Castlewood Canyon Dam

Castlewood Canyon Dam

CRUMBLING AWAY IN A VERDANT state park, the ruins of the old Castlewood Canyon Dam hardly looks like the remains of a sturdy industrial water wall that released a torrential flood on the surrounding area when it finally broke. Built in 1890 and leaking for years after that, the Castlewood Canyon dam collapsed on August 3, 1933. A storm raged on that day, filling the dam’s reservoir to bursting. When the crumbling stone barrier finally failed, over a billion gallons of water were released, traveling over 40 miles of surrounding wilderness before eventually flooding Denver. Huge logs were floated through train stations, bridges were washed away, and by the end of the torrent, the whole city was sitting in four feet of water. Luckily (and tragically) only one person was killed, but the property damage of the catastrophe was immeasurable. While it was likely just age and a lack of maintenance that caused the dam to give way, some residents who still remember the disaster claim that it could have been the local muskrat population effecting the integrity of the dam. No matter the cause, the ruins of the dam remain in Castlewood Canyon State Park. Either side of the structure still remains and the track through which the water broke through is now a dry, grassy thoroughfare. Source: Atlas Obscura

Rainbow Falls

Rainbow Falls was first discovered by the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Rainbow Falls and downstream Crooked Falls are the only two waterfalls on the Missouri-Mississippi river system to remain in an almost-natural condition. Black Eagle Falls and Great Falls are half- occupied by their dams’ powerhouses, and Colter Falls is submerged. The waterfall received its name from the frequent presence of rainbows in its spray before the dams were built.

Meriwether Lewis was known to comment on the falls:

. . . hearing a tremendious roaring above me I continued. . . a few hundred yards further and was again presented by one of the most bea[utiful]objects in nature, a cascade of about fifty feet perpendicular stre[t]ching at [right angles] across the river from side to side to the distance of at least a quarter of a mile. here the river pitches over a shelving rock, with an edge as regular and streight as if formed by art, without a nich[e] or br[eak] in it; the water descends in one even and uninterrupted sheet . . .

The waterfall was named “Beautiful Cascade” and later “Handsom[e] Falls” by Lewis, but was given its present name by Thomas B. Roberts, a railroad engineer, in 1872. — From Wikipedia

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