Kansas v. Colorado, 514 U.S. 673, 4 (1995)

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Opinion of the Court

between Climax and Leadville, Colorado. Thence it flows south and east through Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas, emptying into the Mississippi River, which in turn flows into the Gulf of Mexico. As if to prove that the ridge that separates them is indeed the Continental Divide, a short distance away from the source of the Arkansas, the Colorado River rises and thence flows southwest through Colorado, Utah, and Arizona, and finally empties into the Gulf of Baja, California.

The Arkansas River flows at a steep gradient from its source south to Canon City, Colorado, whence it turns east and enters the Royal Gorge. As it flows through the Royal Gorge, the Arkansas River is at some points half a mile below the summit of the bordering cliffs. The Arkansas River thence descends gradually through the high plains of eastern Colorado and western Kansas; its elevation at the Colorado-Kansas border is 3,350 feet. It then makes its great bend northward through Kansas, and from there flows southeasterly through northeastern Oklahoma and across Arkansas. The Arkansas River covers about 1,450 miles from its source in the Colorado Rockies to the point in southeastern Arkansas where it flows into the Mississippi River. It is the fourth longest river in the United States, and it drains in an area of 185,000 square miles.

The first Europeans to see the Arkansas River were members of the expedition of Francisco Coronado, in the course of their search for the fabled Seven Golden Cities of Cibola. In 1541, they crossed the Arkansas River near what is now the Colorado-Kansas border. One year later, those in the expedition of Hernando DeSoto would see the Arkansas River 1,000 miles downstream at its mouth. The western borders of the Louisiana Purchase, acquired from France in 1803, included within them most, if not all, of the Arkansas River drainage basin. Zebulon Pike, in his expedition of 1805-1806, in the course of which he sighted the mountain peak named after him, traveled up the Arkansas River.

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