Arkansas River.Undoubtedly the earliest account of this river is to be found in the narratives of the Coronado expedition, 1540-1541, in which the stream was given the name "St. Peter's and St. Paul's river." Marquette names it on his map of 1673. The Mexicans named it "Rio Napete," but the stream acquired the name "Akansa" from the early French voyagers on account of a tribe of the Dacotah or Osage stock which lived near its mouth. The stream has its source in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, in latitude 39 degrees 20 minutes north, longitude 106 degrees 15 minutes west. It flows in a southerly and easterly direction, passing through the royal gorge to the city of Pueblo, from which place it takes an eastward course, traversing what was once a portion of the "Great American Desert," and entering Kansas in Hamilton county, just south of the town of Coolidge, thence flowing in a general easterly direction through the counties of Hamilton, Kearny, Finney, Gray and Ford, at which point the stream makes an abrupt turn to the northeast, passing through the counties of Edwards, Pawnee and Barton, the "great bend" of the river being in the last named. From here the river turns to the southeast, passing through the counties of Rice, Reno, Harvey, Sedgwick, Sumner and Cowley, leaving the state at a point almost due south of the village of Davidson. It then flows across Oklahoma and Arkansas, emptying into the Mississippi river at Napoleon, Ark.
The Arkansas is accounted the most important of the western tributaries of the combined Mississippi and Missouri rivers, is about 2,000 miles in length, of which 310 are in the state of Kansas. The stream is rarely navigable to a point above Fort Smith, though in times of flood the channel is open to boats of light draft to a point much higher up. In 1854 a writer in the New York Tribune, in describing the territories of Kansas and Nebraska, gave Fort Mann (near Dodge City) as the "head of navigation" on the stream. (See Early River Commerce.)
Across the plains of Colorado and Kansas the channel of this river is very shallow, in some places the banks being less than five feet above low water, and the channel at least three-quarters of a mile in width. The stream in Colorado is almost entirely diverted to the irrigation of lands alongside, and the sandy wastes thus watered have been made veritable garden spots. This wholesale diversion of the water by that state was the cause of much complaint on the part of property owners and others along the river in Kansas who suffered considerable loss and inconvenience from the river going dry. To determine what rights the state had in the matter, the Kansas state senate of 1901 passed a concurrent resolution relating to the diversion of the waters of the Arkansas river, in the state of Colorado, as follows:
"Whereas, It is a matter of common notoriety that the waters of the Arkansas river for some time past have been and are now being diverted from their natural channel by the state of Colorado and its citizens, to the great damage of the state of Kansas and its inhabitants; and
Whereas, It is threatened not, only to continue but also to increase said diversion; therefore, be it
Resolved by the senate, the house of representatives concurring therein, That the attorney general be requested to institute such legal proceedings, and to render such assistance in other proceedings brought for the same purpose, as may be necessary to protect the rights and interests of the state of Kansas and the citizens and property owners thereof."
The house concurred, and in May, 1901, the state of Kansas by its attorney-general, filed a bill in equity in the U. S. supreme court, which necessitated the taking of many thousands of pages of testimony of residents living along the valley of the Arkansas. The case was finally decided in favor of Colorado.Pages 100-101 from volume I of Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc. ... / with a supplementary volume devoted to selected personal history and reminiscence. Standard Pub. Co. Chicago : 1912. 3 v. in 4. : front., ill., ports.; 28 cm. Vols. I-II edited by Frank W. Blackmar. Transcribed May 2002 by Carolyn Ward.
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