OKLAHOMA V. TEXAS, 260 U. S. 606 (1923)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Oklahoma v. Texas, 260 U.S. 606 (1923)

Oklahoma v. Texas

No. 18, Original

Argued April 25, 26, 27, 1922

Decided January 15, 1923

260 U.S. 606


1. The boundary line between the States of Texas and Oklahoma along the Red River, as determined by the Treaty of 1819 between the United States and Spain, is along the southerly bank of the stream. P. 260 U. S. 625.

2. There is a material difference between taking the bank of a river as a boundary and taking the river itself. P. 260 U. S. 626.

Page 260 U. S. 607

3. The bank intended by the treaty is the water-washed and relatively permanent elevation or acclivity at the outer line of the river bed, which separates the bed from the adjacent upland, whether valley or hill, and serves to confine the waters within the bed and preserve the course of the river. P. 260 U. S. 631.

4. The boundary intended is on and along this bank at the average or mean level attained by the waters in the periods when they reach and wash the bank without overflowing it. P. 260 U. S. 632.

5. The bed includes all of the area which is kept practically bare of vegetation by the wash of the waters of the river from year to year in their onward course, although parts of it are left dry for years at a time, but excludes lateral valleys having the characteristics of relatively fast land and usually covered by upland vegetation, although temporarily overflowed in exceptional instances when the river is at flood. P. 260 U. S. 632.

6. The provisions of the Treaty of 1819, supra, that

"the use of the waters, and the navigation of the Sabine to the sea, and of the said Rivers Roxo [Red] and Arkansas, throughout the extent of said boundary, on their respective banks, shall be common to the respective inhabitants of both nations,"

doubtless reserve and secure right of access to the water at all stages for enjoyment of the permitted use (the part of Red River now in question, however, is not navigable), but they afford no reason for regarding the boundary as below the bank or within the riverbed. P. 260 U. S. 632.

7. Applying the treaty to the physical situation here revealed by the evidence, the Court finds that the boundary should be located along the southerly of the two water-worn banks designated as the "cut banks," which separate almost uniformly the sand bed of the river from land in its valley, on either side, overflowed at times, but having the physical characteristics of upland, and which has heretofore been dealt with as such by the United States and Texas, respectively. P. 260 U. S. 633.

8. The doctrine of erosion, accretion, and avulsion applies to boundary rivers, including the Red River, which changes rapidly and materially in flood. P. 260 U. S. 636. Nebraska v. Iowa, 143 U. S. 359.

9. The party asserting that the course has changed by avulsion since the treaty became effective, in 1821, has the burden of proving it. P. 260 U. S. 638.

10. Evidence of avulsive change held insufficient in some instances and sufficient in others. P. 260 U. S. 638.

Page 260 U. S. 608

In this suit, the Court first decided that the boundary between Oklahoma and Texas is along the south bank of the Red River ( 256 U. S. 256 U.S. 70) and made an interlocutory decree for the taking of evidence and for a further hearing to determine what constitutes the south bank and the proper location of the boundary line along it ( 256 U. S. 256 U.S. 608). These matters are now disposed of by the present opinion. *

Page 260 U. S. 623

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