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9 Reasons to Visit Fort Collins this Summer: Guest Blog

By Guest Blog, News, Uncategorized

April 18, 2024 by Visit Fort Collins

Whether you’re in Fort Collins for a weekend or two weeks, it’s nearly impossible to explore all of the trails, lakes, rivers, and streams in the surrounding foothills and mountains, so if you only have time to explore a few, we suggest experiencing Horsetooth Reservoir and the Cache la Poudre River.

Horsetooth Reservoir is one of Colorado’s most scenic outdoor utopias and it is located just minutes from the heart of Fort Collins. The reservoir also has quite the story of how it acquired its name from the distinctive rock formation that sits above the large body of water. There is an old Native American legend regarding this famous stone. The Valley of Contentment (today’s Horsetooth Reservoir) was once guarded by a giant so that no buffalo, deer, or antelope were hunted in the valley. Chief Maunamoku led Indians to slay the giant. In killing the giant, the Chief slashed at his heart, first in the center, then on the right, and then on the left with a tomahawk from the heavens. The next day the giant turned to stone and is now known as Horsetooth Rock.

Today, the 6.5-mile-long reservoir is a beloved recreation spot for activities such as fishing, swimming, boating, stand-up paddleboarding, sailing, water skiing, hiking, and camping. There are tons of miles of trails surrounding the reservoir for mountain biking, horseback riding, and hiking. The east side of the reservoir is one of the best spots in Colorado for bouldering. Horsetooth Reservoir is open year-round and includes RV spots, campsites, and cabins, managed by Larimer County Natural Areas. If camping isn’t your forte, you are welcome to relax in one of the condos or bed & breakfasts in the area and you can rent a boat, kayak, SUP board, and more at the local marina.

The Cache la Poudre River Canyon truly is something to behold. Surrounded by magnificent cliffs and captivating rock formations, encased in ponderosa and lodgepole pine trees, sagebrush, mountain mahogany, and aspen – the canyon is nothing short of a wonderland. The Poudre River also happens to be Colorado’s only nationally designated “Wild & Scenic” river. Colorado Highway 14, the road which follows much of the river, is a designated Colorado Scenic and Historic Byway as well.

2. SUMMERTIME FESTIVALS AND EVENTS IN FORT COLLINS

Fort Collins plays host to some of the greatest festivals and events in the state of Colorado each and every year. Enjoy summertime events celebrating everything great about our town from craft beer to bikes to music and food. See Visit Fort Collins’ event blog and calendar here.

3. FORT COLLINS AS A WELLNESS TRAVEL DESTINATION

Wellness is a way of life in Fort Collins and our city facilitates many opportunities to treat yourself right while visiting. Enjoy all kinds of outdoor recreation from outdoor yoga to hiking to kayaking. Summertime in Fort Collins additionally offers amazing running events to participate in. For passionate cyclists, The FoCo Fondo offers many biking events that provide for both heart-healthy exercise and opportunities to explore beautiful Northern Colorado.

4. FOURTH OF JULY FESTIVITIES

The 4th of July celebration in Fort Collins is a sight to behold, with events happening all around town, there are ways to celebrate all day long. Enjoy family-friendly celebrations such as the annual parade that rolls through the historic streets of Old Town traveling east on Mountain Avenue, beginning at Jackson Avenue and ending at Meldrum Street. After that, enjoy a day of live music, food, and vendors at City Park as the night culminates with a spectacular firework show in Fort Collins’ oldest recreational park.

5. OUTDOOR LIVE MUSIC

Celebrating music, musicians, and providing opportunities for visitors and community members to take part in the music scene is a big part of the Fort Collins culture. Summertime is outdoor live music season and on any given weekend, and often weekdays, you will find live music in Fort Collins. Venues like The LyricWolverine Farm Publick House, and our craft breweries frequently host outdoor live music events.

6. NEW BELGIUM BREWING’S TOUR DE FAT

The slogan for this annual costumed bike and beer parade festival says it all: Bikes, Beer, and Bemusement. Get out and have a ball at this eccentric festival hosted by New Belgium Brewery on August 24th. This is your chance to ride your bicycle in your best costume from Old Town to City Park while enjoying a day full of wacky carnival fun, live performances, and delicious New Belgium Beer. Welcome to the home of New Belgium – Fort Collins, CO.

7. HIKE THE AMAZING TRAILS OF FORT COLLINS

HORSETOOTH FALLS

Located in the gorgeous Horsetooth Mountain Open Space, Horsetooth Falls is truly one of the most family-friendly hikes you can find in and around Fort Collins. It’s a little less than 2.5 miles roundtrip and rated as easy to moderate skill level. There is beautiful scenery all around this trail, from open meadows to green wild grass and beautiful wildflowers with the payoff of a waterfall at the end, this hike is truly spectacular. Pack a lunch and have a picnic when you get to the waterfall and go ahead and dip your feet in the water, and if you really want, you can cool down and dip your head under the falling water as well.

ARTHUR’S ROCK

Set with the stunning natural background of Lory State Park, Arthur’s Rock offers some of the most magnificent views of Horsetooth Reservoir and the city of Fort Collins. Arthur’s Rock is a very short drive from Fort Collins and is also a relatively short intermediate hike. This approximately two-mile trail bends through open meadows and brilliant mountain views on the way to the summit of Arthur’s Rock, which ascends to an elevation of 6,780 feet. The hike does gain in elevation quickly, which means it’s climbing up on the way to the top and shooting down on the way back to the bottom. There is also a fantastic natural stairway leading you to the top of the rock which provides a perfect setting for a picnic if you pack a lunch.

HORSETOOTH ROCK

Views upon views upon more spectacular views describe this hike in a nutshell. There is an incredible feeling that overcomes you when standing atop Horsetooth Rock while staring down into beautiful Horsetooth Reservoir. Just as impressive is the opposite view of the rolling hills to the west. Not to mention, Horsetooth Rock is one of the more unique rock formations you’ll ever come across. There truly is nothing that looks quite like Horsetooth Rock. This hike is 5 miles roundtrip and is a moderate skill level hike.

GREYROCK

This fantastic hike resides in Cache la Poudre River Canyon and is less than 20 minutes from Old Town Fort Collins. This moderate skill level hike has two trail options: the Meadows trail (approximately 7.4 miles roundtrip) and the Greyrock Summit trail (approximately 5.5 miles) with both offering stunning views equipped with ponds that live atop the summit of the rock. The elevation gain on this hike is nearly 2,000 feet with the summit sitting at 7,480 feet. This hike is definitely a bit of a challenge that comes with a little bouldering toward the end. But the payoff is worth it as it offers outstanding 360-degree views of Poudre River Canyon.

8. RIDE YOUR BICYCLE

Biking might be the best way to get to know Fort Collins. The city boasts a reasonably flat terrain, extremely wide bike lanes, and trails that follow the Cache la Poudre River and Spring Creek. Plus, biking is an enjoyable, healthy, and environmentally friendly way to get around. Whether you’re discovering some of Fort Collins’ 285-plus miles of trails or riding in the mountains, you’ll recognize why Fort Collins is a platinum-level bike-friendly city. Cycle to Old Town or pedal to one of the 20-plus local breweries and you just might come across more bikes than cars on the road on any given day.

9. MAP OUT A BREWERY ADVENTURE

Every town has an identity, a way of life, a certain aura-something that specifically defines why the town is special. For Fort Collins, that certain something is craft beer and the culture that has grown around it. The relationship between the brewing industry and the town of Fort Collins is more than just a business correlation, it’s a societal culture – a culture that has been around for over 25 years.

There are numerous ways to explore each of the 20 and counting breweries in Fort Collins. You can go on a beer and bike tour, take a magic bus ride, or indulge in a self-guided tour. There are so many unique ways for everyone of age to experience the incredible beer that resides in Colorado’s craft beer capital. We encourage you to partake in what is such a big part of the Fort Collins community. We promise you will not be disappointed – cheers!

CACHE LA POUDRE RIVER NATIONAL HERITAGE AREA

When you are exploring the wonders of Fort Collins, remember you are in a national heritage area – how cool is that! The Cache la Poudre River National Heritage Area extends 45 miles and includes the lands within the 100-year flood plain of the Cache la Poudre River. It begins in Larimer County at the eastern edge of the Roosevelt National Forest and ends east of Greeley, 1/4 miles west of the confluence with the South Platte.

Cache la Poudre River NHA symbolically receives historic landmark plaque for Windsor Eaton House

By Events, News

On Friday, May 17, the Cache la Poudre River National Heritage Area and three other individuals and organizations were recognized by the Town of Windsor’s Historic Preservation Commission for their contributions to historic preservation in Windsor. Historic landmark plaques, physical markers to commemorate historical and architectural significance, were presented for each of the four newly designated buildings in the area.

The historic landmark plaque for Eaton House, currently undergoing preservation work, was presented to the Cache NHA as the organization is partially funding the restoration project.

The Windsor Eaton House was constructed in 1903 by Benjamin Eaton as a dormitory for ditch riders on the Greeley #2 Ditch. Benjamin Eaton settled along the Poudre near Windsor in the 1860s, making him one of the earliest settlers in the area. Eaton dug some of the earliest irrigation ditches of the Poudre, including the B.H. Eaton Ditch in 1864, and was instrumental in shaping the Windsor community. An early irrigation pioneer, Eaton went on to work on many of the canals in Northern Colorado, including the High Line and Larimer and Weld Canals, and helped construct the Windsor Reservoir. In 1885 he became Colorado’s fourth Governor and is one of the sixteen individuals whose portraits line the dome on the Colorado Capital.

While Benjamin Eaton never lived at the “Eaton House,” he constructed it to house vital irrigation employees. The house has been vacant for most of the last twenty years, but the Town of Windsor has long held a vision for the Eaton House to become a hub for community education surrounding Windsor’s agriculture history and connection to water. In 2016, the first steps toward rehabilitation of the building were taken when a Historic Structure Assessment and Landscape Master Plan were completed with the help of the Cache NHA. In 2021, the Cache NHA again helped push the project forward by helping to fund the completion of full design and construction documents for the rehabilitation of the Eaton House into a nature and history center. The construction process will begin soon and when finished, the B.H. Eaton Nature Center will house a classroom, community gathering space, and a visitor center where community members can learn more about the history of Windsor and its open spaces, trails, and farmland.

The Cache la Poudre River National Heritage Area has been involved with preservation efforts at this property since 2013, and more specifically at the Eaton House since 2015, so it has been really fulfilling to see these projects come to fruition. This partnership with the Town of Windsor has been incredibly meaningful to our organization, and we sincerely appreciate this recognition.”

Dan BiwerChair of the Cache NHA Board of Directors

The other historic sites that received historic landmark plaques were the Cheese Factory and Creamery, the Windsor Railroad Depot, and the Halfway Homestead.

The Historic Preservation Commission hosted this open house in celebration of Historic Preservation Month. There were about 55 community members in attendance, who heard stories about the four highlighted historic properties, virtually toured the historic Halfway Homestead Park program (via drone footage), and walked the remaining three properties for a brief historical discussion at each location.

Windsor’s Historic Preservation Commission is composed of seven members and works with property owners to protect the historic environment through a designation program. There are 12 locally designated historic properties in Windsor, according to the town’s website.

Eastman Park River Experience | Paddling

6 Ways to Play It Safe on the Poudre River

By Uncategorized

The sun is out, and the water is calling. However, it is important to remember one of our most beloved places to recreate in the Cache la Poudre River National Heritage area is still a force of nature. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the Cache la Poudre River in Fort Collins was flowing at a discharge rate (the volume of water moving down the river per unit of time) of 627 ft3/s as of May 29, 2024, at 1 o’clock in the afternoon. An hour earlier the flow rate was down to 197 ft3/s. This constant fluctuation is one of the major reasons it is so important to be prepared when recreating on the river.

Remember to have fun and Play it Safe on the Poudre!

1. Wear proper safety equipment.

  1. Use proper flotation devices
    1. Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs), or life jackets, can be purchased at local places within the heritage area. Find suggestions for places to shop under resources. Life vests will be provided at all whitewater rafting locations.
  2. Wear shoes
    1. Proper shoes provide foot protection and traction. When entering and exiting the river, the rocks on the riverbed will be slippery and potentially sharp. Sturdy shoes will also protect your feet from various hazards such as rocks, sharp objects, and debris.
  3. Wear a helmet
    1. If you do fall into the water, a helmet will protect your melon.
  4. Don’t tie anything to yourself or your tube
    1. Why? If you flip, it could get caught between the rocks on the riverbed. It could also get caught on a passing tree branch and flip the tube.

2. Is it safe to go?

  1. Know the weather and water conditions
    1. Check the water conditions using the RMA Poudre Rock Report linked below.
  2. This water is melted snow – it’s ALWAYS cold!
  3. Avoid logs, branches, rocks and debris

3. Know where you are.

  1. Take a map. Maps can be found at the physical locations listed below or you can download a digital version.
  2. Plan your take-out location before you get in so you don’t get stuck without an exit strategy.

4. Float Sober, Float Safe

  1. Alcohol and drugs impair judgement

5. Be Courteous

  1. Pack it in; pack it out
  2. Share the river
  3. If you flip, be aware that you may be on private property when you make it to shore.
    1. Note: The Cache la Poudre River National Heritage Area does not own nor manage land within the heritage area. This means that if you flip and get to shore, you may end up on private property. Remember to always know where you are and respect the landowner’s property.

6. What if you flip?

  1. Don’t stand up in the river; avoid foot entrapment.
  2. Float on your back with your feet pointing downstream and toes out of the water.
  3. Take a whistle and a drybag.
  4. Use your arms to paddle to shore.

Information provided by the U.S. Geological Survey is provisional and subject to revision. Images provided by photographer Terry Walsh and the Town of Windsor.

Press Release: Cache la Poudre River National Heritage Area Highlights Local Artists at First Annual Cache & Cocktails

By Capture the Cache, Events, News, Uncategorized
[Severance, CO] – The countdown is on for Cache la Poudre River National Heritage Area’s inaugural community event recognizing the artistic beauty and cultural importance of the Cache la Poudre River: Cache & Cocktails.
Art and the great outdoors come together June 20, 2024, for an evening of honor and recognition, including the culmination of the Capture the Cache” photo contest and the organization’s Emeritus Award ceremony, recognizing individuals who have greatly impacted efforts to preserve the Cache NHA.

The summer solstice offers the perfect setting to celebrate those who capture the essence of life on the Poudre River in a moment of time and those who’ve worked to protect and preserve it for future generations. We look forward to sharing an evening of art and culture with our community.

Sabrina StokerExecutive Director
Guests will enjoy food and signature cocktails and a silent auction featuring canvas prints of this year’s winning photographs, plus a plein-air painting demonstration in collaboration with Thompson Valley Art League. Proceeds support Cache NHA’s arts and culture-focused community events and mission to preserve the heritage of the Cache la Poudre River for generations to come.
When:  Thursday, June 20, 2024 | 6 p.m. – 9 p.m.
Location: Windsong Estate Event Center | 2901 Saddler Boulevard, Severance, CO 80524
Impact/Statistics
  • In 2023, Cache NHA distributed $21,080 in grant funds to local initiatives and allocated an additional $68,197 for future historic preservation projects, including $35,000 in Weld County.
  • An economic impact study completed by Tripp Umbach in 2017 found that the Cache la Poudre River National Heritage Area generates an annual economic impact of $81.6 million while supporting over 1,000 jobs and generating $6.9 million in tax revenue. 
  • In the past decade, Cache NHA invested over half a million in community grants and leveraged nearly $14 million of public-private funding.
About Cache la Poudre River National Heritage Area
The Cache la Poudre River National Heritage Area (managed by the Poudre Heritage Alliance, a regional non-profit) promotes a variety of historic and cultural opportunities, engages people in the river corridor, and inspires learning, preservation, and stewardship through collaborative partnerships and by providing funding to community-beneficial projects within the heritage area. The 45 miles of the Cache la Poudre River, designated by Congress in 2009 as a National Heritage Area, is one of three heritage areas in Colorado and one of 62 in the nation. The heritage area was nationally designated due to conflicts over water use, leading to Western water law, innovative irrigation techniques, and water measurement devices.

“I Feel Sorry I Fed My Chickens”: The 1904 Flood on the Poudre River Part 2

By Stories, Uncategorized

By Heidi Fuhrman, Heritage Interpreter

If you missed part one of our 1904 flood series be sure to give it a read for the full story!

May 20th, 1904. 7pm—The force of the water had rushed through Laporte, Bellvue, and Fort Collins, sweeping homes from their foundations, knocking all but one bridge, and leaving the communities feet deep in water. For the people downstream, however, the flood was just sweeping into their homes.

Near the bend in the Poudre, Robert Strauss’ tenants were trying to convince him to leave, but he refused, saying he had lived by the river for forty years and knew how to survive a flood. He would attempt to leave later as the waters rose, spending the night knee deep in water and dying from exposure the next morning after being rescued. (Robert was one of only two casualties.) His neighbor, Will Lamb, also dismissed the warnings, but retreated with his wife and son to their hayloft for the night as the waters rose, now including the force of the Box Elder Creek.

Flood Viewed from the railroad tracks looking at Strauss Cabin in Fort Collins. Image Credit: Archive at Fort Collins Museum of Discovery, [H01961].

In Windsor, “…the flood made a general interchange of property, real and personal, that was not destroyed.” For example, “Melvin Kyger, eight miles from Greeley counted elven houses that floated past his house within an hour and twenty minutes.” William Jones lost 60 of his chickens and all 100 of his turkey eggs but did manage to save his carpets (whew).

Because the landscape levels out, the flood traveled slower through the Timnath and Windsor areas, giving the people downriver more time to prepare and move to higher ground. In fact, the flood didn’t even reach Greeley until the wee hours of the next morning (May 21st) but rose from four to fifteen feet. Like their neighbors in Fort Collins and Windsor, the people of Greeley watched from the edges of the much wider Poudre, as the forceful water swept away bridges, houses, chickens on haystacks, and destroyed the cabbage and onion crops. As the Greeley Tribune later observed, “Thousands of people watched the water from every vantage point, and it really looked more like a holiday for the town than a calamity that was destroying thousands of dollars worth of crops.” (May 26, 1904)

By May 22nd, the flood had moved on, leaving feet of mud and destruction in its path. As the Larimer County Independent Reported:

A wild, roaring, surging flood swept down through the Cache la Poudre valley Friday afternoon and evening doing incalculable damage to property. Houses, tents, barns, sheds, fences, and bridges were swept from their moorings and dashed to pieces by the angry waters. Thousands of acres of the choicest garden and farm lands in the valley covered with luxuriant crops, were laid waste leaving wreck and desolation triumphant.

Larimer County Independent, May 25, 1904

A collapsed train track over the flooded Poudre River in Greeley. Image Credit: [H08350] City of Greeley

One of the biggest concerns as the communities looked towards the future was the repairs needed to the irrigation ditches. Ironic that water in abundance destroyed the very systems the agriculture communities relied on for water in scarcity, but the reality that few headgates remained, and ditches were filled with mud cast a very real reality that irrigation, and therefore a harvest, would be impossible. Though the system did need thousands of dollars of repairs it was not as bad as first anticipated and there was a harvest in 1904.

Apart from the irrigation damage, there was only one standing (or safe) bridge between Greeley and Bellvue and hundreds of families had lost their homes (including 150 of the German from Russian immigrant families in Fort Collins). In the wake of devastation, Will Lamb, the farmer from Timnath who had spent the night in a hayloft, reminded the communities that sometimes humor and gratitude are the most needed in times of crisis:

May 22—Fort Collins people may blow about their fine waterworks and filters all they please, but I do not believe they amount to a whoop, because there were great quantities of water that went by here last Friday night that never had been filtered, judging from the sediment it left in my barn. Judging from the smell I couldn’t help from wondering if Lon James and family hadn’t been washing their feet in it… I found my hayrake over in Nelson’s field. He swears he did not put it there so I will let him off this time … I feel sorry now that we fed our chickens at all last Friday, as a good portion of them were drowned that night … It took our front gate too, the d---- knows where, I don’t… I was thankful for small things and big ones…this was one of the big ones and I fill truly thankful we are still here.

Larimer County Independent, May 25, 1904, page 8

Floods are not uncommon on the Poudre. The City of Fort Collins is located where it is today due to a flood on the Poudre in 1864 that destroyed the first Camp Collins, originally located closer to Laporte. Residents of the area might remember when the Poudre and Big Thompson flooded in 2013 or when the Spring Creek flooded in 1997 after torrential rains. But the 1904 storm remains the peak discharge in cfs for the Poudre River. For the people along the Cache la Poudre River, both past and present, water—in abundance and scarcity—continues to be one of our greatest adversities.

A group of people gathered to view the flooded river. Image Credit: [H08408] City of Greeley Musuems

References

Destructive Floods in the United States in 1904”, United States Geological Survey, 1905. p154-156.

Floods in Colorado,” United States Department of the Interior, 1948. p51-59.

Fort Collins Express, May 25, 1904. (Access on Newspapers.com)

Fort Collins Weekly Courier, May 25, 1904. [Read the full newspaper on the Colorado Historic Newspaper Collection].

Greeley Tribune, May 26, 1904. [Read the full newspaper on the Colorado Historic Newspaper Collection].

Larimer County Independent, May 25, 1904. (Accessed on Newspapers.com)

Windsor Beacon, May 28, 1904. (Accessed on Newspapers.com

"A Great Calamity": The 1904 Flood on the Poudre River Part 1

"A Great Calamity": The 1904 Flood on the Poudre River Part 1

“A Great Calamity”: The 1904 Flood on the Poudre River Part 1

By Stories, Uncategorized

By Heidi Fuhrman, Heritage Interpreter

This year we mark the 120th anniversary of the 1904 flood on the Cache la Poudre River, or, as the papers called it, “A Great Calamity.” Read on to discover the story of one river, two days, and thousands of “unfortunate victims of cruel circumstances.”

Newspaper clipping from the days following the flood. “A Great Calamity Visits Cache la Poudre Valley. (1904, May 25). The Larimer County Independent, 1.”

May 20th, 1904 began like any other morning along the Cache la Poudre River. Well, perhaps not like any morning—dark storm clouds lay low over the foothills and there were reports that it was raining up-river, and rain in Colorado is unusual—but for the residents of the lower Poudre’s communities the day began like any other.

Down near Laporte Mrs. J.L. Armstrong fed her children breakfast before shooing them out of the house. In Fort Collins, Chris Mason kissed his wife goodbye before strolling over the Poudre to the new dance pavilion he owned on the north bank, pausing to admire the new piano he’d just installed. Down the road, a group of Germans from Russia walked from the immigrant neighborhood to the new Fort Collins Great Western Sugar factory to put in a day’s labor turning beets to sugar.

Further down, at the bend of the Poudre before it wound down through Timnath, Robert Strauss looked out from the cabin he’d built in 1860 on morning light hitting the river. A few miles downriver his neighbor, Will Lamb, told their other neighbor yet again that he couldn’t borrow the hay rake.

Destroyed train tracks and flooded river in Fort Collins. Image Credit: Archive at Fort Collins Museum of Discovery, [H03229].

In Windsor, William Jones let his flock of chickens and turkeys out before collecting a hundred eggs. And down in Greeley, the farmers near the river bottoms surveyed their fields and were grateful the early onion and cabbage crops were growing well, stretching before turning to finish putting in the last of the beets.

Further up-river, however, all was not normal. High in the Poudre Canyon, and in the tributary streams and canyons that feed the Poudre River, rain was falling. Not just a gentle sprinkle, a deluge. On a landscape that sees an average of fourteen inches of annual precipitation, three to eight inches of rain fell within 24 hours (that’s 20-57% of the annual). The mountain streams and Poudre, already swollen from spring snowmelt, couldn’t contain the water. Unbeknownst to the communities below, Boxelder Creek, a tributary of the Poudre, ordinarily a few feet wide was swiftly growing to a raging river from bluff to bluff, while the Poudre itself was deepening and widening as the North Fork, up in the canyon, dumped its gallons into the already overwhelming torrent.

At about 4 o’clock in the afternoon on May 20, 1904, a wall of water ten to twelve feet high burst through the bottom of the Poudre Canyon a few miles above Laporte, quickly spreading out to more than a mile wide. The Armstrong family, found themselves in the midst of the river, cut off from help by walls of water, scrambling to the top of their home for shelter like the rest of their neighbors in Bellvue and Laporte as the river swept away their buildings, gardens, and bridges. Someone managed to phone Fort Collins before the lines were swept aside, alerting the community that a flood was quickly heading their way.

The view looking at College Avenue from the sugar mill during the flood. Image Credit: Denver Public Library, Western History Collection, [Z-1813].

An hour later, at five o’clock, the flood hit Fort Collins. At four o’clock the river was flowing about 900 cubic feet per second, by six o’clock it was flowing at least 30,000 cubic feet per second (afterwards the USGS commissioner estimated it was closer to 40,000cfs, the yearly average today is around 300cfs). As the water commissioner later wrote in the USGS report, “The flood was down …almost before anyone could remove anything out of the way, and had it been in the night there would probably have been a great loss of life as well as property.”

Luckily for the residents of Fort Collins it wasn’t night, but as the newspaper reported, “…scores of families were driven from their homes in great haste, often compelled to wade through muddy water waist deep to places of safety. Nearly all their belongings, except what they had on their backs at the moment, were left to become the playthings of the rolling, surging flood.” (Larimer County Independent May 25, 1904.)

Rolling and surging it was. Moving houses from their foundations or sweeping away the lighter ones, wiping out gardens and fields, and destroying all but two bridges between the canyon and Greeley. Steel or wood, nothing could stand against the flood water. Chris Mason stood on the north bank near the river—now over a mile wide and running down College Ave five feet deep—with thousands of other residents, watching the “work of destruction” and the dance pavilion, piano and all, collapse and be swept away, taking out the railroad bridge. Across the river his wife, with their children, sought refuge on the second floor of their home, “with fear and trembling,” while through the night a river up to the windowsills swept through the lower level. The next morning their neighbor, Jim Clayton, swam out and rescued them one by one although he refused a final trip to rescue the family chicken.

The sugar factory was surrounded by feet of water and the workers found themselves trapped for the night. Thousands of pounds of sugar escaped being ruined by only six inches. Meanwhile, their families, watched as the entire immigrant neighborhood (now the neighborhoods of Buckingham & Andersonville) was swept away.

Flood damage at Buckingham Place which was the Great Western Sugar Factory housing for the German-Russian beet workers located in Lincoln St. between Willow and Lemay. Image Credit: Archive at Fort Collins Museum of Discovery. [H02438]

By seven o’clock the height of the flood swept through Fort Collins (although it would take hours to recede) but was only just reaching the communities downstream …

Read Part 2 for the rest of the stories of Robert Strauss, Will Lamb, William Jones, and the other residents downriver.

References

Destructive Floods in the United States in 1904”, United States Geological Survey, 1905. p154-156.

Floods in Colorado,” United States Department of the Interior, 1948. p51-59.

Fort Collins Express, May 25, 1904. (Access on Newspapers.com)

Fort Collins Weekly Courier, May 25, 1904. [Read the full newspaper on the Colorado Historic Newspaper Collection].

Greeley Tribune, May 26, 1904. [Read the full newspaper on the Colorado Historic Newspaper Collection].

Larimer County Independent, May 25, 1904. (Accessed on Newspapers.com)

Windsor Beacon, May 28, 1904. (Accessed on Newspapers.com

"I Feel Sorry I Fed My Chickens": The 1904 Flood on the Poudre River Part 2

"I Feel Sorry I Fed My Chickens": The 1904 Flood on the Poudre River Part 2

Mexican American History Project Greeley

By News, Uncategorized

Did you know a book has never been written about the history of Mexican Americans in Greeley using their voices, stories, and perspectives? Now, a group is working to change that.

The Cache la Poudre River National Heritage Area recently sat down with the Mexican American History Project Greeley (MAHPG) to learn more about their work to tell their stories and address this gap in Greeley’s recorded history.

“Our organization’s goal is to provide a resource book that highlights the history and contributions Mexican Americans have made to Greeley’s success since there is a gap regarding this information in Greeley’s general history. This book will help to give a voice and perspective of Greeley Mexican Americans that is seldom heard and validate our history and contributions in a place we call home.”

Emma Pena-McCleaveProject Coordinator for MAHPG

The book will delve into personal stories of Mexican Americans from Northern Colorado and their long-standing history in Greeley. While Mexican Americans have a longer history in the region, the book will focus on stories from 1920 and later. The goal of this work is to provide young Mexican Americans a strong cultural self-identity while helping to educate the community at large on the contributions and impact Mexican Americans have made on Greeley’s culture, community, and major industries such as the farming, packing plants, construction, and more recently, oil and gas.

The first section of the book will provide a collection of intensive research into historical documents from Greeley about the history and contributions of Mexican Americans in the community. The second half will hold thirty-nine stories from first-hand interviews with Greeley Mexican American residents. Gathered as part of the group’s oral history project, the stories showcase the residents’ perspectives of Greeley’s past, present, and future.

The group hopes to complete the book by April 30, 2025. Once published, MAHPG will distribute sets, English and Spanish, to Weld County schools, libraries, museums, and community centers, providing updated resources about local Mexican American history for school-age students and the community. The book will also be one of the few resources available in Spanish that provides an insight into the past and present of Greeley’s Mexican American community.

Dr. Dierdra Pilch, Weld District 6 Superintendent, was very receptive to the concept of the book stating, “It’s about time.”

While the Mexican American History Project Greeley has come a long way from inception, the group is still in the process of raising money for the publishing and distribution phase of the book.

To learn more about this incredible project, visit Mexican American History Project Greeley – Home (mahpg.org).

The Mysterious Woman: Miss Stella M. Newell

By Stories

They say behind every good man is a woman, but in the case of the hundreds relying on the water of the North Poudre Irrigation Company it was just one woman—Miss Stella M. Newell.

Stella Newell, born in 1885, grew up near St. Louis, Missouri. After contracting tuberculosis, she moved to Fort Collins in 1914, a common move when clean air of the West was thought to cure ailing lungs. Less common, in 1914, was a young woman striking out on her own. For six years Stella worked a variety of jobs—even spending time as postmistress of Coalmont, a rural community near Walden, Colorado—but in 1920, she was offered a job that changed her life, secretary and treasurer of the North Poudre Irrigation Company.

1933 Audit, p.161. North Poudre Irrigation Company Records. Water Resources Archives, Fort Collins, Colorado.

The North Poudre Irrigation Company, made up of nineteen reservoirs, hundreds of miles of ditches, and hundreds of shareholders, was (and is) vital to farming in Northern Colorado. Shortly after farmers began settling here in the 1870s, they realized rainfall would not provide enough water to grow crops. As a solution, they began constructing a complex network of irrigation reservoirs and ditches, founding companies to build and maintain them, including North Poudre in 1901. Running such a company was no small task, so in 1920 they hired Stella.

Fort Collins Courier June 194, 1920. P.3. Accessed on newspapers.com

Stella managed day-to-day operations and finances, assisted with the purchase and sale of stock and shares, secured renters for farms and water rights, answered inquiries and legal questions, testified in water rights cases, and answered thousands of pages of correspondence. In an era before email, computers, or in some cases direct telephone lines, this was no small feat. In most cases, the correspondence is businesslike, Stella often signing simply as “secretary,” but upon occasion, especially when corresponding with fellow women, personal notes, political discussions, and friendly requests appear. Stella was the brains and heart behind the operation—in fact, a shareholder once wrote that when Stella was out sick none of her bosses knew enough to fill in!  In an era where a woman with a career was uncommon, Stella devoted her life to this work.

Stella was also very involved in the Fort Collins community. She organized the Delphian Society (think book club on steroids), was a member of the Order of the Eastern Star (women’s branch of the Masons), attended the First Presbyterian Church, and was an early and lifelong member of the Business and Professional Women’s Club. While Stella never married, she was loved by many, appearing frequently as an attendee in social gatherings, trips, and wedding parties! She rented a plethora of apartments around Fort Collins, even living in the Northern Hotel for years!

Sadly, the poor health that brought Stella west followed her all her life and in 1953, after thirty-three years in office she resigned from the irrigation company due to illness. She died in 1956 and is buried in Grandview Cemetery in Fort Collins.

You might be wondering, “Gee for such an important person, where’s her photo?” We’d like to know the answer to that too! Despite combing several archives and sources, Cache NHA staff and local archivists have been unable to find a photo of Stella! What we’ve discovered is that despite decades of critical work, her tenure is rarely mentioned or remembered and there is no known photograph of her. In a sad way, this is a bit poetic. A woman who was in many ways taken for granted remains in some ways invisible even to us. Stella offers us a small look at the often-hidden work women did to build industries and communities across the West.

 

This story was compiled from research conducted by Cache NHA staff including records at the Fort Collins Archives, Colorado State University Water Resource Archives–North Poudre Irrigation Company Records, on Colorado Historic Newspapers Collection/Newspapers.com, and U.S. Census Records.

Resources

Image 1

1933 Audit, p.161. North Poudre Irrigation Company Records. Water Resources Archives, Fort Collins, Colorado.

Image 2

Annual Reports, 1941-1965, image 110. North Poudre Irrigation Company Records. Water Resources Archives, Fort Collins, Colorado.
https://hdl.handle.net/10217/192915

Image 3

Annual Reports, 1909-1920, image 193. North Poudre Irrigation Company Records. Water Resources Archives, Fort Collins, Colorado. https://hdl.handle.net/10217/186350

Image 4

Correspondence. February 1935. WNPR Box 39, Cor. 1935 Jan-Mar. North Poudre Irrigation Company Records. Water Resource Archives, Fort Collins, CO. https://hdl.handle.net/10217/187557

Image 5

Fort Collins Courier June 194, 1920. P.3. Accessed on newspapers.com

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.”