History of Agricultural and Urban Water Use in Fort Collins

A sign marks the headwaters of the Cache la Poudre River in Rocky Mountain National Park. Courtesy of Photographs of Bill Green, Water Resources Archive, Colorado State University

A sign marks the headwaters of the Cache la Poudre River in Rocky Mountain National Park. Courtesy of Photographs of Bill Green, Water Resources Archive, Colorado State University

Historians at Colorado State University’s Public Lands History Center created this website to explore the history of human use of the Cache la Poudre River during the last 150 years, using Fort Collins as a case study. The Cache la Poudre River originates in the Rocky Mountains and flows through Larimer and Weld Counties in northern Colorado before emptying into the South Platte River west of Greeley, Colorado. Residents of northern Colorado began building an infrastructure around the Cache la Poudre River in the 1860s, and soon communities such as Livermore, Bellvue, Laporte, Fort Collins, Wellington, Ault, Timnath, Windsor, Loveland, and Greeley used the river’s water. Today a growing population and a limited supply of water have complicated the agricultural, municipal, industrial, recreational, and ecological demands on the Cache la Poudre River. Transferring water from agricultural to urban use is common. With funding from the Colorado Agricultural Experiment Station, the goal of this website is to help citizens, policymakers, and managers make historically-informed decisions about the river’s future.

The content on this site is organized topically. Each topic provides a broad historical overview and then delves into detailed encyclopedic-style entries, biographies, photographs, maps, interactive content, primary source documents, timelines, video, and suggested readings. The Cache la Poudre River and its path through Fort Collins not only provide a case study of how one community in this semi-arid region has allocated water resources, but also how the river continues to influence the people that have depended on it, as we hope you will discover while exploring this site.

Crops & Livestock

Enjoying & Protecting

Moving & Storage

Urban & Industrial

Maps

Authors, Editors, Contributors

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