John Waugh

I grew up on a lateral of the Silver Lake Ditch in North Boulder. Though often a source of childhood imaginary floods and grand diversion projects, I was repeatedly reminded of the importance of the water to those whose "water day" it was and that any tampering with the headgates would lead to an undesirable meeting with "O.M.D." Old Man Davis, the ditch rider. Springtime brought the wonderful adventure of burning the "lateral" from the main headgate at Fourth Street and Linden to our end of the line at Broadway and Kalmia. Gas cans and shovels were the ordinance of the day and all members on the lateral joined in to witness the thick yellow smoke and the leaping flames associated with ditch cleaning. Only occasional conflagrations would encroach into the adjoining pastures, causing a short uproar of swatting and swearing as the errant flames were beaten into submission by eager and waiting volunteers.

My cousin and I, both lean and nimble at around age 10, were pressed into service to patch "the pipe" in the canyon. The Maxwell and Oliver flume hangs high from the granite cliffs of Boulder Canyon on the north side of Boulder Creek and carries the water of the Silver Lake Ditch to its cut through the Elephant Buttress on it's way to Boulder. Frequently in those days, the flume became the ill served target of high powered rifle toting vandals that reveled in the clang a 30.06 slug as it punched open a spigot in the wall of the three foot diameter pipe across the canyon. For several years, until we were too big to uncomfortably fit through the half gravel filled tunnel, we were dispatched into the darkness and spider webs armed only with a putty knife and a can of patching tar to seal up any light leaks (water leaks from the other side). Each of us crawled through about two hundred feet of the rusty black iron pipe that curved around the mountain face with only the light from the targeted holes to guide us.

For years I lived on the Silver Lake Ditch, floated the Farmers Ditch with my cousins, fell in the Anderson ditch running through Pioneer Cemetery in the dark, waded in the Boulder and Whiterock Ditch with the "hippies" in Central Park and illegally caught big trout by moon light on the Enterprise Ditch where it enters Baseline Reservoir.

This project seemed like a great opportunity to contribute to the community understanding of the ditches in Boulder by taking part in this re-photographic survey.

I have enjoyed the new ditches I have seen on this project and the new understanding I have gained from of "The Ditches of Boulder".

John Waugh is a commercial and fine art photographer from Boulder, Colorado.

John Waugh's work can be viewed at