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The Arkansas River flows through Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas.

The Arkansas River is a major tributary of the Mississippi River. The Arkansas generally flows to the east and southeast and traverses the U.S. states of Coloradomarker, Kansasmarker, Oklahomamarker, and Arkansasmarker.

At 1,469 miles (2,364 km) it is the sixth longest river in the United Statesmarker, the second-longest tributary in the Mississippi-Missourimarker system, and the 45th longest river in the world. Its origin is in the Rocky Mountains in Lake County, Coloradomarker, near Leadvillemarker, and its mouth is at Napoleon, Arkansasmarker. The Arkansas River drainage basin covers nearly 195,000 sq mi (505,000 km²). In terms of volume, the river is smaller than both the Missouri and Ohio Rivers, with a mean discharge of 8,460 ft³/s (240 m³/s).

The Arkansas from its headwaters down to the 100th meridian west formed part of the US-Mexico border from the Adams-Onís Treaty (in force 1821) until the Texas Annexation or Treaty of Guadelupe Hidalgo.


Though many in the state of Kansas pronounce it , people in the state of Arkansas pronounce it according to a state law passed in 1881).


The headwaters of the Arkansas near Leadville, Colorado
The Arkansas has three distinct sections in its long path through central North America.

At its headwaters the Arkansas runs as a steep mountain torrent through the Rockies in its narrow valley, dropping 4,600 feet (1.4 km) in 120 miles (193 km). This section (including The Numbers, Brown's Canyon, and the Royal Gorge) sees extensive whitewater rafting in the spring and summer.

At Cañon City, Coloradomarker, the Arkansas River valley widens and flattens markedly. Just west of Pueblo, Coloradomarker, the river enters the Great Plainsmarker.Through the rest of Colorado, through Kansas, and through northern Oklahoma to Tulsamarker, it is a typical Great Plains riverway, with wide shallow banks subject to seasonal flooding. Tributaries include the Canadian River and the Cimarron River (both flowing from northeastern New Mexicomarker) and the Salt Fork Arkansas River.

The river is navigable by barges and large river craft to Muskogee, Oklahoma due to a series of locks and dams referred to below (McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System). Above Muskogee, the Arkansas River waterway itself is navigable only by small craft such as rafts or canoes.

Through Arkansas, the river valley is home to high, isolated, flat-topped mesas, buttes, ormonadnocks such as Mount Nebo and Petit Jean Mountain, and the highest point in thestate: Mount Magazine.

Water flow in the Arkansas River (as measured in central Kansas) has dropped from approximately 248 cubic feet per second (7 m³/s) average from 1944-1963 to 53 cubic feet per second (1.5 m³/s) average from 1984-2003, largely because of the pumping of groundwater for irrigation in eastern Colorado and western Kansas.

Important cities along the Arkansas include Pueblo, Colorado; Wichita, Kansasmarker; Tulsa, Oklahomamarker; Fort Smithmarker and Little Rock, Arkansasmarker.

The I-40 Bridge Disastermarker of May 2002 took place on I-40's crossing of Kerr Reservoir on the Arkansas River near Webbers Falls, Oklahomamarker.

Lower Arkansas River

Riverway commerce

The McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System begins at the Tulsa Port of Catoosamarker on the Verdigris River, and runs via an extensive Lock and Dam system to the Mississippi River.

Through Oklahoma and Arkansas, dams artificially deepen and widen this modest sized river to build it into a commercially navigable body of water. From the mouth of the Verdigris until the McClellan-Kerr system moves over to the White River near Arkansas Postmarker, the Arkansas sustains commercial barge traffic and offers passenger and recreational use and is little more than a series of reservoirs.

Watershed trails

Many nations of Native Americans lived near or along the Arkansas in its 1,450 mile (2334 km) stretch, but the first Europeans to see the river were members of the Coronado expedition on June 29, 1541. Also in the 1540s Hernando de Soto discovered the junction of the Arkansas with the Mississippi. The name "Arkansas" was first applied by Father Jacques Marquette, who called the river Akansa in his journal of 1673.

From 1819 the Adams-Onís Treaty set the Arkansas as part of the frontier between the United States and Spanish Mexicomarker, which it remained until the annexation of Texasmarker and Mexican-American War in 1846.

Later, the Santa Fe Trail followed the Arkansas through much of Kansas except for the Cimarron Cutoff from Cimarron, Kansasmarker, to Cimarron, New Mexicomarker, via Cimarron County, Oklahomamarker along the Cimarron River.


The headwaters of the Arkansas River, in central Colorado, has been known for exceptional trout fishing, particularly fly fishing, since the 19th century when Cutthroat trout dominated the river. Today, Brown trout dominate the river which also contains Rainbow trout and Trout Unlimited considers the Arkansas one of the top 100 trout streams in America, a reputation the river has had as far back as the 1950s.. From Leadville to Pueblo the Arkansas river is serviced by numerous fly shops and guides operating in Buena Vista, Salida, Cañon City and Pueblo, and the Colorado Division of Wildlife provides regular online fishing reports for the river.


Image:Wichita pan 1.jpg|Arkansas River passing through Wichita, KansasmarkerImage:Arkansas River, Looking Across To North Little Rock 423757092.jpg|Arkansas River, looking across to North Little RockmarkerImage:Dry Arkansas River.jpg|Drought can reduce the Arkansas River so much that trees along the river cannot survive.Image:USACE John Martin Dam Arkansas River.jpg|John Martin Dam and Reservoir on the Arkansas River in Bent County, ColoradomarkerImage:Kerr-McClellan map.png|Inland waterway system with McClellan-Kerr Navigational Channel shown in red.Image:Scouting -Big.jpg|Whitewater kayaking on the Arkansas RiverImage:Tulsa, Oklahoma.jpg|The Arkansas River in Tulsa, Oklahomamarker.Image:Fly Fishermen on the Arkansas River Near Salida Colorado.jpg|Fly Fishermen on the Arkansas River near Salida, ColoradomarkerImage:Natural landing.jpg|The Arkansas River in Natural Steps, Arkansasmarker

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