Loveland’s waterways are soaked in history — Loveland Reporter-Herald

Lake Loveland
Lake Loveland

Here’s a guest column from Olivia Lowe writing for the Loveland Reporter Herald. Here’s an excerpt:

For a few months now people, including my husband, have asked me to do a story about Loveland’s pioneer ditches.

They wanted to know how many, how old, how long and any other odd tidbits of information I could find. Once I started the research I was both fascinated and overwhelmed. At one point I decided to scrap the story because water is not only contentious, but it is complicated as well. I also came to the conclusion that volumes of books and essays have been written on the subject for a reason, because there is no way it can be covered in one 700-word column. And yet, here it is, a column about ditches. That said, I have pared it down to the bits I found most interesting.

There are currently nine ditches, three ditch exchanges, plus what are known as lateral and transfer ditches, pulling water out of the Big Thompson River in the Loveland area.

Start with the Handy Ditch, which is first in line but not first in priority. Its headgate is situated just south of Sylvan Dam. To the east and last in line is the Hillsborough Ditch at County Road 9 between East First Street and Colo. 402. Loveland’s seven other ditches lie in between…

Back in 1893 we had a grand total of three ditches. The Big Thompson Ditch was decreed in 1861, the Mariano, later named Home Supply, was next in May of 1863. One month later, Farmers Ditch was decreed. The Old Barnes Ditch came next in 1865. It was named after David Barnes, which is odd because Mr. Barnes and his wife Sarah did not homestead here until 1870. The Chubbuck Ditch, also known as the English Ditch and later named the Loveland & Greeley Ditch, was decreed in November 1865. This meandering waterway runs along First Street for a bit and then bends north up to Boyd Lake, where it leans to the east and heads toward Greeley…

If you do not plan on using your appropriated water right away, then you will need to dig a basin to hold it. Loveland’s first reservoir was dug in 1883. Today it goes by Donath Lake, but I have also heard it referred to as Dykeman Reservoir. Next was Mariano decreed in 1888. Later called Home Supply Reservoir and known to us all now as Boedecker Lake.

Lake Loveland is also a reservoir. The farmers decided that rather than allowing excess water to float away forever, they could hold some in reserve for the late-summer crops. Prior to its official decree in 1883 it was 145 acres of stagnant and shallow water; five feet of summer stink hemmed in by a sandstone ridge. Hayes Lake, as it was called, was determined to be the perfect fit for a reservoir. By enlarging Barnes Ditch for a distance of two miles from its head (about a mile west of Wilson Avenue and U.S. 34) to the lake, they could increase its capacity to 146 acres with a water depth of 46½ feet.

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