List of river borders of U.S. states

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Because of its unique history, many of the boundaries of the political divisions of the United States were artificially constructed (rather than being permitted to evolve and drawn using natural features of the landscape). Therefore, many U.S. states have straight lines as boundaries, especially in the West. However, there are a number of states, particularly in the Midwest, North and South with at least partial river borders.

Map of US river/waterway state borders(highlighted).

The rule of the thread of the channel and its exceptions[edit]

Typically the boundary is the "thread of the channel", under a rule that the United States inherited from England, where it applies to boundaries between counties.[citation needed] There are at least three exceptions, where the boundary is one bank of the river rather than the thread of the channel:

  • The boundary between New Hampshire and Vermont is the west bank of the Connecticut River. This was established as the eastern boundary of New York by a grant of King Charles II in 1664. It was disregarded by Governor Benning Wentworth of New Hampshire, who treated the New Hampshire Grants west of the river as a de-facto part of New Hampshire during the years 1649–1764, but King George III put an end to that in 1764. In 1782 the state of New Hampshire and the then mostly unrecognized state of Vermont, which had been organized in defiance of New York, agreed on the west bank of the river as the boundary. In 1933, citing the 1782 agreement, the United States Supreme Court denied the petition from the state of Vermont to make the boundary the thread of the channel.[citation needed]
  • The boundary between Kentucky and the three states to its north – Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois – is the north bank of the Ohio river. In 1763 Britain defeated France in the Seven Years' War, whose North American theater was called the French and Indian War. At that time Canada, which had been a French colony, became a British colony, and Parliament made the north bank of the Ohio the southern boundary of Canada. The river was thus included in the district of Kentucky, at that time a part of Virginia.[citation needed]
  • The boundary between Delaware and New Jersey north of 39° 30' north latitude is the east bank of the Delaware river.[citation needed]

List of river borders[edit]

The course of the Charles River was used to indirectly define the border between Massachusetts and Rhode Island. The Merrimack River defines part of the border between Massachusetts and New Hampshire, which runs parallel to the river, three miles north of it (see Northern boundary of Massachusetts.)