The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 62, July 1958 - April, 1959 Page: 359
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The Red River Boundary Controversy
This did not mean that Oklahoma received the territory in
dispute. Although Oklahoma established its ownership of the
north half of the river by virtue of its riparian rights, the Court
ruled that no part of the river between the two states was nav-
igable; therefore, the title to the bed of the stream did not pass to
the Sooner State on its admission to the Union." The end result
was that there existed a strip of United States public domain
over five hundred miles long and from one-fourth to two miles
wide lying within the state of Oklahoma. The oil producing land
consisted of a forty-three-mile section of this narrow band.
The 1923 Court decision not only designated the south bank
of the river as the boundary between Texas and Oklahoma, it also
established the "cut" of the south bank as the exact line of de-
marcation. With every square foot of this section of the river
potentially valuable oil land, $12,000,000 in royalties being paid
out of it by 1924, much attention was given to marking the pre-
cise location of the river. This proved to be exceedingly difficult
in view of the character of the Red River. Originating in the
high plains of the Texas Panhandle, the Red River is shallow,
sandy, and shifty. During dry weather cycles the river may dis-
appear altogether in the upper reaches, and in years of excep-
tional rainfall it is likely to alter its course considerably. With
erosion, accretion, and avulsion constantly altering the river's
banks, the solution to the boundary problem became doubly
Dealing with such a capricious stream, the Supreme Court
studied state boundary markings on old maps and investigated
the results of United States surveys. State officials were ques-
tioned on the past exercise of criminal and civil jurisdiction along
the river's bank as the Court attempted to determine the owner-
ship of various parts of the land. Records of taxation of prop-
erty along the river were investigated, and the taxing of railway
bridges and toll bridges over the river received attention. The
ages of trees located in the river bottom were estimated; the struc-
ture of sand dunes and soil along the flood plain was studied; the
170klahoma argued that since the river was navigable at one time it was still
navigable in the sense that it could be navigated, but the Court rejected the novel
contention that a river might be navigable in law although not in fact.-Ibid.,
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 62, July 1958 - April, 1959, periodical, 1959; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101173/m1/426/: accessed December 16, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.