Colorado Water History

A guide to finding and using historical information about water in Colorado and beyond


Colorado is the Headwaters State. Four major rivers begin in its Rocky Mountains: the Colorado, the Rio Grande, the Arkansas, and the Platte. Because all of these flow out of Colorado to other equally arid states, competition for this limited supply occurs both within the state and across its borders.

The development and use of water, and the politics and law that accompany it--not to mention people and organizations with diverse needs that use it--have created a complex history. That history touches on agriculture, engineering, wildlife, recreation, and much more.

Researching Colorado's complex water history can be daunting! The resources presented in this guide will help you navigate water history from Colorado's headwaters to the state's borders--and beyond.

This guide is brought to you by the Water Resources Archive, the best place in the state to begin learning about the history of Colorado's most precious resource.

What's New at the Water Resources Archive

April 2023 - New finding aid: Blue River Basin Collection

April 2023 - Article: The Colorado River drought crisis: 5 essential reads

March 2023 - Water Scholars announced!

March 2023 - Updated finding aid: Papers of Gregory J. Hobbs, Jr.

January 2023 - New issue: Preserving the Source e-newsletter

Historical Highlight

Ival Goslin at Glen Canyon Dam

Lake Powell, held by Glen Canyon Dam on the Colorado River, was FULL in 1980! Will we ever see such a site again?

Find more images and historical information in the Water Resources Archive.

Your Archivist

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Patricia Rettig
Archives & Special Collections
Morgan Library
Colorado State University
Fort Collins, CO 80523-1019
Subjects: Water

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