Arvada's Water: Ditches

Arvada Historical Society HF Collection – HF.00038

In its mad rush from lofty peaks to join the meandering path of the South Platte River, the water of our local streams cut rather narrow valleys, and in many areas prohibited setting up residence in the bottom lands. But our enterprising pioneer fathers were quick to put the power behind that drive to work for their benefit. First usage of irrigation ditches was made to assist early settlers in their efforts to extract that elusive gold fleck that had enticed them to cross those formidable plains in the beginning. But descendants from farm families in the East were soon able to adapt their agricultural back- grounds to our more arid climate with the aid of the waters carried by canals to their lands. As shown in Waters of Gold the post-Civil War era brought many land- seeking settlers to the Arvada area."

By 1870, Clear Creek and Ralston Valleys were interlaced with canals tap- ping the waters of the creeks for irrigation of the land, domestic use for people and livestock, and some companies were still including mining in their goals, just in case.

In 1863, Golden City and Arapahoe Ditch (now Farmer's High Line Canal) drawing water from Clear Creek near the east side of Golden, had been extended nearly to Ralston Creek and was bringing water to the farms of Nils Ahlstrom, John Clark, John Ward, Harpin Davis, Charles and W. A. Rand, Eli Allen, and Elihu Evans. Re-incorporation took place in 1872, at which time the company entered into a lease arrangement whereby William A. Rand, Francis Gallup, and William Bamberger were to enlarge and improve the canal." At the same time these three men also formed a company called "Gallup Ditch Company" to extend the canal to about present day Wadsworth at Ninety-Second Avenue and east, and also formed another company, the Eureka Ditch Company. In 1876, the three companies were incorporated into one, The Arapahoe Canal. In 1886, the company became the Farmer's High Line Canal and Reservoir Company, but by now the Eureka Ditch had been sold. Water from the Farmer's High Line Canal supplied, besides the farms already named, much of the Ralston area, via the Clark Lateral; the Oberon area, via Oberon Water Company; Hackberry Hill, via the Bright and Brown and Selman laterals; Pomona area, via Pomona and Calkins Lakes, and on to the northeast toward the Platte River. The original contract called for removal of 150,000 cubic yards of earth.

The Church Ditch covered a strip of land more or less parallel to, but at a higher elevation than, the Farmer's High Line, with a few laterals even crossing over the High Line. It swings west and north around Standley Lake which was built in 1903.

Supplying the Arvada area from points downstream from the above mentioned, we find the following ditches: Wadsworth, Cort, Graves and Hughes, Swadley, Graves North, Sayer-Lee, Wolff, Wolff North, Wadsworth and Graves, Graves South, Bluff, Juchem and Quellette, Rhodes Middle, Cort and Graves, Rhodes South, Reno-Juchem, and Brown and Baugh, names all recognizable as contributors to Arvada's heritage.

From Ralston Creek came the Davis-Rand and Clark and Brown ditches, and from Leyden Creek, the Rand and Davis-Brown ditches. Today we find that some of these have been consolidated or absorbed in part into other companies. Many changes have evolved from the days of the original builders to the names listed as claimants at the time of adjudication, through days of formal incorporations, and to the present time when housing developments have all but obliterated some of the original canals, as well as the fresh green fields of summer crops.

The first decree for water out of Clear Creek was issued to the Wadsworth Ditch. In fact there are only five other priorities in the South Platte drainage that pre-date it. As noted in Waters of Gold, the Wadsworth and Swadley Ditches were originally constructed for mining purposes." They were, however, quickly followed by others'--enterprising agriculturists who were raising vegetables, berries, fruits, and small grain to feed miners hungry for the fresh produce, and the rapidly growing populace.

The Rocky Mountain News of October 23, 1861, described a visit to the farm of Jerry Kershaw on Clear Creek as "over 300 acres'---nearly all fenced and prepared for irrigation. Ditches supplying the farms of Simon Cort, Oliver Graves, John Wolff and John Juchem, to name a few, were constructed about this time."

From Arvada: More Than Gold - pp 68 through 70.