Apple Gate

Upper Black Lake, Photo by Richard Stenzel

2005 Calendar

 This calendar is the first in a series of historic project calendars that Applegate Group has distributed since 2005. Applegate Group believes that water is Colorado’s most valuable resource and it is important that we all know the history of Colorado’s water project developments. The importance of obtaining a water right in Colorado for beneficial purposes has been recognized since the late 1800’s.

Far View Reservoir
Located at Mesa Verde north of the Far View ruins, is a doughnut shaped depression that was constructed around 750 A.D. as a water storage vessel. This is the oldest example of how humans utilized the very limited water supply that exists in Colorado Its outside walls are made of stone and mud mortar. A mile long ditch collection system was constructed to fill the reservoir. Small ditches converged to feed this larger ditch. The top of the reservoir walls are approximately 8 feet above the bottom of the pond, but studies indicate that water stored in the reservoir was never deeper than five feet. The reservoir diameter is 90 feet. The reservoir served as a domestic water supply for the nearby Far View Village and the immediate surrounding area. This structure was originally called Mummy Lake. The lake was renamed the Far View Reservoir in 1999. Several other historic reservoirs have also been found in the Mesa Verde area.
San Luis Peoples Ditch  Diversion Structure  and Head Gate
This photograph is taken looking downstream on Culebra Creek at the concrete diversion structure of the San Luis Peoples Ditch. The head gate of the ditch is on the right side of the concrete diversion structure in this photograph. The ditch, which was constructed in the spring of 1852, is the oldest continually used irrigation ditch in Colorado. It diverts water from Culebra Creek near the town of San Luis. The ditch was constructed by settlers who came from New Mexico. The Water Court decree gave a water right appropriation date of April 10, 1852, which was when digging began. This ditch was constructed six years before the first gold discoveries were made near Denver. Each farm under the ditch had equal shares of arable lands, pasture and wasteland. Irrigation facilities were cooperative enterprises. The Spanish American canals irrigated small plots of land and were narrow and short. Annually, those who lived under the ditches elected one of their own to serve as the ditch superintendent to keep the ditch in repair and to distribute the water equitably among the settlers.
Cheesman Dam
Cheesman Dam and Reservoir was named for Denver water pioneer Walter S. Cheesman, who was also President of the Denver Union Water Company. The dam was constructed on the South Platte River six miles southwest of Deckers, Colorado. The dam was designed and constructed in less than five years. This year is the 100th anniversary of the completion of the dam in 1905. The dam is a gravity arch masonry dam made of squared granite blocks. When it was built, it was the highest gravity arch stone masonry dam in the world. The dam stands 221 feet above the streambed. The crest length is 670 feet without the spillway and 1,100 feet including the spillway. The reservoir and related facilities were purchased in November 1918 by the Denver Water Board. Cheesman Reservoir was the first reservoir of Denver’s mountain storage facilities. The reservoir storage capacity is 79,064 acre feet. The dam was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1973 by the American Society of Civil Engineers.
Crystal Mill
This structure was constructed near Crystal City in 1893 to power a large air compressor. The mill is one of the most photographed sites in Colorado. The mill contained a horizontal wooden water wheel. The water wheel was located in the penstock, which is the structure that looks like a ladder reaching down to the river in this photograph. The water wheel was turned by two one inch water jets located at the base of the penstock shaft. The water wheel was attached to a steel driveshaft that went up to the gear house located on the front of the building. A wide leather belt connected to the gears then went to an air compressor located in the main building. The compressed air was delivered across the river to the mine located on Sheep Mountain by means of a 3-inch iron pipe. The compressed air powered air drills used in the mines and provided ventilation in the mines. The water wheel also powered a stamp mill which was located where the debris is seen to the right of the structure. The stamp mill contained three large timbers that were tipped with iron. They were raised and dropped to crush silver ore, and were also powered by a 12 leather belt that came from the gear house. The mill operated sporadically until sometime in the 1920s. The structure never had an electric generator.
Government Highline Canal System near Grand Junction
This photograph shows the Government Highline Canal near Palisade, Colorado with the Book Cliffs in the background. The canal is constructed on the west and north side of the Colorado River near Grand Junction and Palisade. It extends from the Grand Valley Diversion Dam, which is located 8 miles northeast of Palisade. This concrete weir is 14 feet high and 546 feet long. Flow over its crest is controlled by six roller gates. These gates were the first of their type designed in the United States. Approximately 4.6 miles below the main diversion, water for the Orchard Mesa Diversion is diverted from the canal. From the Orchard Mesa diversion, the Government Highline Canal runs parallel to the river westward, distributing water to laterals of the Garfield Gravity Division. Water also is furnished to 8,580 acres in the Mesa County and Palisade Irrigation Districts which were served by private facilities prior to project construction. The Government Highline canal runs southwest for a distance of 55 miles. The Grand Valley project has a capacity of 1,675 cfs, which includes 800 cubic feet per second for the Orchard Mesa Power Canal. The remaining flows are distributed through the Government Highline Canal and Price-Stubb Pumping Plant. The Price-Stubb Pumping Plant is on the canal near Tunnel No. 3 Outlet at the east end of the Grand Valley. It lifts 25 cfs of water 31 feet to the Stubb Ditch to serve land of the Mesa County Irrigation District. Power is provided to the hydraulic pump by water in the Price Ditch that is being delivered to the Palisade Irrigation District.
Great Cut Ditch
In 1873, modern development began in southwest Colorado when the Federal Government opened the nearby San Juan Mountains to mining. In the early 1880s, settlers moved into the Montezuma Valley near what today is the City of Cortez. These early settlers began farming the land but soon realized that to ensure good harvests they needed more water than was available from the small streams in the Montezuma Valley. To meet this need, they built irrigation canals that conveyed water from the Dolores River to the fertile but dry valleys in the San Juan River Basin. The canals they constructed included the Great Cut Ditch. The canals helped, but they carried too little water and shortages still plagued the farmers and residents. The Dolores Project was proposed in partnership with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to ensure an adequate supply of water was available to meet both the existing and future agricultural and municipal needs. McPhee Reservoir was created with the construction of McPhee Dam and the Great Cut Dike, which was located in the saddle on the Dolores-San Juan Divide. The reservoir has a total capacity of 381,195 acre-feet. McPhee Dam, located on the Dolores River, was constructed as part of that Delores project. An integral part of the McPhee Dam and Reservoir is the Great Cut Dike, which can be seen in the background in this photograph. It is a rolled earthfill structure with a crest length of 1,900 feet and crest width of 30 feet. It has a maximum height of 64 feet above original ground surface. The embankment has a volume of about 189,000 cubic yards and was constructed at the site of the original Great Cut Ditch that was created by the early settlers.
Gunnison Tunnel
This photograph shows the Eastern Portal of Gunnison Tunnel and its diversion structure on the Gunnison River which is located upstream of the boundary of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Monument . In 1890, F.C. Lauzon conceived the idea of building a tunnel from the Gunnison River to the Uncompahgre Valley. The Colorado Legislature was approached about assisting in this project and in 1901, $25,000 was set aside for the construction of the tunnel. That same year, Frederick Newell allocated $4,000 to survey the tunnel and canal location. The Geological Survey mapped the region as well as conducted several additional surveys, including the geologic structure of the tunnel route. The State of Colorado started construction on the tunnel in the fall of 1901, but the project was abandoned due to lack of funds. The project was made possible in 1902 when U.S. Congress passed the Reclamation Act which allowed the farmers and water users to pay back the project over a long period of time interest free. The funds for the project were allocated by the Secretary of the Interior and the site was designated as one of the first projects of the Reclamation service, now known as the Bureau of Reclamation. Construction of the tunnel began again in early 1905, and it was finished in September 1909. It was one of the largest tunnel projects to be attempted at the time; 11 feet wide by 12 feet high and stretching almost six miles through hard rock, clay, sand, and shale. There were many dangers to face in the construction of the tunnel. The tunnel was steamy and hot because of hot water seepages and underground streams often flooded the tunnel. The tunnel provides approximately 640,000 acre–feet of water annually to the Uncompahgre Valley Water Users Association and irrigates approximately 80,000 acres.
Hanging Flume of the San Miguel River
A few miles northwest of Naturita, along State Highway 141, the remains of the hanging flume are visible. The flume was started in 1888 and finished in 1891. The hanging flume was 13 miles long. It diverted water from the San Miguel River by means of a ditch that was then connected to the hanging flume that was built along the Dolores River. It was constructed for use in a now defunct placer mining operation. Today the 4-by-6-foot structure is nothing but skeletal pieces that hangs 150 feet above a slickrock canyon. A total of 1.8 million feet of lumber was used to construct the Hanging Flume. In order to construct the flume the lumber was let down in bundles by a cable controlled by a winch. The lumber was lowered from the top of the cliffs to the flume bed. It took three years to build it and it only operated for three years before the mining operation ceased. Recently the structure has been studied by historians, engineers, archaeologists and climbers. Without immediate stabilization, this unique mining structure will be lost forever. In 2003, the Western Colorado Interpretive Association received a $111,696 grant from the Colorado State Historical Fund to document the flume's history and develop a plan for its preservation.
Home Supply Irrigation  Dam
On March 3, 1895 the Home Supply Irrigation Dam was constructed on the Big Thompson River west of Loveland. It was designed in 1894 by John H. Nelson. He was a self taught engineer who did not have the benefit of any college education. He always had aspirations of being an engineer and while he farmed for his father he used the money he earned to purchase text books from Yale and Harvard. He studied while working in the fields. The dam which is 60 feet high was made out of dressed sandstone blocks weighing up to 2000 pounds which were set in concrete mortar. The dam was made as an arch dam which was the first of its type in the West. The structure was considered an engineering landmark. The sandstone blocks were placed in such a manner that floodwater pressures are transferred to the solid rock walls on both sides of the canyon. It was built at a cost of $11,000. In 1986. the dam was dedicated as a Colorado Civil Engineering Historical landmark. The dam serves as a diversion structure that is the source of water for the Home Supply Irrigation Ditch and also the City of Loveland.
Michigan Ditch
The Michigan Ditch is a transmountain diversion located at Cameron Pass. It diverts water from the Michigan River into the Cache La Poudre River Basin. The ditch can be seen in this photograph as the horizontal line below Sawtooth Mountain. It is also visible from the west side of Cameron Pass when driving along Highway 14. Construction of this ditch began July 10, 1902. It was constructed by William Rist and John McNabb. They sold the rights of the ditch to the Mountain Supply Company in 1906. The ditch was again sold to the North Poudre Irrigation Company on 1908 along with Joe Wright Reservoir. The North Poudre Irrigation Company extended the ditch to Agnes Creek in 1924. A second extension of the ditch included the use of 2,000 feet of wood stave pipe in 1930. Some of that pipeline is still in use today, but portions have been replaced by plastic and steel pipe. In 1971, the City of Fort Collins acquired the ditch and Joe Wright Reservoir. The ditch had fallen into disrepair operable only between the Michigan River to the pass. The City began rebuilding efforts in 1973, which included building a roadway between the Agnes diversion and the Michigan River. They also put in new diversion structures and improved the transmountain diversion system.
Trout Lake
Trout Lake is located near Lizard Head Pass on the Trout Fork drainage of the San Miguel River southwest of Telluride, Colorado. The lake serves as one of the water sources for the Ames Hydro Power Plant. The Ames Hydro Power Plant played an important role in the history of electricity. The Ames Hydro Power Plant, located near Telluride, was the site of the first commercial alternating current power plant in the world. Lucien Nunn originally needed the power for his Gold King Mining Company ore processing mill. Working with George Westinghouse, they applied the alternating current theories of Nikola Tesla to generate electricity. The power plant was completed in 1891 and transmitted 3000 volts a distance of three miles. In 1894, the Ames power plant was furnishing power to all mines in the Telluride area. With this success Lucien Nunn formed the Telluride Power Company. That company eventually serviced more than twenty towns in Colorado, Idaho, Montana, and Utah. The Ames plant became owned and operated by Xcel Energy in 1992.
Twin Lakes Tunnel
The Independence Pass Transmountain Diversion System was constructed in the 1930s to serve land irrigated by the Colorado Canal in Crowley County in the Arkansas Basin. The collection system is located in the headwaters of the Roaring Fork River. Water is diverted into Grizzly Reservoir, which is located in Lincoln Gulch. From Grizzly Reservoir, the water flows under the Continental Divide through the Twin Lakes Tunnel (a.k.a. Independence Pass Tunnel No. 1) into the North Fork of Lake Creek. The water is delivered to Twin Lakes Reservoir in storage space owned by the Twin Lakes Reservoir and Canal Company. The Company also holds water rights for water native to the Arkansas River Basin. Diversions through the Twin Lakes Tunnel began on May 24, 1935. Fifty-four percent of the Twin Lakes Reservoir and Canal Company is owned by the City of Colorado Springs. The remaining shares are held by the Pueblo Board of Water Works, Pueblo West, City of Aurora, and a dozen smaller users. The Twin Lakes Tunnel is circular concrete lined and 8.5 feet in diameter. The tunnel is about four miles long and has a capacity of 625 cfs. The Twin Lakes Tunnel is "as straight as a rifle barrel”. When the tunnel is shut down you can stand downstream of the gates at the western portal and see the pin prick of light from the eastern portal, four miles away. During the winter when snow closes the road between the caretaker's house at Grizzly Reservoir and the Town of Aspen, the caretaker can open an access door and drive through the tunnel to get their groceries and mail in Leadville.