Boulder's First Ditches

Boulder's First Ditches

Ditch construction: 1859, the beginning

Short ditches first

Boulder's first irrigation ditches were close to creeks, short, and hand-dug. Lower Boulder Ditch and Smith-Goss Ditch were the first. Each claimed water for 200 acres, the size of a small farm in 1859. Howard Ditch with 1000 acres worth of water was the first ditch on South Boulder Creek in 1860.

Go with the flow

Settlers searched for ways to make ditch-digging easier. Boulder's creeks have alluvial fan characteristics, with multiple braided channels. Most channels only carry water during major flood events. Pioneers called these dry channels "dry creeks", and used them as routes for irrigation water.

The Boulder and White Rock Ditch was originally called the Dry Creek Ditch, and follows the alluvial channel of the Boulder Slough, through downtown Boulder. Dry Creek #2 Ditch follows a similar alluvial creek channel off of South Boulder Creek.

Right, top: Fort Collins farmers repair a ditch. From History of Larimer County Colorado, 1911, Ansel Watrous. 

Right, bottom: Alluvial fans form at the base of mountains where fast-flowing streams meet relatively-flat surfaces of broad valleys.

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