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April 17, 2017
Famed for its dramatic rapids and canyons, the Colorado is one of the most desirable whitewater rivers in the United States, and its Grand Canyon section – run by more than 22,000 people annually – has been called the "granddaddy of rafting trips". Grand Canyon trips typically begin at Lee's Ferry and take out at Diamond Creek or Lake Mead; they range from one to eighteen days for commercial trips and from two to twenty-five days for private trips. Private (noncommercial) trips are extremely difficult to arrange because the National Park Service limits river traffic for environmental purposes; people who desire such a trip often have to wait more than 10 years for the opportunity. Several other sections of the river and its tributaries are popular whitewater runs, and many of these are also served by commercial outfitters. The Colorado's Cataract Canyon and many reaches in the Colorado headwaters are even more heavily used than the Grand Canyon, and about 60,000 boaters run a single 4.5-mile (7.2 km) section above Radium, Colorado, each year. The upper Colorado also includes many of the river's most challenging rapids, including those in Gore Canyon, which is considered so dangerous that "boating is not recommended". Another section of the river above Moab, known as the Colorado "Daily" or "Fisher Towers Section", is the most visited whitewater run in Utah, with more than 77,000 visitors in 2011 alone. The rapids of the Green River's Gray and Desolation Canyons and the less difficult "Goosenecks" section of the lower San Juan River are also frequently traversed by boaters. Eleven U.S. national parks – Arches, Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Grand Canyon, Mesa Verde, Petrified Forest, Rocky Mountain, Saguaro, and Zion – are in the watershed, in addition to many national forests, state parks, and recreation areas. Hiking, backpacking, camping, skiing, and fishing are among the multiple recreation opportunities offered by these areas. Fisheries have declined in many streams in the watershed, especially in the Rocky Mountains, because of polluted runoff from mining and agricultural activities. The Colorado's major reservoirs are also heavily traveled summer destinations. Houseboating and water-skiing are popular activities on Lakes Mead, Powell, Havasu, and Mojave, as well as Flaming Gorge Reservoir in Utah and Wyoming, and Navajo Reservoir in New Mexico and Colorado. Lake Powell and surrounding Glen Canyon National Recreation Area received more than two million visitors per year in 2007, while nearly 7.9 million people visited Lake Mead and the Lake Mead National Recreation Area in 2008. Colorado River recreation employs some 250,000 people and contributes $26 billion each year to the Southwest economy.