Colorado Water History
Rio Grande: Basin Breakdown
With its headwaters in the San Juan Mountains a few miles west of Creede, the Rio Grande River--the third longest river in the United States--flows nearly 1,900 miles to the Gulf of Mexico. While the Lower Rio Grande serves as part of the border between Texas and Mexico, the Upper Rio Grande plays a pivotal role in irrigated agriculture in Colorado's San Luis Valley. Over its history, the river has supported ancestral Puebloan settlements, witnessed Spanish explorers, seen droughts and floods, and been the subject of interstate legal disputes, all while sustaining numerous towns and cities along its banks.
On this page, find information about books and archival collections documenting Rio Grande Basin history, along with a list of additional organizations.
Photo: Artesian Well, Saguache, Colo., San Luis Valley, 1896. From the Irrigation Photograph Collection.
Rio Grande: Best Books
Rio Grande: Relevant Collections
Papers of Whitney M. Borland
As a civil engineer with a long and distinguished career for the Bureau of Reclamation, Whitney Borland (1905-2001) focused his research on sedimentation, hydraulics, avalanches and other aspects of hydrology. This collection contains his work on the Rio Grande Project related to the effects of dam construction on sedimentation.
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. This collection contains numerous files and legal documents related to his work on the Rio Grande Compact and the Rio Grande Project.
Ival V. Goslin Water Resources Collection
Ival V. Goslin (1911-1991) served a key role in the development of water resources in Colorado, specifically, and the Upper Colorado River basin, more broadly. Documents in this collection include water project planning studies related to the San Luis Valley Confined Aquifer and the Rio Grande.
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 San Luis Valley and artificial recharge studies conducted there in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Irrigation Photograph Collection
The Irrigation Photograph Collection contains lantern slides and glass plate negatives related primarily to irrigation and agricultural subjects in Colorado and around the world, including the San Luis Valley.
Irrigation Research Papers
This collection documents the work of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Irrigation Investigations Unit, which was based in Fort Collins. Included are files on various projects in the San Luis Valley.
Records of the Land Rights Council
Based in San Luis, Colorado, the Land Rights Council was formed in 1978 as a grassroots advocacy organization to protect the community's rights originally received under the Mexican land grant system. Documents in the collection include administrative, court case, and research files related to land and water rights issues in the Costilla County area.
Papers of Carl F. Nordin, Jr.
Carl F. Nordin, Jr., (1929-1998) was a hydraulic engineer for the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and Colorado State University. This collection features published works on sediment transport and flow resistance on the Rio Grande.
Ralph L. Parshall Collection
Ralph Parshall (1881-1959) contributed significantly to the field of irrigation engineering with the development of a flow-measuring device that became commonly known as the Parshall flume. This collection includes Parshall's files on the Rio Grande canal system and his research on irrigation in the San Luis Valley.
Papers of Tom Pitts
Tom Pitts worked with local, state, and federal organizations to find solutions for water usage and environmental regulatory issues. This collection documents his involvement in protecting the habitat of endangered fish species as part of the Middle Rio Grande Collaborative Program.
Papers of Everett V. Richardson
Everett Richardson (1924-2013), a graduate of Colorado State University, was an emeritus professor of civil engineering at CSU. This collection includes photographs and a report on the Rio Grande Conveyance Channel near Bernardo, New Mexico.
Records of the San Luis Valley Irrigation District
The San Luis Valley Irrigation District formed in 1908 to deliver water to farmers in Southern Colorado's San Luis Valley. This collection features files and documents detailing the construction of the Rio Grande Reservoir and its role in irrigated agriculture in the San Luis Valley.
Papers of Gilbert G. Stamm
Gilbert G. Stamm (1911-1989) is best known for his service as Commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation from 1973 to 1977 as well as his efforts to educate the public on water issues and promote reclamation projects. This collection contains notes, reports, and technical information related to his work on the Rio Grande Project for the Bureau of Reclamation.
Papers of Daniel Tyler
Daniel Tyler (b. 1933), emeritus professor of history at Colorado State University, has taught and written extensively on western water history. This collection documents research Tyler conducted for his biography on Delph Carpenter. In particular, it includes his research on Carpenter's role in negotiating the Rio Grande Compact.
Water Oral Histories Collection
The Water Oral Histories Collection consists of interviews and reminiscences covering the work of some of Colorado's distinguished civil engineers, irrigators, and water leaders. The collection features interviews with Travis Smith, retired superintendent of the San Luis Valley Irrigation District, and David Robbins, a water and natural resources attorney who represented the Rio Grande Water Conservation District for many years.