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Colorado Riverbed Case

Transcripts of the Colorado Riverbed Case. This case grew out of a desire by the State of Utah to determine who owned the bed of the Colorado River. Utah wanted to drill for oil and for other economic purposes in the bed of the river, but it first had to be determined who owned it, Utah or the United States. This hinged on whether the Colorado could be declared a navigable or a non-navigable river. The U.S. Supreme Court began acquiring testimony in October 1929. The final decree was issued in 1931, giving possession of the riverbed to the United States in non-navigable sections of the river in Utah. Possession of the riverbed in navigable sections of the basin was given to the State of Utah. The decision of the court was dependent on the testimony of individuals who had personal experience with the Colorado River in Utah. Most of the witnesses were river runners, both professional and recreational. Much of the testimony came from scientists and engineers who worked for the United States Geological Survey or the Reclamation Service (later the Bureau of Reclamation). Other testimony came from petroleum geologists and placer miners. Persons of notable historic importance include Frederick Dellenbaugh, a member of the second Powell expedition; Franklin Nims, photographer of the Brown-Stanton expedition; various members of the James Best expedition; photographer Ellsworth Kolb; members of the Clyde Eddy expeditions; and members of the Pathe-Bray film expedition. It could be said that the Colorado Riverbed Case is the largest known oral history of the men and women who utilized the Colorado River basin in Utah prior to 1929.

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