Why is the Little Colorado River Turquoise Blue?

Little Colorado River

Why is the Little Colorado River Blue?

When you pour a glass of ice cold water out of one of our 7-Gallon Orange Gott Coolers the water may appear colorless, but water is actually a faint blue color. Water’s natural blue color is easy to see when one looks at deep bodies of water such as the oceans, and deep mountain lakes such as Lake Tahoe. The color of water does not come from light scattering(why the sky is blue) nor dissolved elements and compounds(such as copper). Water absorbs the red end of the visible spectrum, thus when we look at water we see the complementary color of orange which is blue. When one observes dark blue water they are looking at deep water that has absorbed most of the orange. When one looks at turquoise colored water they are looking at water that has only absorbed a little of the orange. Pure water actually derives its color from, and is the only known example of natural color caused by vibrational transitions. Vibrational transitions have to do with the molecular form of water.

There are other factors that can change the color of pure water. For example the Colorado River when it flows out the bottom of Glen Canyon Dam is green in color due to green algae in the river, and the natural color of the Colorado River is a light tan color due to suspended brownish colored silt. Small particles in rivers can scatter, absorb, and reflect light. In the case of the Little Colorado River and Havasu Creek, they are very rich in lime due to to the sedimentary rock layers they have cut through. In addition to the lime scattering light in these streams, the calcium carbonate in the lime coats the bottom of these waters with a white bottom. The white light reflected off objects can be seen when no part of the light spectrum is reflected significantly more than any other color. Thus in swimming pools, the Little Colorado River, and Havasu Creek, the deeper the water the darker the blue color, due to more orange absorption of the sunlight from the water and the white bottom reflecting all colors equally.


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