Today’s training hike took us to Castlewood Canyon State Park. Castlewood Canyon is a 1,120-acre day use area and offers a variety of neat trails in a beautiful setting. The park features a scenic rocky canyon, spectacular views of the Front Range and the remnants of a historic failed dam.
First, a little history. In the 1880’s the Denver Water Storage Company was formed and build the Castlewood Dam. It took 11 months to build the 600-foot-long dam, which was 70 feet high and eight feet wide at the top. An estimated 85 men and many teams of horses and mules wrestled the rocks into place according to the design of Chief Engineer AM. Welles. The total cost to construct the dam was $350,000. The Denver Water Storage Company sold water and land to farmers.
The dam, completed in October of 1890, began to leak almost immediately. Denver citizens worried the dam would break, sending flood waters rushing downstream to their city. The engineer who constructed the dam promised residents that it would never fail.
It rained hard on the first two days of August in 1933. The reservoir was full and water poured over the top of the dam. Dam caretaker, Hugh Paine, was uneasy the night of August 2. Lightning crackled, thunder roared and on the early morning of August 3rd at 1:30 am the dam gave way. Immediately, 1.7 billion gallons of water was released and raced toward Denver. Dam Keeper Paine ensured that telephone operators downstream were notified and this act is generally what was responsible for saving many lives downstream. At 7:00 am the floodwaters reached Denver. Damage to Denver downstream was extensive but miraculously only two souls died.
The following two photographs show what the dam ruins looks like today.
We started out our hike by entering the park from the lessor known and crowded west side. The dirt parking lot immediately gave us a clue of what was to come, as it was a combination of snowpack, ice and mud. After finding a decent place to park, we started out on the Creek Bottom Trail. This was a difficult challenging task as the trail was sheet ice in spots and really wasn’t on the “creek bottom” as advertised. There were some cliffs of over 100′ right next to the icy trail which caused us to pay attention to every step. Our determination was rewarded by the amazing natural beauty. White chalk cliffs, the Cherry Creek cascading over a half frozen waterfall and beautiful blue skies all contributed to a great day hiking.
Here are some photos of our hike:
We hiked 7 miles on the Creek Bottom, Inner Canyon, Canyon View and Lake Gulch trails. We spent a total of 4 hours on the trail. We started at 6,311′ elevation and topped out at 6,641′. Our maximum grade was 19.3%.