Greeley: New headgate for No. 3 Ditch

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Here’s some background on No. 3 Ditch up in Greeley along with an aerial of it’s shiny new headgate, from Mike Peters writing for the Greeley Tribune. From the article:

Most people in Greeley really don’t know much about the water ditch that meanders through Greeley from the west to the east. They don’t know that it’s as old as Greeley (139 years) and essentially, it’s the reason Greeley survived in what was then called “the Great American Desert.” On Saturday, the owners of the ditch — the Greeley Irrigation Co. and the city of Greeley — will dedicate a new headgate for the ditch. Dug by huge, horse-drawn plows in 1870, the ditch has now progressed to the computer age.

Clifford Clift, with the Greeley Irrigation Co., said a computer now monitors the ditch’s water levels and opens and closes the gates depending upon the amount of water that’s needed. The new gates and diversion structure cost about $500,000, Clift said. “The irrigation company will pay five-eighths of the cost because it owns five-eighths of the ditch. The city owns three-eighths, so they’ll pay that share.”

When the first members of the Union Colony arrived here in April 1870, they were surprised to be able to look for miles without seeing a tree — they were more familiar with the huge forests of the eastern United States. But founder Nathan Meeker had a plan. He’d earlier visited the Mormon colony in Utah and saw how they dug long ditches from the rivers to bring water to their crops and towns. When Meeker talked with Ben Eaton, an earlier settler in this area, they began working together. Eaton, for whom the town of Eaton was named, would later become the governor of Colorado. But the pioneers knew the ditches would be difficult to dig, so they “volunteered” many workers. At the time — the spring of 1870 — the population of Greeley and the surrounding Union Colony was about 400 people. By order of the town government, all able-bodied men were required to work on the ditch. Peggy Ford of the Greeley Municipal Museums said the ditch diggers used large plow-like devices, pulled by horses, and they would repeatedly cut down through the ground, layer by layer until the ditch was the right depth. “But even then,” Ford said, “they had trouble with water backing up and the sides of the ditch eroding.” It took some time, but eventually, the ditch would bring water from the Cache la Poudre River through Greeley to water the home gardens, and into the Union Colony to water the crops. It’s 13 miles long and empties back into the Poudre River on the east end of Greeley. Natalie Stevens of the city’s water department said the original ditch irrigated 3,500 acres of land, and today — 139 years later — still irrigates about 1,500 acres…

The No. 3 Ditch Headgate Dedication will begin at 10 a.m. Saturday. City and county officials are expected to be there, and refreshments will be served. The headgate of No. 3 Ditch is located on the Cache la Poudre River between 71st and 83rd avenues. To reach the area, drive west to 71st Avenue, north on 71st and follow the road as it curves east and then north again. A sign will direct motorists to the parking area.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

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