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Flood of 1941- Boulder Valley

1941, June 22

This storm was centered on both Sugar Loaf mountain and the South St. Vrain. However, sections of North Boulder were also damaged.
Peak discharge at Orodell (located 1 mile upstream from Fourmile Creek and 3 miles west of the courthouse in Boulder) 1120cfs.
From US Army Corps of Engineers, August 1969 Floodplain Mapping of Boulder Creek.


"Flash floods in Boulder County Saturday night and early Sunday swept a Longmont man from the arms of his wife and to his death, crumpled canon homes and carried others away intact, sent an automobile hurtling over a 150-foot embankment an instant after to car's only occupant had alighted, ravaged roads and bridges, and caused thousands of dollars of damage not yet officially estimated. The city of Boulder escaped almost entirely, except for minor flooding of a small area in the north part. Rain measured 1.04 inches here. Accompanied by a lightening storm of blinding intensity, downpours starting about 10:30p.m. Saturday sent already swollen streams raging over their banks and turned normally-dry gulches into furious torrents.

"Traffic was almost back to normal this morning except in South St. Vrain canon, 15 miles north of here, and on the Sugar Loaf road, directly west of here. The latter was expected to be restored for travel by tonight; the former will be closed several days. Water chewed great slices from outer edges of the North St. Vrain road but it was never rendered impassable and is perfectly safe for travel to Estes Park. Four-Mile canon was blocked by debris and temporarily impenetrable gullies but it was reopened Sunday afternoon. The Boulder canon highway was damaged less extensively and was closed to traffic only momentarily, while Left Hand canon, midway between to areas of the most severe rains was affected comparatively little.

"Sugarloaf mountain was the center of the week-end storm in the district immediately west of Boulder. Two large culverts were washed out; the road caved in at several points, and at others was covered with rock and debris. The road was closed early Sunday morning and Commissioner Elmer Hetzer and Road Supervisor C. C. Edwards hope to have it open by tonight. Most of the road damage was on the Boulder side of the canon - the road being open from Sugar Loaf west. Boulder canon paving was undermined for a hundred feet at Bummer Gulch, the point where water from the Sugar Loaf district drains into Boulder Canon. The large culvert constructed across Boulder canon at this point, two years ago, did not have sufficient carrying power for the great head of water that came down the gulch, carrying debris. A channel four feet deep was cut along the paving.

"At Eagle Rock just west of where the paving ends, great amounts of sand and dirt were carried into the road. The highway was not closed for any considerable time however, because Commissioner Hetzer and Superintendent Edwards had a force of men working long before daylight and sent graders and bulldozers to the section. Magnolia Hill road had several bad washouts and one slide, but the road remained open. Keystone gulch which enters Boulder Creek at El Vado carried 100% more water than at any time in the 17 years J. E. Tinsley has been living there he said. It washed out the road to his cabins, covered the tennis court and lawn with sand and other debris. Twelve feet of sand piled up against the side of one of the other cabins but did no other damage.

"Four Mile canon was badly washed and covered with debris - particularly the section lying along the creek beds. Ernest Meyring, road foreman for this district, said that the section between Boulder canon junction and the Poorman mine; from Crisman to Salina, suffered great damage. Above Salina on the Gold Hill road, all of the dump of the Ingram mine - a property being worked by Harrison Cobb, was washed down into the road to a depth of four feet and was not cleared for traffic until late Sunday afternoon. Four Mile canon in the Wall-street - Sunshine district suffered damage, but how much Mr. Meyring did not know because he had not been over the road.... The road from Wallstreet to Salina was badly washed but is still passable. Debris carried by the water caved in the rear of the home of Mrs. Bob Parsons. Other homes were somewhat damaged by water. Trees in the water channel were uprooted. The Sunshine canon-Gold Hill route suffered only one bad place but is safe and travelable and may be the best route to Gold Hill for the next few days, though Four Mile canon route through Gold Hill is open.

"Two-Mile canon north of Boulder sent a large head of water down into Newlands addition, washing roads and some farms, filling ditches with sand. The sand was so deep two or three places on the Broadway oil surfacing in the county home district that a grader was necessary to remove it. Homes, lawns and gardens in the north part of Boulder suffered relatively little damage in comparison with other areas and in comparison with damage caused by overflows of Two-Mile gulch in previous years.

"Water went out of the banks of another gulch four miles north of Boulder, near the Euler ranch (the Wineglass Ranch on the north side of Lee Hill just before it enters Four-Mile Canyon Creek canyon), but that ranch was reported undamaged. The flow went across the foothills highway (Broadway) and damaged railroad track about three and a half miles northeast of Boulder. A railroad bridge had to be repaired there. (This is the bridge that keeps getting washed out, just to the east of the Diagonal.) In the same vicinity, Bert Andrus' garden was damaged. (Bert Andrus owned 45 acres north of the confluence of Four-Mile and Boulder Creeks, in the vicinity of North 61st and North 63rd.)

"Six-mile gulch, still further north of Boulder, did not overflow the North Broadway road. So called Dry creek, which enters Left-Hand creek about 3 miles south of Longmont washed out a bridge a quarter mile south of Niwot. Two footbridges at the Mountain View golf course, 24th and Arapahoe, were washed out. Middle Boulder creek overflowed its channel in the lowlands east of Boulder, but did no great damage. Water covered the main Denver-Boulder highway at several points, particularly at a corner at the north edge of Lafayette where it was several inches deep, but it did not impede traffic seriously." Daily Camera, June 23, 1941


"Water Commissioner Thomas L. Platt was called out at 11:30pm Saturday to shut off the head-gates of the Anderson ditch, which takes water at Canon Park, and the Farmers ditch, which gets water from Boulder creek a little nearer Boulder....Had the ditches not been turned off they would have overflown with the water they picked up through the city. Flow in Middle Boulder creek, which goes through Boulder, increased from 400 second-feet - the highest point reached Friday night - to 1200 feet at the hydro power plant in Boulder canon, Commissioner Platt said. The flow down Four Mile canon, usually very little at this time of year, was an estimated 400 second-feet, making a total of 1800 through Boulder.

"South Boulder region got very little water, and went up but a few feet. It was carrying 277 second-feet Friday. All water had to be allowed to go down the valley because all the reservoirs in this region - except Baseline- are full. If South Boulder had carried a large flow some of it could have been stored in Baseline.

"The storm extended about 9 miles east of Boulder and was dry from there east, Mr. Platt said. Rainfall at Commissioner Platt's home, 2236 Mapleton, measured 1.73 inches in the course of a three and a half hour storm. Though 1.33 inches of rain fell at Eldorado Springs, it had no effect on the creek and did not cause bad wash-outs then. The measuring weir at the hydro plant in Boulder canon gave the flow in Boulder creek at 450 second-feet this morning, slightly above Friday's flow." Daily Camera, June 23, 1941

Compiled by Elizabeth Black.

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