‘Longmont’s oldest water rights today come from the Beckwith Ditch, which dates back to March 1861’ — Longmont Times-Call


It’s an exciting time of year if you’re a water supplier, farmer or rancher. The irrigation ditches are turning on for the season. Here’s a history of St. Vrain Valley ditches from Tony Kindelspire writing for the Longmont Times-Call. Click through and read the whole article and check out the photos. Here’s an excerpt:

Two ditch companies were established in 1860, 11 years before Longmont became a city, and Longmont’s oldest water rights today come from the Beckwith Ditch, which dates back to March 1861.

Many of the names of the ditches that date back a century and a half are familiar: Left Hand, Highland, Pella, Rough & Ready, Niwot, Oligarchy and Clover Basin.

And so are the names of some of those associated with the founding of those ditches: George L. Beckwith sold the first 80 acres of what later became Longmont to the Chicago-Colorado Colony and was one of four original shareholders in the Beckwith Ditch. Morse Coffin settled Sandstone Ranch but, more importantly from a water perspective, was the namesake in a landmark Colorado Supreme Court ruling — Coffin vs. Left Hand Ditch — that still governs water law today. And L.C. Mead was the superintendent on the Highland Ditch project, which is one of the largest ditches in the region…

Today, Longmont owns water rights in dozens of ditches in the area, with the percentages of ownership ranging from less than 2 percent of the Left Hand Ditch to 100 percent of the Longmont Supply and the Palmerton ditches. The ditch companies, as do the ditches themselves, vary in size. Most of them usually have a superintendent and a board of directors, but the smaller companies could just be one person, Huson said. One thing every ditch company has to have is a ditch rider. Maintaining proper water flow and cleaning up debris are the ditch rider’s primary responsibilities.

More South Platte River basin coverage here.

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