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Cache la Poudre River National Heritage Area

Alpe at Lake Grandby spillway.

Women in Water: Alyssa Alpe

By Stories

Alyssa Alpe has been a student of history her whole life. It started in her early years where she grew up driving by Windy Gap reservoir, listening to her mother, a former Colorado State University Extension Agent on the North Platte Basin Round table in Jackson County, say that water was THE issue in Colorado.

When she started college, everyone questioned Alpe’s decision to pursue a history degree, unsure of the careers available for historians. But Alpe knew she, “loved researching in the archives to piece together a narrative that interpreted the story of the past,” and that passion would lend itself to her career somehow.

After graduate school, Alpe landed a job at a law firm where she discovered the world of records management, a profession focused on understanding records and making them accessible to others to tell a story or research an issue.

“It’s about being a ‘knowledge keeper’ and finding a way to communicate that knowledge to others,” Alpe said.

In 2015, Alpe was hired as a Records Data Analyst for Northern Water. Alpe has been with Northern Water for eight and a half years now and she has advanced in her career to the Records & Administrative Services Manager.

In the day-to-day, Alpe balances the managerial and Board of Director support roles along with the records and information management program. She can be found figuring out the best way to collect and store records, researching any number of topics like the origins of the Colorado-Big Thompson Project, or making plans for archival projects like digitizing collections to make them accessible. In the future, she hopes to add another job to her plate to work with the communications team to develop the public history components of their website.

“You have to have a bit of background on many issues,” Alpe said. “You don’t have to know everything, but you have to know a little bit about a lot.”

Q&A with Alyssa Alpe

Alpe at Lake Grandby spillway.

Q: What do you enjoy most about working with/studying water?

“The fact that it’s a constant state of learning. I don’t feel that you ever get to a point where you know everything about water because there is so much to learn. You’re constantly learning and that’s my favorite part.”

Q: What is the most challenging aspect of your job?

“It’s a challenge to keep up with the complexities of managing water in the United States and in our region. There’s been a real transition in terms of the institutional knowledge of folks that have retired during COVID-19 and moved onto different spaces of life. Transmitting that knowledge down the line to the next generation is a constant evolution. My hope is that through records and information management, that knowledge is accessible to our future selves 25 years down the line.”

Q: What has your experience so far been like being a woman in this line of work?

“Northern Water has modernized a lot since I started in terms of more diversity and women into this space. That’s been really encouraging to see. And I think further down the road we will have more and more of that. We have women in leadership roles across the organization which has been a shift from when I started 8 years ago. So, there is a legacy being built by women in these spaces that have historically been male dominated, and their voices will be preserved in our records for the future.”

Q: What’s a project you have worked on in this field that you are most proud of?

“When I first started with Northern Water, our former public information officer was working with a historian over at UNC, Michael Welsh, and he was writing a book along with the recently passed, former Colorado Supreme Court Justice, Greg Hobbs, who wrote prolifically about water in the west. They were working on the book Confluence: The Story of Greeley Water. We were able to dig into our records and give Michael these old newspaper clippings. He really appreciated that because we were able to give him pieces of information that contributed to this big project about the story of water in Greeley. I really loved that project because I got to work with Justice Hobbs before he passed and Michael Welsh as a historian.” 

Q: What or who has been an inspiration to you throughout your work experience?

“My number one mentor in all my life has been a former professor of mine, Heather Thiessen-Reily. She is a professor of history at Western Colorado University in Gunnison. She has done a lot of work with the National Park Service, working on public history projects. She has always been my inspiration because she is so driven. I am still connected with her, and she’s been a valuable person that I still go to if I have questions about something.”

Q: What is something you have learned about the water industry that you didn’t know before you started your role?

“It’s been hard for me to fully comprehend the prior appropriation system and how water is allocated because it is very complex. But it is also fundamental because it’s how we get water to our taps. I did not come into my role with Northern Water with a background in water. It’s been an evolution of learning and that’s the system that has been the most complex for me to learn, especially in terms of keeping the records and indexing with the appropriate terminology to be able to track back the history.”

Q: What advice would you give to other women that may want to get into this type of work?

“Be open to anything. You don’t know how that job will evolve. I didn’t think I would get into water when I left grad school and landed at a law firm working in records. I was just trying to navigate life after college. Be open to opportunities because it may not happen overnight, but eventually you do end up navigating your career towards what you want to do. It can get a little discouraging when you are trying to wedge your career into one path, and it’s not working out. But I believe all those experiences come together to make a package that will land you where you need to be, especially if you’re knowledgeable and passionate about things. Ask questions. And always be open to learning.”

“The other part of it is to be engaged with the public agencies, community organizations, your town, and other communities in the region that you may not know anything about. Learn about the region and its many histories, particularly if you are looking to work in the water industry in Northern Colorado.”

Just Add Water: Pre-settlement Water, Land, People Relationships in the Poudre River Valley

By Stories

The Poudre River’s recorded history, prior to gold seekers and settlers arriving in the late 1850s and early 1860s, is scarce.  There were fur trappers’ and explorers’ writings of the area, but these were very limited regarding the Poudre River.  It was during this period that the river obtained its name, but the exact reasons and timing are uncertain.  It is generally agreed that fur traders/trappers needed to stash some of their supplies (including gun powder – in French it becomes ‘Cache la Poudre’), for a short time, during the 1820s or 1830s, for some reason, and the river was named for this action. 

As gold seekers and settlers encountered the Poudre River Valley in the mid-1800s, I often wonder what they saw.  We know that the river today is not like the natural stream before it was adapted to support permanent settlement of large numbers of people.   

Before permanent settlement in the Poudre River valley, the river meandered in a shallow, braided fashion through the bottomlands.  Each spring, runoff flooded (i.e. ‘irrigated’) the valley bottomlands in such a manner that there was an excellent stand of native grasses growing across the valley floor from the mouth of the canyon to the mouth of the river, east of Greeley.  One place, open to the public, to visualize this low, flat, bottomlands is the Arapaho Bends Natural Area.  As you stand near the remains of the Strauss Cabin, you can gaze across the valley floor (removing Rigden Reservoir from visualization) toward the west and see the bluff with Ziegler Road on top.  Look east to the bluff where I-25 is now located with the town of Timnath on the east side of the interstate.  Looking upstream the valley widens as the Box Elder Creek enters the Poudre River.  Imagine the entire bottomland area covered with native grasses and trees growing along the river meandering through the valley. 

The lushness of grasses drew buffalo into the valley.  It becomes rather obvious why the Native Americans used the area to camp – food, water, fuel – all in abundance.  Just north of the Strauss Cabin, across the railroad tracks, is where the Council Tree was located.  Large numbers of Native Americans could camp in the vicinity to ‘Council’, as the early setters called Native American gatherings, – i.e. transact business, socialize, and conduct ceremonies – while living comfortably on the resources provided by the river. 

This lushness did not escape the attention of earlier settlers to the area.  George Strauss (1858) and Benjamin Eaton (1859), traveling through the area on other missions, noted the lushness and both returned to settle in the valley when their missions were completed.  The Coy family decided to over-winter in the valley on their way to California in 1862, but did not continue their trip when spring arrived.  The Valley is a beautiful place where many people, over the years, have chosen to settle. 

The Northern Arapaho, under the leadership of ‘Chief’ Friday, were the last band of Native Americans to live/visit the Poudre River Valley, being forced out in the late 1860s.  Before leaving, they requested a reservation on the north bank of the Poudre River, on which to live, but were denied.  Friday’s band eventually was assigned to live on the Wind River Indian Reservation in central Wyoming. 


References:

Silkensen, G. 1993. South Platte River Observations: Historical Clues to the Evolution of a River’s Ecology. Published in the Proceedings of the 1992 South Platte Conference, Information Series Number 72, Colorado Water Institute, Colorado State University, pages 41-56. http://www.cwi.colostate.edu/publications/IS/72.pdf

Simmons, Marc. 2004. Friday: the Arapaho Boy – a Story from History. Children of the West Series, University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque. 

Burris, Lucy. 2006. People of the Poudre: An Ethnohistory of the Cache la Poudre River National Heritage Area, AD 1500-1880. (Published through a cooperative agreement between the National Park Service, Friends of the Poudre, and the Cache la Poudre River National Heritage Area)

Just Add Water: Why is there a National Heritage Area associated with the Cache la Poudre River?

By Stories

The main answer to this question is WATER!  The Poudre River’s water history is not unique in the western U.S. – many western rivers have similar stories about human attempts to survive in arid and semi-arid western river valleys.

What makes the Cache la Poudre River worthy of designation as a National Heritage Area is the manner in which its water history is interwoven into the broader fabric of western water law and technology.  The Poudre River’s history, in many ways, is an illustrative microcosm of western settlement that captures the essence of the struggles people faced in living in the dryness that defines the West and, in particular, how they adapted to survive, and thrive, in the dry landscape.  And further, the Poudre’s history shows how people continue, to this day, to adapt to new challenges, such as improving the ecological health of the river and providing for recreation on, and in, the river.       

As historian David McCullough notes:

History is the story of people. 

Water history in the Poudre River valley is no exception.  The series of stories that follow explains the role of the people of the Poudre in establishing western water law, water development strategies, new water management technology, and initial recognition of the need to create a sustainable relationship with the limited water environment that exists in much of the West.  Again, this need continues today as the population of the Poudre Valley continues to grow rapidly. 

The people did not set out to establish new water law, create new technology to manage water, or determine how to divide the limited waters of western rivers.  They set out to survive in a dry and harsh climate. As the people of the Poudre adapted to the dry climate, their efforts were innovative enough to be of assistance and use to other western States and many foreign countries. 

Organizing and presenting a large sweep of western water history, if even in only one valley, can be daunting if the presentation focuses on each discipline’s (i.e. law, engineering, agriculture, etc.) evolutionary path.  The approach used here will chronologically follow the people of the Poudre, explain the water challenges they faced in their day, and describe the manner in which they solved each challenge.  The solutions they created for each challenge, when combined over time, will help to explain how we arrived, collectively, at the system of western water management in use today and why there is a National Heritage Area associated with the Poudre River. 

Water history in the West is, in very general terms, about subsistence in the 1800s (the frontier was deemed ‘closed’ in 1890), development in the 1900s (the Bureau of Reclamation was created in 1902 and is now managing 180 projects), and sustainability as the 21st Century dawns (as ecosystem health, instream flows and recreational uses are debated, acknowledged, and incorporated into water law).  This overarching framework provides a background against which the people of the Poudre lived their lives and confronted water challenges facing each generation. 

Read the first story.  


References:

‘The Story of People’

National Park Service. 1990. Resource Assessment: Proposed Cache la Poudre River National Heritage Corridor. Prepared by the NPS Rocky Mountain Regional Office at the request of the City of Fort Collins, December  [Appendix B of this report is entitled: Historical Context – The History of Water Law and Water Development in the Cache la Poudre River Basin and the Rocky Mountain West]  Report can be accessed at:  https://archive.org/details/resourceassessme00nati

Information Source: These stories were prepared by Robert C. Ward, a professor and administrator at Colorado State University for 35 years, to assist in training volunteers on the history behind designation of the Poudre River as a National Heritage Area. [In particular, the information permits water history-related sites along the Poudre River to be explained through the lives of people who adapted their use of water to match the semi-arid nature of the landscape.]

Just Add Water: What is a National Heritage Area?

By Stories

We see signs announcing the Cache la Poudre National Heritage Area when we drive across bridges over the Poudre River and along the Poudre Trail by irrigation ditches.  What is a national heritage area?  Why is there one along the Poudre River?  What does the heritage area encompass?

First, let’s define a National Heritage Area.  According to the National Park Service, that oversees National Heritage Areas:

National Heritage Areas are places where historic, cultural, and natural resources combine to form cohesive, nationally important landscapes.  Unlike national parks, National Heritage Areas are large lived-in landscapes. Consequently, National Heritage Area entities collaborate with communities to determine how to make heritage relevant to local interests and needs. 

In 1984, the first National Heritage Area, Illinois and Michigan Canal National Heritage Area, was signed into law by President Ronald Reagan. In his dedication speech, Reagan referred to National Heritage Areas as “a new kind of national park” that married heritage conservation, recreation, and economic development.

National Park Service. 1990. Proposed Cache la Poudre River National Heritage Corridor: Resource Assessment.

The Cache la Poudre landscape was examined by the National Park Service, in 1990, for consideration as a National Heritage Corridor.  This study was requested by Fort Collins and considered only that portion of the Poudre near Fort Collins.  The recommendations of the study suggested a broader definition of the area covered and, eventually, led to Congress, under the leadership of Senator Hank Brown, establishing the Cache la Poudre River National Heritage Corridor in 1996. 

Implementation of the legislation ran into problems regarding who appointed the Board to oversee the Heritage Area. This problem was not corrected by Congress until 2009.  A Management Plan was prepared in 2013 and the Cache la Poudre River National Heritage Area became a fully funded, and, thus, functioning, National Heritage Area at that time. 

The Cache la Poudre River National Heritage Area’s ‘landscape’ includes the 100-year flood plain of the river from, roughly, the mouth of the Poudre River Canyon, northwest of Bellvue, to the mouth of the river, east of Greeley.   National Heritage Area designation does not affect private property rights. 

References:

National Park Service. 1990. Proposed Cache la Poudre River National Heritage Corridor: Resource Assessment.  Study funded by City of Fort Collins. (https://archive.org/details/resourceassessme00nati) [Appendix B of this document is an excellent overview of the water history behind establishment of the Cache la Poudre River National Heritage Area.]

National Park Service

Information Source: These stories were prepared by Robert C. Ward, a professor and administrator at Colorado State University for 35 years, to assist in training volunteers on the history behind designation of the Poudre River as a National Heritage Area. [In particular, the information permits water history-related sites along the Poudre River to be explained through the lives of people who adapted their use of water to match the semi-arid nature of the landscape.]

The Cache Pass: Connect with the Community

By Cache Pass, Guest Blog, News

As a whole, the Cache Pass is a wonderful resource for locals and tourists to experience and electric mix of breweries, museums, and restaurants in Northern Colorado. The Cache la Poudre River National Heritage Area provides a beautiful backdrop to connect with regional history, natural areas, and businesses.

Site #1: 1883 Water Works

Upon a visit to the 1883 Water Works, guests take a journey into the past and discover how the facility began delivering locals’ most precious resource to an eager town in 1883. With every conversation, volunteers with the Friends of the 1883 Water Works exude a passion for preserving, restoring, protecting, and interpreting the architectural and cultural heritage of the beautiful property. It was an exciting opportunity to experience the site during the Big Splash celebration which commemorated the 140th anniversary of when the historic facility first delivered water to Fort Collins.


Site #2: Strauss Cabin

Beautifully situated between the Cache la Poudre River and Rigden Reservoir, the Strauss Cabin illustrates the trials and tribulations of the innumerable “seekers and settlers” of the region. Visitors, myself included, try to imagine what the original structure entailed for early homesteader, George Robert Strauss, and the many iterations it has undertaken since the 1860s. At present, the ruins of the Cabin juxtapose the fullness of nearby foliage and water features while prompting passers-by to consider how Fort Collins and the Cache la Poudre River corridor have changed over time.


Site #3: Morning Fresh Dairy

Since 1894, an absolute must-see for any visitors of the beautiful Pleasant Valley is Morning Fresh Dairy, a fifth-generation dairy farm owned and operated by the Graves family.  Locally sourcing all milk from cows in Bellvue, Morning Fresh features a myriad of delectable treats available for purchase at the Howling Cow Cafe coupled with the magnificent views of the rolling hills. During my afternoon at Morning Fresh, I enjoyed a cold glass of milk, soaked up the sunny skies, and explored the grounds of the Pleasant Valley Schoolhouse, conveniently located on the Farm’s property. For a truly well-rounded experience of the Cache la Poudre River Heritage Area, I would highly recommend Morning Fresh Dairy for a stop, sip, and the sights!


The Cache la Poudre River National Heritage Area provides a beautiful backdrop to connect with regional history, natural areas, and businesses for a one-time payment of $10. All that I have been able to explore with the Cache Pass has amounted to huge rewards in knowledge of the river corridor, discounts on beverages and admission fees, as well as an appreciation for my local community. Truly, there is no better way to check-in at and check-out participating businesses to redeem various deals and discounts along the Cache la Poudre River! 

A huge thank you to Linnea Wuorenmaa for the photos and write-up of this blog post!

2019 Annual Report Now Available!

By News

As we look back retrospectively at 2019, we realize what a wonderful and fun year it was for the Poudre Heritage Alliance and the Cache la Poudre River National Heritage Area.

This annual report celebrates so many significant accomplishments – educational programming, fun events, leadership within the Heritage Area, volunteer power, critical funds raised, and more! Then, as we moved into 2020, everything changed for so many of us in ways completely unforeseen.

This leads us to further appreciate the uniqueness of that 2019 journey to promote, engage and inspire people with the Heritage Area.

With this report, celebrate with us the achievements of 2019 that demonstrated the Poudre Heritage Alliance commitment to bringing our river legacy to life!

– Kathleen Benedict, Executive Director

 

Read the 2019 Annual Report

New Program: Study Outdoors, Learn Outdoors (SOLO) Field Trips

By News

The PHA’s new “Study Outdoors, Learn Outdoors” (SOLO) field trips provide students with the opportunity for a self-guided learning adventure within the Cache la Poudre River National Heritage Area. Local educators have developed active, engaging curriculum routes in Greeley and Fort Collins, providing students with a safe, educational experience by biking or walking routes on the Poudre Trail while answering place-based learning questions related to the Poudre River. Plus, the route curriculums align with Colorado academic standards. Current routes include:

We believe that the Cache la Poudre River is an engaging and inspirational learning environment. Together, we can continue to build our next generation of river stewards, even during a pandemic!

Calling all educators! Interested in learning more about SOLO field trips for your classes? Follow the link below or email Linden at programs@poudreheritage.org.

Virtual Poudre Pour Happy Hour – Sept. 25

By News

The Poudre Heritage Alliance (PHA) is hosting a virtual Poudre Pour Happy Hour – an educational celebration of the Cache la Poudre River – on Friday, September 25, 2020 from 4:00-6:00PM. The event will feature live stream music from Blues musician Grace Kuch, “Meet the Brewer” breakout rooms hosted by Horse & Dragon, Purpose Brewing, Timnath Beerwerks and Odell Brewing Co., infused appetizers to-go from Z Catering, a silent auction supporting PHA programs, guest speakers, giveaways, and more! Event information and FREE tickets at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/virtual-poudre-pour-happy-hour-tickets-117676819535

Water from the Poudre River has nourished our region for centuries. Today, the Poudre and other rivers in the West are under exceptional stress due to growing populations, drought, and other demands on our water supplies. The Poudre Heritage Alliance raises awareness about water issues and connects people to their water heritage through a variety of year-round programs and events such as the Poudre Pour.

“We care deeply about the Poudre River. I grew up playing in and on it, and only in adulthood came to realize how much we and downstream neighbors rely on its abundance and health,” Said Carol Cochran, owner of Horse & Dragon Brewing Company. “For our product, delicious craft beer, a healthy watershed is vital.  For all of us in our community, this beautiful river is at the root of what drew us here and is the thread that connects us all.”

All proceeds from the virtual happy hour event will benefit the Poudre Heritage Alliance, the 501(c)3 managing nonprofit of the Cache la Poudre River National Heritage Area. The Poudre Heritage Alliance works to PROMOTE a variety of historical and cultural opportunities, ENGAGE people in their river corridor and INSPIRE learning, preservation, and stewardship. To view the silent auction and place your bids visit: https://www.32auctions.com/poudrehappyhour2020 

The PHA’s 3rd Annual Poudre Pour was scheduled for March 28, 2020 but, due to COVID-19, had to be cancelled. The PHA staff and board hope to continue the momentum around the in-person Poudre Pour event with this virtual happy hour, bringing together community members from around Northern Colorado to celebrate our shared Poudre River heritage. The next in-person Poudre Pour is scheduled for Saturday, September 25, 2021 at Boardwalk Park in Windsor, CO.

Celebrate Success: National Heritage Area’s 2019 Impact Numbers

By News
Photo: The Cumbres & Toltec zooms along the tracks in the Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area in southern Colorado, one of 55 National Heritage Areas in the United States.

 

From the National Park Service – National Heritage Area’s blog:

National Heritage Areas are a grassroots, community-driven approach to heritage conservation and economic development. Through public-private partnerships, NHA entities support historic preservation, natural resource conservation, recreation, heritage tourism, and educational projects.

Check-out the NHA 2019 impact numbers:

In 2019, NHAs:

  • Leveraged $84.5 million in cash and in-kind support to carry out heritage projects and programs, greatly increasing the impact of the $19.3 million in federal Heritage Partnership Program funding received.
  • Engaged 2,674 formal partners and 5,286 informal partners in heritage area activities.
  • Benefited from 36,289 volunteers contributing over 475,511 hours for heritage area projects – a $12.3 million-dollar value.

Preserving our Heritage. Across the country, National Heritage Areas and their partners are reviving historic downtowns, preserving battlefields and industrial sites, and sharing our nation’s history through the arts. In 2019:

  • 214 historic sites and 13,840 acres of cultural landscapes preserved and maintained, including battlefields. •
  • 104 community development projects were carried-out, including streetscape improvement and art projects. •
  • 55 collections projects undertaken, including the conservation of artifacts and creation of oral histories.
  • 82 historic preservation grants awarded totaling $904,294.

Recreation and Conservation. Through recreational projects such as land and water trails, National Heritage Areas are improving connectivity and accessibility, creating more vibrant and healthy communities. In 2019:

  • 154 recreation projects undertaken.
  • 567 miles of trails maintained and 95 new miles of trails developed.
  • 72 recreation grants awarded totaling $1.2 million.

Conservation activities led by National Heritage Area entities and their partners improve air and water quality and support healthy ecosystems. In 2019:

  • 12,858 acres of land restored and maintained via invasive species removal, replanting and toxic site clean-ups.
  • 54 conservation grants awarded totaling $601,078.

Educating Current and Future Leaders. Through programs such as Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Heritage Area’s National History Academy. National Heritage Areas and their partners are providing meaningful and inspirational connections to our nation’s heritage and exploring the qualities and skills of leadership. In 2019:

  • Capacity-building assistance provided to 1,162 organizations.
  • 302 educational programs were offered.
  • 2,700 grants to support educational programs were awarded totaling $2.1 million.

To learn more about National Heritage Areas please visit: https://www.nps.gov/subjects/heritageareas/index.htm