Irrigation Ditches and Canals Historic Context Study: Colorado
Michael Holleran and Manish Chalana
Irrigated agriculture, as well as hydraulic mining and municipal water supply, have created a widespread infrastructure of water conveyance systems throughout Colorado. They are among the oldest and most significant works of American settlement in the state, and--amidst its arid fields and plains--create some of Colorado's most characteristic and evocative cultural landscapes.
Within the city of Boulder, twenty-three irrigation ditches, most finished by the 1870s, flow for 30 miles, bringing water to fields, pastures, orchards, and gardens and serving as Boulder's first domestic water system. Frederick Law Olmsted recognized their charm and touted their "extraordinary opportunity for civic beauty"--should their borders be tidied up a bit and their banks weeded and property replanted.
This project provided a context for evaluating the significance of individual ditches. It also outlined registration standards for survey documentation and the levels of integrity necessary for National Register eligibility.