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State Submerged Resources > Colorado


Early explorers of the southwestern part of the United States discovered a muddy river they gave the Spanish name "Color Red" or Colorado River. Soon, a particular region of the southwest became known as Colorado. The state's other rivers include the Rio Grande, Arkansas River, and South Platte River. The Continental Divide, which runs through the Colorado Rockies, affects all rivers in the state. Rivers and streams east of the Divide flow towards the Atlantic Ocean, while those west of the Divide flow towards the Pacific Ocean.

Colorado has no naturally occurring lakes. The state formed its lakes by constructing dams to build reservoirs. Colorado's major lakes include the Grand Lake, Blue Mesa Lake, and John Martin Reservoir. All the rivers, streams, and man-made lakes in the state cover less than 1% of its land mass (about 370 square miles).

What is Colorado's maritime history?

From ancient times to the present, people have lived along Colorado's rivers and canyons. During the first half of the 1800s, trappers followed the state's waterways looking for beaver, and traders set up posts like Bent's Fort on the banks of the Arkansas River and South Platte River. Following the discoveries of gold and silver in the 1850s and 1860s, more than 50,000 prospective miners and settlers came to the region via the South Platte and other trails, leading to the creation of new towns and a series of Army forts. The creation and filling of reservoirs inundated the archeological remains of some of these prehistoric and historic sites.

Who takes care of Colorado's underwater archeological sites?

The state of Colorado holds title to all archeological resources in its lands, rivers, lakes, and reservoirs. The State Historical Society of Colorado administers the Historical, Prehistorical, and Archaeological Resources Act of 1973. The powers and duties of the State Archaeologist are exercised under the direction of the Society's board of directors.

What permits do I need to study shipwrecks?

Permits are only issued for the benefit of reputable museums, universities, colleges, and other scientific or education institutions that increase knowledge of such resources and conduct the research for permanent preservation. The state issues four classes of permits:

Survey Only Permits

Non-Collection Survey Only Permits

Survey and Test Excavation Permits

Excavation Permits

What laws are there about underwater archeology in Colorado?

Relevant state statutes are codified at Colorado Revised Statutes 24-80-401, et seq. and related regulations can be found at Code of Colorado Regulations 8 1504-7. These laws declare that reserving and understanding Colorado's archeological resources is to the ultimate benefit of the citizens of the state.