The storm in Houston has drawn to my attention, a fact of which I was previously unaware, that there are two quite separate Colorado rivers.

In Britain we have various instances of rivers with the same name e.g. Avon, Ouse etc. But we usually distinguish them by talking about "The Great Ouse" and the "Yorkshire Ouse" etc.

Please could someone explain to me how it arose that there were two Colorado Rivers, And if I describe one as "the Texas Colorado", what do I call the other?

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    I think Wikipedia covers the history of the naming, while it disambiguates with Colorado River and Colorado River(Texas).
    – Steve Bird
    Aug 29, 2017 at 8:15
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    Not sure this is a history question; based on @SteveBird's comment, I'm not sure this is a non-trivial question.
    – MCW
    Aug 29, 2017 at 8:21
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    @MarkC.Wallace: I would describe this question as barely history, and barely non-trivial.
    – Tom Au
    Aug 29, 2017 at 8:34
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    @Mark C.Wallace The only "geography site" I could find seemed far too technical. I apologise if I have pushed the boundaries of "history", but I did find Tom Au's answer interesting.
    – WS2
    Aug 29, 2017 at 10:27
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    As a resident of neighboring Oklahoma...as a general rule-of-thumb, Texas has themselves one of everything. For example, I saw a video this morning of horses being led out of a flooded corral that identified it on social media as being from "Cleveland" (no disambiguation). You kind of just have to know that if a Texan is talking, disambiguation is more likely to be used for Paris France than Paris Texas.
    – T.E.D.
    Aug 29, 2017 at 13:22

1 Answer 1


The "main" Colorado River starts in Colorado, goes southwest in that state and Utah, and heads west then south through Arizona before forming the California-Arizona border, and empties in the Gulf of California. I would just call it the Colorado River.

The river you are talking about was named "Colorado" because it is "colored," but starts and ends in Texas, and I would call it the Texas Colorado River.

"Colored" in this context means the color of the soil, typically red or brown, and not non-soil colors such blue, purple, or green.

  • How do we know about the order in which these two rivers were named? Presumably they were named by Spanish explorers (maybe in the 17th or 18th century), rather than by early settlers?
    – njuffa
    Aug 29, 2017 at 16:01
  • nguffa: Fair point. I removed that reference.
    – Tom Au
    Aug 29, 2017 at 17:04
  • @njuffa - That'd be a good question. Might even be a good question for here, if voters don't consider it trivial.
    – T.E.D.
    Aug 29, 2017 at 20:30
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    @TomAu: Clarification: The translation of Colorado from Spanish to English is actually coloured red rather than merely coloured. In both cases the rivers run through long stretches of red-tinted sandstone. Aug 29, 2017 at 21:20
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    There's also the "Red River" (of the South) which forms the Texas-Oklahoma border... and the "Red River" (of the North) which forms the Minnesota-North Dakota border. Aug 30, 2017 at 20:53

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