By: Brittany Huner
Ever since the beginning of the towns of Auraria and Denver, the nearby Cherry Creek and South Platte River have created problems for the town with numerous floods.
Denver's "First Flood," May 1864
The first flood recorded in Denver occurred in May 1864 when heavy rain caused both Cherry Creek and the South Platte River to flood. Nineteen citizens died and the flood caused several thousands of dollars of damage. This was a large sum of money to the city at the time.
Early Attempt at Prevention: The Flood of July 1878
The flood of 1878 resulted in Denver's first attempt to take major action for flood prevention. Denver attempted to turn Cherry Creek in a more western direction. Unfortunately, an injunction from Arapahoe County terminated the early flood prevention attempt.
Flood of 1912
After a heavy storm on the afternoon of July 14, 1912, the water level of Cherry Creek rose dramatically and a heavy rush of water overtook the area. Two people who lived near the creek died and there was extensive property damage, mainly to warehouses and merchants whose goods were stored in basements near Cherry Creek.
After the 1912 flood, city officials established the 1912 Flood Commission to investigate the floods and recommend steps for the city to take for future flood prevention.
Castlewood Dam Finally Breaks: The 1933 Flood
One of the main concerns the 1912 Flood Commission expressed was the condition of the Castlewood Dam. The Denver Water Storage Company built the Castlewood Dam in 1890 and the dam leaked and frequently fell into disrepair. On August 3, 1933, the Castlewood Dam finally burst and flooded the Denver area. The flood caused approximately $1.7 million in damages for the city. Denver never rebuilt Castlewood Dam but constructed the Cherry Creek Dam to replace it in 1946.
The Need for More Dams: The 1965 Flood
Much like Denver's first flood in 1864, the flood in 1965 was the result of high waters in both the South Platte River and Cherry Creek. The 1965 flood caused approximately $540 million in damages to the city and the deaths of twenty-one people. After the 1965 flood, Denver Water built two more reservoirs at Chatfield and Bear Creek.
The Future of Flooding in Denver and Auraria
As long as the South Platte River and Cherry Creek exist, there will be flooding in the Denver and Auraria area. The city has taken numerous actions to prevent catastrophic flooding, including building several new dams and reservoirs. With every disastrous flood, the community has banded together in the wake of tragedy and grown stronger.
The CU Denver 4244/5244 - History Museums, Exhibits and Education class took on the task of digitally telling Auraria's history. CU Denver Professor:
for the Museum Studies Class.