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Monarch: Grand County's City of Atlantis
Monarch: Grand County's City of Atlantis

Monarch, now a picturesque lake for meandering around on a pleasant summer day, was once a bustling town, the home of the Monarch Consolidated Gold and Copper Mining and Smelting Company, and the rail head of the Rocky Mountain Railroad.  The life of this little company town and railroad was very short lived and now nearly forgotten. 

Boulder business men T.S. Waltemeyer, and Frank and Charles A. Wolcott heard about traces of gold, silver, and mostly copper at the junction of the Arapahoe Creek and the South Fork of the Colorado River.  In 1905 they established the Monarch Consolidated Gold and Copper Mining and Smelting Company and built their company on the assumption that a major belt of minerals extended east through the Continental Divide.  The Monarch Company consisted of several subsidiary companies including lumber companies, an "investment" company, an exploration company, and a development company.  The main objective of the company was to mine metal ores, but supplement it with timber and build a railway to benefit the whole corporation. 

The company had 1740 acres of placer and lode claims; the main mines were the Copper King, Copper Queen, Omaha, Ella C., and High Lonesome. The Monarch Company shipped heavy machinery by flatbed cars to Granby on the new Moffat Road.  They then put an ad in the paper asking for bids to haul heavy machinery 16 miles from Granby to Monarch.  The machinery included "5 boilers (eight and a quarter tons each), one engine (over eleven tons), one flywheel (6 tons), other machinery (from 1 to 5 tons), a carload of nails, and several hundred pounds of miscellaneous supplies."  The task of hauling the heavy equipment was made especially difficult by mud-holes and bridges not made for heavy loads.  Denver hauling companies refused to take on the job and one Swedish logging company from Wyoming abandoned the challenge after the first wagonload stuck in a mud-hole.

Finally Dick McQueary agreed to move the machinery.  To accomplish the job, McQueary purchased several hundred feet of hardwood planks in Denver, 3 inch thick, sixteen inches wide and twelve feet long.  Accompanying the heavy pieces up the mountain was a "4 horse team hauling hardwood plank, a 4 horse team pulling six inch pine poles, 10 feet long, and a four horse team pulling two ton large nails".   The crew built temporary bridges across mud-holes by laying pine poles 3 feet apart with hardwood planks laid across the poles.  2 light loads were driven across to test bridge followed by the heavy load pulled by 12 head horses.  Finally the planks and poles were pulled up to be used at the next mud-hole.  The heavy machinery was hauled in 2 weeks.

Construction on the Rocky Mountain Railway, a standard-gauge line from Granby to Monarch, began in 1907.  The 16 mile line was completed by Thanksgiving.  There were hopes of someday extending the line to Grand Lake for resort passengers and eventually a line to Walden in North Park.  The Denver and Northwest Railroad Company helped survey the line by lending J.J. Argo's services.  Dick McQueary was once again brought in to grade the road bed between the Monarch mill and Granby.  Most of the workers on the railroad were Japanese, Bulgarian, Hungarian, and Austrian day laborers from an employment agency in Denver.  The laborers were paid $2 a day, (plus a fifteen cent fee for their interpreter).

Once the railway was completed and in operation it issued passenger tickets.  However, the company never published a schedule.  Neither did the company hire a full train crew to run their single locomotive.  To meet regulations for switching service on Moffat tracks in Granby, the Rocky Mountain Railroad took on board a couple of interested bystanders.  At gates crossing ranch properties fireman Leo Algier would simply jump off the train to open the gate and close it after the train had crossed through before hopping back on the train.  Ranching families on the line were allowed to catch rides on the train when it passed through or to request package drop-offs. 

The Monarch Company created Monarch Lake by damming the valley, at the junction of Arapahoe Creek and South fork of the Colorado River, for use with the saw mill and the box factory. A 2800 foot long chute carried tree trunks down the hillside to the lake where they hit the water and could bounce up to 50 ft high.  Then a stern-wheel steamer pushed logs into a system of canals and flumes that led down to the saw mill and box factory. 

The town of Monarch included employee housing, business offices, a post office, and an assembly hall.  Dick McQueary helped haul sawlogs to mill and haul materials for building employee housing in Monarch.  Grand County's first hydro-electric generator was in Monarch.  The waterworks system was created by piping water from the falls at Mad Creek and had pressure up to 300 lbs per inch. 

Even thought the mining company never produced more than $150 a year, the owners continued to promote the business to stockholders and they were able to keep the business running by through their enthusiasm for the project.  During the summer, stockholders were invited to visit Monarch, tour the site, and hear lectures on the operation.  The tour often included a visit to a spruce tree named "Monarch" that was seven feet in diameter.  So, while business might not have been booming, enthusiasm and interest from stockholders was.  

The last piece of Monarch to be constructed was the box factory in 1907.  Unfortunately the factory only operated for 2 or 3 months before it suffered a fire and was totally destroyed.  Robert Black in Island in the Rockies stated that the questionable promotions of Monarch would have been forgiven if the box factory had developed into a solid operation. 

Soon after the fire, a disagreement between management and labor resulted in the entire work force being fired.  For several months the Rocky Mountain Railroad operated the train with one man who acted as engineer, fireman, brakeman and conductor. The company hired Dick McQueary as general manager until fall the fall of 1907 when stockholders discovered the true state of the company and declared bankruptcy.   Stockholders and the community were convinced that the whole company had been created as stock-selling scheme.

Although the Monarch Company and the Rocky Mountain Railroad were no longer in business, the railway continued to be used for a number of years.  For example, Ed McDonald, dude rancher, put a Cadillac touring car on flanged iron wheels to carry mail, supplies, and guests to his ranch.  The center of town was preserved and developed by the Dierks as a summer resort called Ka Rose, after Katherine Rose Dierks, after the owner's daughter.   In 1912 the rail line was used for transporting fisherman along the river by Ernest F. Behr, a former Colorado and Southern engineman.  Finally, in 1918 the rails were sold to a junk dealer in Denver to satisfy the World War I need for scrap metal. 

Currently, the town, mill site, and box factory lay under the waters of Lake Granby and are inaccessible, except in years of draught.  However, there are a couple of remaining pieces at Monarch Lake that are still visible.  On the south side of the lake, near the water's edge, is a boiler that was used to yard logs into a chute and shoots the logs into a holding pond.  Also, the flume still runs down the hillside into the lake.  The trail around Monarch Lake takes hikers directly under the flume.

Parshall
Parshall

The town-site of Parshall was part of the ranch homesteaded by Fred Dean in the 1880s. Before 1900 the ranch belonged to William Byers, founder of the Rocky Mountain News and town of Hot Sulphur Springs. In 1902 Frank Byers, son of William Byers, sold the ranch of 480 acres to Cordelia and Simon Parshall.   

Cordelia Parshall died on March 30, 1904, leaving the ranch to her son Clyde. In 1907 Clyde sold 60.6 acres of the northeast corner of the ranch to Alonzo F. Polhamus, a civil engineer. Polhamus dedicated the town plat to Grand County on July 26, 1907 and named it for his friend and the Parshall homestead. The original primitive store operated by Walter Dow was the drawing card for visitors. Parshall was the headquarters of the “Williams Fork Telephone Company,” a highly informal operation that is said to have transmitted its subscribers’ voices along barbed wire fences.

The town was never incorporated and today still has a bar and restaurant, a post office and a chapel, plus the Grand County Road and Bridge Dept. District 3 maintenance shops. Population varies seasonally between 75 and 90 people.

Edits and corrections to original posting by Don Dailey, 10-2021.

 

 

 

Radium
Radium

The settlement of Radium, on the north bank of the Colorado River in Gore Canyon, was established in 1906, when railroad construction of the Denver and Salt Lake Railroad brought in foreign workers, typically Swedes, Greeks, and Italians. After the rail lines were built, livestock was shipped out and vegetables such as potatoes, peas, and lettuce were grown and picked at the last minute so they could be shipped while still fresh.

Originally the land was homesteaded by the Murgrage and Hoyt ranch families. Railroad passenger service during the winter months was scheduled only three times a week each way but even then, couldn’t always get through. Nonetheless, the “Try Weakly Railroad” service was better transportation than anything residents had ever had before.

The name of Radium was suggested by Harry S. Porter because of the radioactivity found in his mine. The nearby Radium Copper Mine was a large copper producer at one time.

Maintainance workers for Union Pacific, current owners of the railroad, are still based at Radium.

Tabernash
Tabernash

The town of Tabernash was established in 1905 on the location of the old Junction Ranch. The name came from the Ute Indian, Tabernash, who was killed here in 1878 during a confrontation with a posse sent to stop the Indians from tearing down fences and racing their horses on the white mans newly "private" property.

In 1913 the locomotive terminal was relocated from Fraser to Tabernash by the Denver and Salt Lake railroad. When the Moffat Tunnel was completed, the need for the terminal diminished, but the community persisted with a ranching economy.

 

The Naming of Granby
The Naming of Granby

Granby Hillyer was born in Cartersville, Georgia on July 7, 1874. The third of six children, born of Shaler Granby Jr. and Lelia (Holloway) Hillyer, and the grandson of the Rev. Shaler Granby Hillyer, Sr. who was born in Granby, Hartford County, Connecticut. When Granby was 13 years old the Hillyer family moved to Washington, D.C. where Granby graduated from public high school. He then entered government service and at the same time studied at George Washington University, receiving a Bachelors of Law Degree. A postgraduate law degree was awarded in 1896 from Columbia University School of Law. He moved to Colorado in 1898 settling at Lamar (Prowers  County) launching a 40+ year legal career. On June 16, 1900 he married Miss Annie Creaghe, from a prominent southern Colorado pioneer family, and a daughter of an Apache County, Arizona sheriff. To this union were born 3 children St. George Creaghe, Granby Francis Ridgeway Jr., and Helen Edna Dolorine (Jane) later Mrs. Albert Hunt of Boston, Massachusetts.

Granby Hillyer was a member of the Republican Party. He served as Lamar City Attorney, Prowers County Attorney, and Deputy District Attorney. He was also affiliated with the Elks, Masons, Sons of the American Revolution, and Woodmen of the World fraternal organizations.

At 28 years of age, the citizens of Prowers, Baca and Las Animas Counties, elected Granby Hillyer to serve in the 14th Colorado General Assembly, House of Representatives, making him one of the youngest elected officials in state legislature history. He served one term from 1903-1905. During this tenure he plotted the streets at no cost for the Frontier Land and Investment Companies newest town on the Denver, Northwestern & Pacific Railroad (The Moffat Road). In doing so, Mr. Hillyer was honored by having the Town of Granby, Grand County, Colorado named for him.

Governor Carlson appointed Mr. Hillyer as the Third Judicial District Court Judge, at Trinidad, Colorado from 1914-1916. Her served as the United States Attorney for Colorado from 1922-1925. Afterwards he enjoyed a large private law practice in Lamar and Denver.

In 1928 at Lamar, Granby Hillyer was a speical prosecutor in the "Fleagle Gang Case".  On May 23rd, the First National Bank was robbed, resulting in the loss of four lives.  The case has been credited by the F.B.I. as the first robbery solved from a single fingerprint.

The Denver Post on July 21, 1931 page 9, reported "Granby Hillyer Is Disbarred By Federal Courts." In a decision reached by the United States Circuit Court of Appeals, predicated by a Colorado Supreme Court tribunal, of neglecting the interests of his clients in a number of cases.

Tragedy then struck the Hillyer family twice with the loss of St. George Creaghe in June 1932 and October 1933, Granby Jr. was killed in an automobile accident near Lamar. They both were attorneys. St. George and Granby Jr. were born 16 months apart and passed away 17 months apart. Both funeral services were held at the Immaculate Conception Cathedral in Denver, with the same set of pallbearers for both young men. They were laid to rest at Denver's Fairmount Cemetery. Their father Granby Hillyer, joined his sons on January 2, 1942, passing away at Denver Mercy Hospital, after suffering a heart attack at age 68.

The name Granby also comes from Great Britain, one of the original references was for the "Marquis of Granby," John Manners. A Member of Parliament from 1754 until his death in 1770, he also was a popular army officer and hero of the Seven-Year War 1756-1763, obtaining the rank of Lieutenant General. In 1766, he was named British Commander-in-Chief of the Army. John Manners once had his hat and wig shot off during a cavalry charge, thus leading to the British expression, "to go baldheaded at something." He had his office attacked by the pseudonymous political writer "Junius." The Marquis of Granby resigned most of his offices and died in debt.

Curiously, Granby Hillyer had an uncle and a brother named Junius.

Winter Park
Winter Park

The town of Winter Park was first settled in 1923 and incorporated in 1978. It came into existence as a construction camp during the building of the Moffat Tunnel. The west portal is located here, hence the original name of West Portal.

As early as 1929 hearty winter sports enthusiasts were getting off the regularly scheduled trains there to ski the trails that were being developed. Regular weekend service on a special ski train began in January 1938. That same year, the U.S. Forest Service gave permission to the City and County of Denver to develop land near West Portal for winter sports, constructing ski-tows and trails. Winter Park ski area was formally opened in 1940.

With the consent of postal authorities, West Portal’s name was changed to Winter Park to publicize the ski area.  Benjamin F. Stapleton, the mayor of Denver at the time, championed the cause of the name change to help publicize the winter sports of the area. The town has now grown into a classic resort town and the ski area management has been recently turned over to the Intrawest Corporation by the City and County of Denver.

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Logging

In the early decades of Grand County, lumbering was a key contributor to the local economy.  Logging was necessary as the principal source of building construction and also as the only available fuel.  When the railroad first made its way over Rollins Pass, the production of railroad ties became an important industry.  In the Grand Lake area, the brief mining boom of the 1880s created a steady demand for timber.

Some remains of log structures from abandoned logging camps were still evident late in to the 20th century. These include the Middle Park Lumber Company on St. Louis Creek (southwest of Fraser), an operation that had it's own railroad line into town.  In the same area, the independent logging settlements of Lapland and Stockholm date back to 1915. 

Above Tabernash was located the Deiler Mill, ten miles up Hurd Creek.  In 1910, the Western Box Company bought the mill and moved it to the head of Meadow Creek.  A box factory was located in Tabernash and the logs were floated down in a flume, thirteen miles long.  Mrs. Braddock was the "flume lady" at one time and would balance on a log while breaking up log jams on the trip downstream.....a task that required "great skill and derring-do". 

Other operations included Koppers Camp up Pole Creek (above Tabernash), Mr. Daves Mill at Hideaway Park and Bob Morrow's camp on Byers Peak.  Broderick Wood Products Company of Denver was a major purchaser of Grand County timber starting in 1930.  In 1939, Smokey Harrison founded the Timberline Sawmill at Kremmling.

A huge box making plant was built on a site now covered by Granby reservoir.  Its main supply point was a logging camp at southwest corner of Monarch Lake.  You can still see remnants of the logging machinery along the shore of the lake.  For a short time there was a branch railroad from Granby to the box factory, which later burned to the ground, In 1949, American Timber built a sawmill and log pond at Granby, west of the Highway 40 overpass.  The west end of the county was logged by the Kremmling Division of the Edward Hines Lumber Company.  Later, Louisiana Pacific built a wafer board plant in Kremmling but it closed in the 1980's.

The short growing and harvesting season created many challenges for the loggers.  According to Ed. "Jr." O'Neil, it takes over 100 years in Grand County to grow a tree big enough got a 35 foot telephone pole.  In contrast, it would only take 30 years to grow a similar tree in warmer climes.  There is still private logging activity in Grand County, most of it for the construction of luxury log homes.

Topic: Water

Onahu Creek

Onahu Creek was called Fish Creek and is a tributary of the North Fork of the Colorado River. The name refers to one of the Indian race horses who came up to a campfire to warm himself, and the name means “warms himself“.  The horse ultimately died on Fish Creek and gave his name to the waterway.

Topic: Skiing

Winter Carnivals

Carl Howelsen, a ski jumping champion in his native Norway, came to Denver to pursue a career as a stonemason in the early years of the 20th Century.  He amused himself and others by demonstrating ski-jumping in the foothills of Denver. 

In 1911, Howelson went to Hot Sulphur Springs, where he taught locals such as Horace Button the art of jumping.  Under Howelson's leadership, the first winter carnival west of the Mississippi Rover was held there on February 10-12.  According to the Middle Park Times, "Never before in the history of the Territory and State of Colorado has such an event even been contemplated, much less held!".

Norwegian immigrants Howelson, Angell Schmidt of Denver and Gunnar Dahles of Williams Fork (Grand County) all staged jumping competitions during the carnival.  There were also skating and tobogganing events and a Grand Ball.  Hot Sulphur Springs continued holding Winter Carnivals annually until World War II, when they were discontinued until the 100th anniversary celebration, called the Grand Winter Sports Carnival scheduled for December 30, 2011-February 11, 2012.

Ute Legends of Hot Sulphur Springs

Ages ago, there were many Ute Indians who enjoyed life in Middle Park with its plentiful game and lush meadows.  They lived in peace and harmony for "as many years as there are hairs on the head."

In spite of this idyllic life, there was one young brave who yearned for more adventure and material goods.  He proposed that the Utes attack the Sioux, who lived beyond the mountains on the plains of the rising sun.  As victors, they would return in glory with much wealth and many captives.

Spiquet Pah (Smoking Water) was an elderly medicine man who foresaw only grief in the prospect of such a war.  He spoke before a council meeting, warning of the devastation that such an action would bring upon the tribe.  He foretold " As the North Wind soon brings the snows and death of winter, so will he bring sorrow and death to our own people.....if you do this, strength and peace and plenty will be but for a few; joy will be seen no more."

Disregarding his warning, most of the young men were tantalized with the temptation of the grand adventure of such a conquest.  In the autumn of the year, when they usually did their hunting, the young men rallied behind the young brave and followed him over the Great Divide into combat with the plains people.  As the fighters departed, a saddened Spiquet Pah went into the heart of the mountain "and pulled the hole in after him."

The young Ute men found the enemy better armed and organized than they expected. Many Ute braves were killed and others were taken as slaves. The prophecy had come true as starvation and disease plagued the tribe as there were too few men to hunt for food. The old man sat on his haunches beside his subterranean fire which he heated water from an underground stream.  From the mountain at Hot Sulphur Springs, water flows even today as a reminder of the rash behavior of so long ago.

Another legend holds simply that the Hot Sulphur Springs water acquired medicinal qualities in answer to the prayers of an old chief who has be left by his tribe to die.  The old man built fires within the mountain, and after drinking the water and bathing in them, we was restored to health and rejoined his people.

Topic: Dude Ranches

Dude Ranches

Starting in the late 1870s, ranchers took in guests to supplement their income during hard times. Early adventure-seekers from the East made the long rail journey to the wilds of Middle Park in search of big game and unspoiled mountain scenery. With few accommodations available, travelers looked to frontier families for room and board. Ranchers soon discovered guests, or “dudes” as they came to be known, would pay to fix fences, ride horses, work cattle and sleep in tents....sometimes for an entire summer! Entertainment was eventually incorporated into the guest experience.

Located on the stage stop between Georgetown and Hot Sulphur Springs, William Z. Cozens was the first rancher in Grand County to provide room and board to travelers starting as early as 1874. The Lehman and Sheriff families also ran well-known turn of the century dude ranches. The years following World War I were the height of the dude ranch era. By the late 1950s, Granby had as many as ten guest ranches between Granby and Grand Lake with others scattered throughout the county. Today Grand County is still home to six dude ranches, which attract visitors from all over the world for their western charm, high-quality accommodations, horseback riding programs and superb fly fishing.

Joe on Melody, Joe and Dad in 4th of July Parade, Joe and Howard 4th of July Parade

4th of July Parades in Granby

Joe on Melody, Joe and Dad in 4th of July Parade, Joe and Howard 4th of July Parade

In 1947 my family moved to Granby, Colorado; I was 5 years old. My Mom (Eloise) and Dad (Howard, “RED”) Beakey, ran the Texaco gas station where the Chamber of Commerce parking lot now sits. I have a sister named Sandra Sue, who was 3 at the time.

In 1948 Mom and Dad bought me a mare named Midge, and that is the beginning of my joy of growing up in Granby. I rode Midge all over Granby and surrounding area. In the winter I would pull kids on their sleds and skis with a rope tied to the saddle horn. In the spring of 1949 Midge produced a filly foal that we named “Lady Blaze.” The following 4th of July Rodeo Parade, 1949, I rode on Midge and my friend, Howard Ferguson, rode behind me and led Lady Blaze in the parade. A local farrier had made lace up booties with metal bottoms for Lady Blaze so she wouldn’t damage her hooves while being led in the parade. You can imagine the sound of those booties hitting the pavement as we rode down Agate Ave., and the enjoyment of the crowd lining the parade route. At that time the rodeo grounds were in the area of N Ranch Road. The Granby Fire Department awarded me with a $3.00 check for being “The Most Typical Cowboy Under 12.”  I was totally amazed and still, at the age of 79, have that check!  I did give Howard $1.50 in cash, though, that day for his part.

The following year, 1950, Mom and Dad bought a Pinto filly from Tex Hill, the Foreman of the Little HO Ranch east of Granby. Tex rode the Pinto into the gas station office one day and asked my Dad if she was gentle enough for me. Dad said yes, and I became the proud owner of my second horse, which I named Melody. That year (1950) my sister, Sandra, rode Midge and my Dad rode his hunting horse, Spike, and I rode Melody in the Rodeo Parade. Prior to the rodeo Dad (who hadn’t ridden Spike in a long time) got bucked off into a pile of rocks and got pretty banged up. Sis rode up and asked Dad (who was laying on the rocks) “are you dead Daddy”?

Sis and I rode all over Grand County, riding along US 40 to 10 Mile Creek to fish the beaver ponds; we would be stopped several times to have our photos taken by the tourists. Tourists always seemed amazed to see little kids riding on horseback way out in the country.  We always brought home from our outings some nice Brookie trout. Sometimes we would ride out to The Little HO Ranch and spend a few days there with playing real live cowboys with Tex, while Sis would help his wife around the house.

In 1951 Tex Hill brought a full sister to Melody, named Patches, for Sis to ride in the parade, so, we rode side by side. That same year Eddie Linke Jr. asked me to ride his racehorse in the rodeo race. We went to the rodeo grounds several days for me to get used to the horse. Of course, the horse was not as gentle as Melody, so I fell off several times before getting use to him. The best part is that I did win the race, and was happy and proud riding Eddie’s horse.

In 1952 I once again rode Melody in the Rodeo Parade, which was sad for me as it was the last one, I attended before we moved away from Granby to Arvada.  Mom and Dad sold both the horses. I guarantee several tears flowed because of that.

One of the other great things I enjoyed was going to a cow camp in the summer. A friend of my parents, Rocky Garber took me to cow camp that was behind Trails End Ranch on Willow Creek Pass. We packed our supplies in on pack horses to a small log cabin. I was so excited to be a cowboy, moving cattle from one grazing spot to another, even getting covered with mud pulling a heifer out of a mud bog. The second time I went to cow camp was with my Dad’s cousin Louis “Newt” Culver, who in my mind was the greatest cowboy ever. The cow camp was below “Devils Thumb” east of Tabernash. It was a log cabin next to a creek and had corrals to keep horses. Once again, I loved the excitement of being a cowboy. We would go to the high meadows checking on the cattle and occasionally have to chase an ornery bull back to the herd. In the evenings Newt would train horses to be good cow ponies. When they were gentle enough, he would let me ride one while he rode another that he was training.

So, some of my greatest memories of my life are the years I spent in Granby and Grand County, not a better place for a kid to grow up! I graduated from Salida High School in 1961 and our family moved back to Granby. Mom and Dad had the Texaco Station in Fraser. I joined the Air Force in 1962 and retired after serving 26 Years.

By Joe Beakey - Poncha Springs April 2022

Topic:

Community Life

What was it like to live in Grand County in the 1800's or the early 1900's?  Click on the drop down menus and find out about community life in the “olden days.“

The Ute Legend of Grand Lake

A group of Utes were camping on the shores of Grand Lake when they were suddenly attacked by an enemy tribe of the Arapaho (and in some versions the Cheyenne as well).  As the brave Ute warriors began fighting, the women and children were hurried onto a large raft for safety and pushed to the middle of the lake.  As the battle continued, a treacherous wind overturned the raft and all the women and children were drowned. Many Ute warriors were also killed during the fighting. 

The legend holds that you can still see ghostly forms in the morning mist rising from the lake and hear the wailing of the lost women and children beneath the winter ice.  The Utes avoided the lake for many years because of these tragic events and evil spirits.

Topic: Water

Colorado-Big Thompson Project

The idea of diverting water from the Colorado River on the Western Slope of the Continental Divide to the productive farmlands of the eastern plains had been a dream of planners as early as 1929.  Subsequently,  a long period of drought and the sagging economy of the “Great Depression” whetted demands for what became the largest trans-mountain diversion project ever built.

The Colorado-Big Thompson Project takes water from Grand Lake on the western side of the Continental Divide to the Big Thompson River on the east.  The water flows through a 13 mile tunnel beneath Rocky Mountain National Park.  In order to supply the residential and farming needs of Northeastern Colorado, the project was begun in 1938 and continued through the years of World War II.  The first water flowed though the tunnel, named for Senator Alva B. Adams, on June 23, 1947.

In order to assure an adequate supply from Grand Lake, a dam was built creating Shadow Mountain Reservoir.  A larger lake, Granby Reservoir was then built below, with a unique pumping plant that forces water into Shadow Mountain.  The Farr Pumping Plant cost over $9 million and provides an additional 700,000 of irrigated land to northeastern Colorado.  Further reservoirs were added, both to supplement the diversion and to compensate the water needs of Western Colorado.  These include Willow Creek and Windy Gap Reservoirs in Grand County.

While most legislators were enthusiastic about the project, U.S. Representative Edward Taylor was vehemently opposed to the reduction of water flowing down the Colorado River.  A compromise was reached in the creation of Green Mountain Reservoir (on the Blue River), which reserves water to replenish the Colorado River.   The city of Denver later claimed upstream water on the Blue River for the massive diversion project of Dillon Reservoir

Claims on the water of the Colorado River range from the fruit and wine regions of the Grand Valley in Colorado all the way to Los Angeles and Mexico.  It can be said that every snowflake which falls in Western Colorado had already been over-appropriated, especially during drought periods in the arid West.

Topic: Water

Water from the Mountains - The Grand Ditch

 Though few, high altitude water ditches have had a major impact on Grand County's history and economy, there were many early valley ditches transporting this precious commodity from water-right sources to the owner's ranch. However, the threat of transporting great volumes of water from our county to Boulder County via high altitude ditches appeared back in 1889.  Certain interests east of the Divide talked the Legislature into appropriating $25,000, for surveying and developing a 20-mile-long canal over South Boulder Pass to South Boulder Creek.  Amazingly, neither Grand County residents nor very many others opposed this notion.  Luckily the state engineer found the terrain so difficult that not even $2000 was ever spent on the project.


The next effort occurred also in 1889.  This privately financed plan was to develop a two-branched canal system that would move 700 second feet of water to a half-mile tunnel just beneath Berthoud Pass at over 11,000 feet, thence down to Clear Creek and on to the Golden area.  Initial surveys were begun that fall and roads laid out the following year.  The effort bogged down but was resurrected in 1900 under the Agricultural Ditch Co., supplemented in 1902 with the Berthoud Canal Co.  The canal was partially completed by the Frank Church family ranching interests of Jefferson County by 1906.  The ditch, which can be walked today, runs from Second Creek to Berthoud Pass, though it no longer carries much water.  However, the Church Ditch water rights coming from Clear Creek still exist and today are owned by Northglenn.

Proposed in 1890 by the Water Supply and Storage Company of Fort Collins, a greater canal was to be built 1000 feet above the Kawuneeche Valley, that would tap the high tributaries of the North Fork of the Grand River, sending the water over Poudre Pass to a reservoir and then into the Cache La Poudre River and on to agricultural areas east of the Front Range.  The water company, later known as the Grand River Ditch Company, appropriated 525 second feet at the time of the initial diversion in 1892.  (When the Grand River was renamed the Colorado River in 1921, the company was changed to the Grand Valley Irrigation Company.)  The ditch was dug by hand, primarily by Japanese and Mexican laborers.  By 1900, water was flowing eastward.  

By 1906, this major canal, known as the Grand Ditch, and draining water from the Never Summer Range, had a capacity of nearly 358 second feet with 12 headgates within 8 miles, running from Baker Creek to the pass at 10,179 feet, plus a smaller canal carrying 183 second feet within 11 miles, coming from Specimen Mountain.  In 1936, using machinery, the ditch was lengthened to 14 miles.  The Grand Ditch is about 20 feet wide and 6 feet deep, though the water is rarely more than 3 feet deep, and this water irrigates some 40,000 acres in Weld and Larimer counties.

The National Park Service has argued against the allocation of all this water to the canal as it is needed to support plant life and animal habitat.  Becuase river water flow was cut in half, the immediate effect was a reduction in the fish population in the Colorado River.  More recently, a major washout in the ditch caused devastating damage to the slopes below the ditch and to the Colorado River itself.  Hikers climbing up from the valley use the Grand Ditch as a route to the high peaks and lake.  But as viewed from below, the Grand Ditch is often considered an ugly scar on the landscape.

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