Dam Good Water

It’s sometimes hard to imagine how Cañon City became the agricultural center it was during the 20th century. For one, water isn’t as abundant here as it is in many other places. That didn’t stop Dall DeWeese who decided he would find a water supply for his nursery and all the local orchards. DeWeese claimed “these people shall have a good and permanent water supply; the mountains will supply it; I will find it”, according to the Cañon City Times September 29, 1904 edition. He began the DeWeese Dye Ditch and Reservoir Company and began work on the reservoir in 1903. The reservoir is located north of Westcliffe in Custer County. Since its construction, the dam was enlarged in 1935 to increase capacity and the top 12 feet of the dam was reconstructed in the 1990s. Water is diverted from Grape Creek into the DeWeese Dye Ditch system and flows down into Lincoln Park.

On September 29, 1904, the Cañon City Times wrote that the Denver & Rio Grande planned to run an excursion train to Westcliffe with the express purpose of viewing the newly completed reservoir. A round trip cost $1.50 ($42.34 in 2019) and the trip was arranged by Dall DeWeese. Those attending were advised to bring a lunch basket as the area surrounding the reservoir was not surrounded by areas to supply meals. The Cañon City and Silver Cliff baseball teams were also slated to play in the afternoon for a prize of $40. It was to be the last excursion train into the Wet Mountain Valley for the season and people were told if they joined “a most enjoyable time may be had.”

At the time of its construction, the reservoir held 77,000,000 cubic feet of water and the length of the dam was 75 feet at the base and 51 feet high. To create the dam, 35 car loads of cement were used. The lake was stocked with trout and on May 11, 1922, the lake was supplied with 50,000 young trout from Buena Vista according to the Citizen Democrat. Today, the reservoir still supplies water and is used for recreational activities such as camping and fishing.

“Overflow DeWeese Dam”, 1919; Copyright Royal Gorge Regional Museum & History Center
“Base of DeWeese Lake, J. T. Stroehlke, Silver Cliff, Colorado”, ca. 1930; Copyright Royal Gorge Regional Museum & History Center
DeWeese Reservoir and Sangre De Cristo Mountains, ca. 1955; Copyright Royal Gorge Regional Museum & History Center

Are you interested in learning more about Cañon City’s water system? Join us this Saturday, February 2nd at 1:00 PM for our program “Liquid Gold: The Story of the Cañon City Water System”.

Call us at (719) 269-9036, email us at historycenter@canoncity.org, or visit us at 612 Royal Gorge Blvd. between the hours of 10 AM – 4 PM with any questions.

The information presented in this article is compiled using research conducted by the Royal Gorge Regional Museum and History Center.

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