No. 3 Ditch - CITY LIMITS

 Print Listing Historical Name - No. 3 Ditch; Greeley Canal No. 3
Style - No Style
Built Year - 1870
State ID - 5WL843

Description - From its point of origin on the south side of the Cache la Poudre River, the canal follows natural contours of the land to the "delta," or marshy region at the confluence of the Poudre and South Platte Rivers. The ditch falls no more than five feet per mile, although a considerably more gentle gradient drop is the norm. Associated water control devices such as gates, flumes, culverts and bridges are too numerous to describe individually, but vary with the surrounding landscape. Ditch lining material, or the lack of lining, also varies with the landscape. Generally, the ditch enters the present city limits in Section 2 of Township 5N, Range 66W, and proceeds southeast through town. It cuts through the original city limits at 14th Avenue and 13th Street and leaves the 1870 limits at 16th Street and 9th Avenue. Originally designed to serve both farms and town lots, the No. 3 Ditch is still characterized by duality of land use in its vicinity. An essentially rural landscape quickly gives way to Greeley's west side residential development as the ditch proceeds east. However, a third "corridor" with gravel pits, chemical plants and natural gas wells has emerged in pockets between the ditch and the Poudre River. This industrial zone begins to mix with low income housing as the ditch enters the original 1870 Greeley city limits. Through this area, the ditch takes on an urban character, with concrete or stone lining, chain-link fencing, tunnels or culverts under streets, and more elaborate bridges. The surrounding residential neighborhoods consist of homes built from the 1880s through the 1930s, with occasional newer infill. As the ditch passes through town and under the east-side railroad tracks, the landscape reverts to industrial and low-income residential zones. Although originally designed to water lawns and gardens, the ditch is now used primarily for city parks.

Historical Background - The No. 3 Ditch was the first large-scale irrigation project constructed by the Union Colony. Its purpose was to supply the town of Greeley with water. The minutes of the Union Colony Executive Committee Record Book state that construction began in April of 1870 and was completed by June 10. Through May 31, the contractor was Sebree and Bishop, paid at a rate of $.20/cubic yard. In July, Colony leaders decided to pay maintenance costs by assessing owners or irrigated town lots and "out of town" Colony land. Later, engineer E. S. Nettleton was employed to correct construction errors. Due to inadequate flow through the new ditch, enlargements began in 1871. As David Boyd wrote in Irrigation Near Greeley, although poorly constructed, the ditch demonstrated the "great fertility of the soil." Believing in the "fruits of irrigation," the Colonists invested $6,333 in the No. 3 and over $8,700 in the larger No. 2. Together, irrigation projects represented almost 40% of Colony expenses, not including initial land purchases. The investment paid off in terms of agricultural development of the northeastern Colorado plains, but not without hardship and conflict. During the dry summer of 1874, a water allocation controversy between the Union Colony and the upstream Agricultural Colony of Fort Collins resulted in the gradual development of a system of water rights control. Fort Collins irrigators diverted large amounts of water into their newly constructed canals, depriving downstream users of any water at all. Town lawns and trees in Greeley were drying up. Both parties recognized the need for state regulation. Union Colonists who pioneered large-scale irrigation in Colorado were instrumental in the eventual passage of legislation in the 2nd and 3rd General Assemblies which became known as the "Colorado System."