|1933 flood waters at Union Station, Denver (Colorado Historical Society).|
Today is the anniversary of the 1976 Big Thompson Canyon flood, which killed 143 people, including a state trooper who was racing ahead of it, trying to warn people. (That canyon flooded again, less destructively, last September.)
Sunday will be the anniversary of a flood that I was unaware of: the 1933 Castlewood Dam disaster, August 3, 1933, when a dam on Cherry Creek burst in what is now Castlewood Canyon State Park, sending flood waters clear into downtown Denver.
It is being commemorated at the park on Saturday with "Dam Day" educational and fun activities:
Kids can build candy dams mortared with frosting (a word to the wise — do not follow the design of Castlewood Dam, it lasted only 43 years). There will be a model of the canyon and dam. They can also fill the Castlewood Reservoir with water and see the effects rushing water can have on the canyon.Cherry Creek and nearby Plum Creek struck again in June 1965 — a month of flooding both in the South Platte and Arkansas river drainages.
On June 16, 1965, fourteen inches of rain fell near Castle Rock, sending flood waters north into Littleton and Denver.
Many homes were lost, but there were only 21 deaths.
My mother had taken me to Pueblo to visit my grandmother, and now we were trapped — there was no way to travel north from Colorado Springs toward Fort Collins, where we then lived. Interstate 25 was washed out at Castle Rock and (I assume in retrospect) state highways 105 and 83 were closed or washed out too.
|One of the 1921 Pueblo operators drew this sketch.|
I remember rain lashing down and water running across US 24 between Colorado Springs and Limon up to the hubcaps of her 1963 Chevrolet Corvair. The prairie seemed like a succession of little rivers. But we made it.
Cherry Creek Reservoir was built to prevent another episode: see an aerial photo.
Southern Colorado, however, remembers also June 3, 1921, when Pueblo flooded. There was this new technology called the telephone, and the operators in their downtown building stayed at their switchboards even as the waters rolled in. (They survived.)
Sketch from the site of the Virtual Telecommunications Museum.