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Bent's Fort, Photo by Richard Stenzel
Bent's Fort, Photo by Richard Stenzel

2006 Calendar

2006 Applegate CalendarThis calendar is the second 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. Applegate Group, in cooperation with the Colorado Foundation for Water Education, is pleased to share the 2006 Colorado’s Historic Water Projects Calendar with you.

Grand Ditch
In the 1880’s work began on the creation of a channel to divert water from the Grand River (later renamed the Colorado River) on the west side of the Continental Divide, and to deliver the water to the thirsty farms east of the mountains. Considered an engineering marvel at the time, the channel began sending water eastward in 1890 with 8 miles of ditch across a high mountain pass, dug by hand primarily by Japanese and Mexican laborers. By 1936, with the help of machinery, the ditch extended to 14 miles through the Rocky Mountain National Park. First called the Grand River Ditch, it was renamed the Grand Ditch after the name of the Grand River was changed to the Colorado River in 1921. The ditch is about 20 feet wide and 6 feet deep, although the water is usually no more than 3 feet deep. It runs east from Baker Creek, at an elevation of about 10,300 feet, to La Poudre Pass, at an elevation of 10,179 feet, From the La Poudre Pass, water flows into Long Draw Reservoir, where it released into the Cache la Poudre River, and finally to the Larimer Weld Canal near Fort Collins.
Chambers Lake
Chambers Lake was constructed in 1882. It is the large reservoir seen in the upper right portion of this photograph. The dam and reservoir is located in the upper Cache La Poudre River basin approximately 60 miles west of Fort Collins. When the reservoir was constructed it was the first large artificial reservoir constructed that was not a part of an existing natural lake. It was constructed as part of the North Poudre Canal system which irrigates farm lands located north of Fort Collins. It was needed to supply water for the canal system which otherwise would not have had water during the summer since the North Poudre Canal has very junior water rights. Also seen in the photograph to the left of Chambers Lake is Barnes Meadow Reservoir which is owned by the City of Greeley. The large white irregular shaped area just above Chambers Reservoir is Joe Wright Reservoir covered in ice. This reservoir is owned by the City of Fort Collins.
Vallecito Dam & Reservoir
As early as 1906, the development of the Vallecito Dam began with a need to supply the Pine River Valley, which is located approximately four miles northeast of Bayfield, Colorado, with late season irrigation water. The project was transferred from the Indian Irrigation Service to the Bureau of Reclamation for construction in August 1936. On February 11, 1937, the name of the dam was officially changed from Pine River Dam to Vallecito Dam Vallecito Dam is 162 feet high and 4,010 feet long. Vallecito Reservoir has a total water storage capacity of 129,700 acre-feet. The surface area of the reservoir at maximum capacity is 2,720 acres. Distribution of project water is through a series of privately owned ditches and canals, all of which were constructed prior to the construction of Vallecito Dam. Most of the ditches and canals divert water directly from the Pine River. There are nearly 200 miles of ditches and canals, and 150 miles of laterals throughout the region that are served by project water. Vallecito Dam was dedicated on September 14, 1941 and placed in operational status in early 1942.
Bents Fort
The first Anglo-American attempt at irrigation in Colorado, of which there is reasonably authentic information, was made by the Bent Brothers. Upon the construction of Bent’s Fort on the north bank of the Arkansas River, about midway between the present cities of La Junta and Las Animas, in the year 1832, a ditch was built taking water from the river for the irrigation of about 40 acres of land lying in a bend of the river and between the Fort and the north bank of the stream. This acreage was plowed and planted to corn, beans, squash and melons, cultivated and irrigated. According to the stories of the occupants of the Fort, the production was good, but the harvests were a failure. This was due to the fact that the tribes of Indians who congregated and camped near Bents Fort, during the growing season either purposely or inadvertently permitted their ponies to graze upon and destroy the growing crops. After a few years the irrigation project was abandoned.
Stagecoach Dam & Reservoir
Stagecoach Dam & Reservoir began construction in 1988. The water stored in the reservoir is decreed for irrigation, municipal and industrial, recreation and hydropower uses. The Stagecoach Dam and Reservoir is located in the Yampa Valley approximately 15 miles south of Steamboat Springs. The Ute Indians once called the area where the dam and reservoir are located Egeria, meaning “crooked woman” to describe the winding course of the Yampa River through the valley. Originally, the area was used for agriculture and coal mining. As the area prospered, stagecoaches passed through the area, over Yellow Jacket Pass which is now County Road 14 and delivered goods to Oak Creek and Steamboat Springs. Stagecoach State Park is centered around the 780-acre reservoir with a full-service marina. The Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District owns the dam.
Empire Intake Canal
The Empire Intake Canal diverts water from the South Platte River approximately four miles east of Kersey, Colorado and delivers water to the Empire Reservoir located approximately four miles west of Wiggins, Colorado. The Empire Intake Canal and Reservoir were approved for construction in 1905, however, water was not stored in Empire Reservoir until 1909. Unfortunately the outlet works for the reservoir were washed out that same year and had to be rebuilt. The Empire Reservoir releases water to the Bijou Irrigation Canal which irrigates over 19,000 acres of farm land.
Horsetooth Dam & Reservoir
Horsetooth Dam & Reservoir is an integral part of the Colorado-Big Thompson Project. The dam and reservoir furnishes the main water supply for the Poudre Valley. The reservoir runs north-south for approximately 6.5 miles and is located west of Fort Collins. It is approximately one-half mile wide. The reservoir is formed behind the Dakota Hogback ridge and is made up of four large earth fill dams: Soldier Canyon, Dixon Canyon, Spring Canyon and Horsetooth. Horsetooth Dam closes the northern end of the valley. The reservoir was constructed in 1949 and is currently managed by the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District. Together with Carter Lake and the Boulder Reservoir, it serves as one of the three principal reservoirs that store water that is diverted eastward over the continental divide from the headwaters of the Colorado River. The first water flowed to the reservoir on January 10, 1951. The reservoir is a primary source of municipal water for Fort Collins and other communities in the region, as well as for irrigation in the South Platte River valley. The reservoir takes its name from Horsetooth Mountain, a summit in the foothills west of the southern end of the reservoir.
Mt. Elbert Forebay
The Mt. Elbert Conduit conveys project water from Turquoise Lake, which is located west of Leadville, Colorado, to the Mt. Elbert Forebay. Water delivered to the Mount Elbert Forebay is used for the generation of power in the Mt. Elbert Pumped-Storage Powerplant. Mt. Elbert Forebay occupies a saddle on a ridge above Twin Lakes Reservoir. An outlet channel from the southeast corner of the Mount Elbert Forebay reservoir connects to the inlet-outlet structure for the Powerplant. The Mt. Elbert Pumped-Storage Powerplant is on the north shore of picturesque Twin Lake, approximately 13 miles southwest of Leadville, Colorado at the foot of 14,433-foot Mt. Elbert, Colorado’s highest mountain peak. To supplement the flow-through water received from Turquoise Lake through the Mt. Elbert Forebay and Conduit, the generators of the Powerplant have been designed to operate in reverse, pumping the same water back to refill the Mount Elbert Forebay. This pump-back storage principle is advantageous since the generating units can be started quickly and adjustments of power output can be made rapidly to respond to varying patterns of daily and seasonal power demands.
Sweet Jessup Canal
The Sweet Jessup Canal diverts water from the Crystal River south of Carbondale, Colorado. The sixteen-mile long canal was constructed in 1902 to irrigate lands located high above the Crystal River. Irrigation water is delivered by a series of canals and pipelines located high on a ridge above State Highway 133 and then is delivered through two large inverted siphons which delivers the water across two valleys. In order for an inverted siphon to work the level of the water on one side of the valley must be higher than the water at the other end. The water in the siphon falls to its lowest point in the siphon. The fall generates pressure in the pipe which causes the water to be forced up the pipe to the other side of the valley where the water continues down the irrigation ditch. The water in the Sweet Jessup Canal is delivered to the Crystal River Ranch to irrigate the pasture grasses and the hay meadows of the ranch. Mount Sopris is seen in the background.
Bridal Veil Power Plant
This hydro-electric generating plant was built in 1904 to supply power to the Smuggler Union Mine which was located near Telluride, Colorado. Water is delivered from Blue Lake by a pipeline to the generator. The generator output is 2,300 volts, which is stepped up to line level by a transformer to 12,470 volts. The power plant still operates and is also known as the Bridal Veil Power Plant. The power plant is currently privately owned. The generator is located in the basement of the building and is not available for public view. The water that is delivered through the generator exits to the left side of the building as shown in the photograph. Bridal Veil Falls, shown on the right side of the building, tumbles over 400 feet, and is the tallest free falling waterfall in Colorado.
Water Wheel Ranch
This water wheel is located near State Bridge north of Wolcott, Colorado on the Colorado River. Water wheels were needed to avoid long diversion ditches and in areas where irrigation diversion structures were difficult to maintain. By using a water wheel irrigators, also avoided having right of way problems. This water wheel is unique in design, with a hollow rim that is segmented to fill as individual buckets from side holes. The water is then dumped into a tub at the top of the wheel where it runs into a pipe that carries water up to an irrigation lateral. Prior to the pipe being installed, a trestle flume carried the water across the valley to the ditch. This wheel was listed as a historic structure for the 1976 Colorado Centennial and can still be used. Today the owners normally use a hydraulic pump to divert water for irrigation.
Rio Grande Canal
The Rio Grande Canal was constructed by T.C. Henry in 1884 to divert water from the Rio Grande River near Del Norte, Colorado. The ditch is eighty feet wide on the bottom and one hundred and ten feet wide on the top, carrying about seven feet of water and having a grade of about seven feet to the mile for the first few miles. It was the largest canal in the United States so far as the carrying capacity is concerned at the time it was constructed. The Imperial Canal and the All American Canal in California had not been built at the time it was constructed. There are about fifty miles of main channel. It carries something more than 2,400 cubic feet of water per second, and irrigates over 200,000 acres. An amazing fact in the construction of this canal was how fast it was constructed. The entire main canal was constructed within a period of four months. More than 1,400,000 cubic yards of material were excavated to form the channel and between 4,000 and 5,000 laborers and 1,200 teams of horses using slip scrapers were used in its construction. T.C. Henry, in association with the Travelers Insurance Company, was involved in the construction of 12 of the largest irrigation ditches that were constructed in Colorado.
Lemon Dam & Reservoir
The Lemon Dam stands 284 feet high with a crest length of 1,360 feet and stores water from the Florida River. The dam & reservoir are located approximately four miles northwest of Bayfield, Colorado. Lemon Reservoir is approximately one-half mile wide and three miles long with a maximum water surface area of 622 acres. Both the Lemon Dam and Reservoir were completed in December 1963. The water released from Lemon Reservoir is used by the Florida Canal and Florida Farmers Ditch for the irrigation of 12,500 acres of land. Several other small ditches also take delivery of the water for the irrigation of 1,250 acres of farm land.