an essential resource in Nevada; they irrigate crops, serve as a habitat for wildlife and fish, and provide water for commercial and domestic use. However, the rivers of the state are under immense pressure from human activities. Fifty-three percent of the rivers have been altered to create 3,600 miles of unnatural river course. The Colorado, Humboldt, and Walker Rivers are the most altered in the state. The construction of dams and irrigation canals have prevented rivers from reaching their destination.