Colorado Water History
Arkansas River: Basin Breakdown
With its headwaters in the Rocky Mountains near Leadville, the Arkansas River stretches nearly 1,500 miles to the Mississippi River. Once serving in part as the border between Mexico and the United States, the river has played a significant role in the history of Colorado, from the discovery of gold to the development of irrigation. The Arkansas has witnessed floods and droughts, numerous legal battles have been waged internally and across state lines, and a major transmountain diversion now supplements native flows.
On this page, find information about books and archival collections documenting Arkansas River Basin history, along with a list of additional organizations.
Photo: Men working at Amity Dam, Arkansas River, 1909. From the Arkansas Valley Sugar Beet and Irrigated Land Company Photographs.
Arkansas River: Best Books
Arkansas River: Relevant Collections
Photographs and Records of the Arkansas Valley Sugar Beet and Irrigated Land Company
These two collections include information on the AVSBILC's irrigation practices, facilities, and related construction and maintenance. In the early 1900s, the company owned the Amity Canal and the Buffalo Canal, along with associated laterals and four reservoirs, and the land that could be watered by the system.
Papers of Delph E. Carpenter and Family
The “Father of Interstate River Compacts,” Delph E. Carpenter (1877-1951) served the state of Colorado as a lawyer, state senator, and river commissioner. Documents in the collection that relate to the Arkansas River Basin are early drafts, letters, and annotated proposals for the Arkansas River Compact (1949).
Papers of Lloyd J. Gronning
Lloyd J. Gronning (b. 1951) served as president of the Gronning Engineering Company from 1984 to 1996 and has worked extensively in the field of water resources development in the state of Colorado. Several of the engineering reports in the collection relate to Arkansas River water issues, especially exchanges.
Groundwater Data Collection
This collection consists of data, maps, charts, drafts, photographs, and reports regarding groundwater, primarily in eastern Colorado. One series specifically focuses on the Arkansas River Valley and studies conducted there in the 1930s through 2000s relating to groundwater/surface water interaction.
Papers of Fred B. Hamilton
Fred B. Hamilton (1911-1954) was an agricultural engineer specializing in water and erosion control issues who worked for the Civilian Conservation Corps and the USDA Soil Conservation Service. Materials in the collection include papers, photographs, and engineering plans related to irrigation ditches, diversion structures, and reservoir repair in the Arkansas River Basin.
Papers of Arthur L. Littleworth
California lawyer Arthur L. Littleworth (b.1923) served as Special Master on the Kansas v. Colorado case from 1987 until its conclusion in 2009. Littleworth wrote five reports during the course of the case, and this collection documents the case in its entirety, through trial transcripts, exhibits, pleadings, and more.
Papers of Frank Milenski
Frank Milenski (1913-1998) was a farmer and irrigator in Colorado's Arkansas River Valley. He served on the Colorado Water Conservation Board (1959-1966) and was on the board of directors of both the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District and the Catlin Canal Company for several decades. Documents in the collection pertain to court cases, water law, agricultural and urban water supply in the Arkansas River Valley.
Papers of Ray Nixon
Civil engineer Ray Nixon (1906-2001) served as head of several municipal water utilities in southeastern Colorado. He was administrator in the Arkansas River Basin, providing annual reports on the groundwater levels in the Arkansas River Valley, management improvements, maps, and other documentation of the area.
Papers of James L. Ogilvie
James L. Ogilvie (1911-1995) worked for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation as the project manager for the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project. The collection contains professional files related to projects taking place in the Arkansas River Valley.
Records of Wright Water Engineers, Inc.
A Colorado-based water resources consulting firm, Wright Water Engineers has undertaken projects concerning agricultural and irrigation engineering, water rights, and more. WWE gathered data and provided stream modeling for SECWCD and the State of Colorado for Kansas v. Colorado. Materials include court documents, notes, reports, maps, and photographs. Arkansas River Compact annual reports, cases, data, studies, analysis, and records can be found in the collection.