Denver's 'Oldest Working Thing' Has Been Flowing for 155 Years

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In addition to flowing out of Washington Park along Marion Street Parkway, the ditch used to flow into the Park along another Parkway, called Grassmere Parkway or Buchtel Parkway at the time. That street followed the ditch on a meandering path from about University and Mexico to Louisiana and Gilpin. South High School is built over the ditch and where the Parkway used to be, and Buchtel became the name of another prominent Denver boulevard.

I heard, from someone who has the Denver Ditch running through their Englewood property, that when construction was happening on T-Rex (I-25 project) they found a pipe under the highway that carried the ditch water to Washington Park from the south side of the highway. They had to remove it and didn't want to spend the money to replace it, so the water in Washington Park isn't ditch water anymore. Instead they have recycled water, which is high in salinity, and damaging the park trees.


I've always been fascinated by Smith's Big City Irrigation Ditch since the first time I was shown a part of the still open section near our house that friends showed me on a bike ride near Porter's Hospital. We called it the Donkey Ditch because there was a Donkey in the yard of a house beside THE Ditch and he was very friendly as long as we shared some apple slices and sugar cubes with him. Many years later when we built a Concrete Plant in Blakeland, I learned about the steps taken to maintain the flow of the ditch's water through Chatfield Reservoir when the original diversion system up Waterton Canyon was replaced.

I used to play at the “donkey ditch” as a kid. The house with the donkeys was at Bates and Clarkson, in Englewood. There was a large vacant lot to the east where we would ride our bikes. There was a small stream that dead ended into the ditch. The part of the stream that was downstream disappeared, until it rained and flooded some of the houses.

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