Colorado River Headwaters Byway
Historical Tour of the Colorado River Headwaters Byway
|Departure:||Farr Pumping Plant and Colorado-Big Thompson Project, Colorado|
|Destination:||Hot Sulphur Springs Resort Site, Colorado|
|Time to allow:||1 day|
This tour will follow the Colorado River down the Byway with stops at historical sites that have either affected the water flow or have historical signifigance to the area. The trip can be completed in one day but in order to really experience the region, it is best to allow for at least one overnight stay in the communities at either end of the tour. Grand Lake offers the visitor plenty of hotels, bed and breakfasts inns and restaurants to enjoy. Or perhaps an overnight stay at the Hot Sulphur Springs Resort sounds appealing - with a relaxing evening soaking the day's activities away in the hot springs.
While Grand Lake is a natural lake, two adjoining mountain lakes are actually man-made reservoirs. In an enormous undertaking called the Colorado Big Thompson Project, Shadow Mountain and Granby were built as reservoirs to collect the waters of the upper Colorado River.
The Colorado-Big Thompson Project takes water from Grand Lake on the western side of the Continental Divide to the Big Thompson River on the east. The water flows through a 13-mile tunnel beneath Rocky Mountain National Park at the eastern edge of Grand Lake. In order to supply the residential and farming needs of Northeastern Colorado, the project was begun in 1938 and continued through the years of World War II.
Stop 1: Lake Granby and Colorado-Big Thompson Water Project (CO)
From previous stop: 5 minutes Directions:
Return to Hwy 34 from the Farr Pumping plant. Turn left heading south on Hwy 34 toward Granby.
Suggested time at this stop: 30 minutes
The interpretive display at Lake Granby Overlook tells the story of the Water supply as well as the Town that once existed there before the Water Project created the Lake. It also gives agreat view of Lake Granby and the Arapaho National Recreation Area.
From previous stop: 7 minutes / 8 mi (12.8 km) Directions:
Continue south on Hwy 34 to the junction of Hwy 34 and 40. Turn right heading west on Hwy 40 about 2 miles. Windy Gap is on the south side of the Hwy.
Suggested time at this stop: 1 hour
Windy Gap was a late developing controversy that followed Colorado-Big Thompson (CBT) from the 1960s into the 1980s. In 1966, six east slope cities began seeking CBT's unused capacity to bring more than 30,000 acre-feet of water from Windy Gap Reservoir, on the Colorado River below Lake Granby at the mouth of the Fraser River. Reclamation backed the plan, but environmentalists and Western Coloradoans were livid. West slope residents were afraid of "total depletion" of the Colorado River by greedy farmers and communities across the Divide.
Also the Windy Gap Watchable Wildlife roadside pull-off offers a seasonal rest area and covered picnic tables.
Stop 3: Pioneer Park in Hot Sulphur Springs (CO)
From previous stop: 6 minutes / 7 mi (11.2 km) Directions:
Continue on Hwy 40 from Windy Gap to the Town of Hot Sulphur Springs. At the western edge of the town turn right go one block turn left the park is immediately across the bridge.
Suggested time at this stop: 3 hours
One of the finest amenities the town has to offer is Pioneer Park, an 80-acre open space park located along the banks of the Colorado River. Originally, the site served as the location of a railroad depot and refueling station. Now the park offers overnight camping and day use areas, handicapped-accessible Gold Medal fishing and access to an extensive trail system providing miles of hiking, biking and snowmobile trails. Wildlife abounds in the park as well, providing numerous opportunities to see songbirds and water fowl, along with elk, deer, skunks, raccoons, coyotes, fox, and the occasional bear.
End: Hot Sulphur Springs Resort Site (CO)
From previous stop: 1 minute / 0.1 mi (0.2 km) Directions:
The Hot Springs Resort is less than one half a mile continuing on the same county road as Pioneer Park. It can be seen from the Byway.
Hot springs located next to the Colorado River in the town of Hot Sulphur Springs were used by the Ute Indians to ease rheumatism and arthritis. The Utes even treated their sick horses in the hot soothing mineral water. By 1870, William N. Byers, a land speculator as well as the founder of the Rocky Mountain News, had built a resort at the hot springs. By the early 1900s, it was the most popular hot springs resort in the Rocky Mountains with trainloads of people arriving daily to take to the waters. Today, the newly renovated resort is still a popular spot with a spa, inside and outside pools and lodging. The resort has been in operation continually for the past 140 years.
Totals for Day 1
|Total Distance Traveled:||15.1 miles / 24.2 km|
|Total Travel Time:||19 minutes|
|Total Stopping Time:||4 hours 30 minutes|