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Uncompahgre Project History (48 KB) (pdf)
General Description| Plan| Development| Benefits

 

General Description

The Uncompahgre Project is on the western slope of the Rocky Mountains in west-central Colorado. Project lands surround the town of Montrose and extend 34 miles along both sides of the Uncompahgre River to Delta, Colorado. Project features include Taylor Park Dam and Reservoir, Gunnison Tunnel, 7 diversion dams, 128 miles of main canals, 438 miles of laterals, and 216 miles of drains. The systems divert water from the Uncompahgre and Gunnison Rivers to serve over 76,000 acres of project land.

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Plan

The project plan provides for storage in Taylor Park Reservoir on the Taylor River, which is a part of the Gunnison River Basin, and diversion of water from the Gunnison River by the Gunnison Diversion Dam through the Gunnison Tunnel and the South Canal to the Uncompahgre River.

To distribute the waters of the Gunnison and Uncompahgre Rivers, the South and West Canals were constructed and the larger existing private canals, that take water directly from the Uncompahgre River, were purchased, then enlarged and extended. Laterals were constructed to deliver water from the South Canal to project lands.

Facility Descriptions

Taylor Park Dam

Taylor Park Dam is on the Taylor River, a tributary of the Gunnison River. The dam is a zoned earthfill structure 206 feet high, with a crest length of 675 feet and a volume of 1,115,000 cubic yards. It creates a reservoir with a storage capacity of 106,200 acre-feet. The spillway is an overflow-type weir crest 180 feet long with a capacity of 10,000 cubic feet per second. The outlet works is a horseshoe tunnel with a diameter of 10 feet, and a capacity of 1,500 cubic feet per second.

Gunnison Diversion Dam

The Gunnison Diversion Dam on the Gunnison River, about 12 miles east of Montrose, is a timber-crib weir with concrete wings and a removable crest. The dam has a structural height of 16 feet. It diverts Gunnison River direct flows, as well as releases from the Taylor Park Dam into the Gunnison Tunnel.

The Gunnison Tunnel was designed as a rectangular section 11 feet wide and 12 feet high, with an arch roof. A number of modifications have been made since the original construction. It is 5.8 miles long and has a capacity of 1,300 cubic feet per second.

The South Canal extends from the end of the Gunnison Tunnel generally southwest 11.4 miles to the Uncompahgre River. Part of the canal is concrete lined; the remainder is unlined. The canal has an initial capacity of 1,010 cubic feet per second.

West Canal extends generally northwest about 21 miles from the Uncompahgre River beginning at the terminal structure of the South Canal with the river. This unlined canal as an initial capacity of 172 cubic feet per second. The West Canal is diverted directly from the South Canal and a timber and metal flume carries the canal across the Uncompahgre River. There is a small diversion for winter flows directly from the Uncompahgre River.

Montrose and Delta Diversion Dam

This diversion dam is on the Uncompahgre River about 8 miles south of Montrose. The dam is a concrete gate structure with radial control and sluiceway gates. The unlined canal extends generally northwest about 40 miles from the diversion point and has a diversion capacity of 563 cubic feet per second. The original dam and canal were privately constructed and later purchased and rehabilitated by Reclamation as part of the Uncompahgre Project. A new structure was built in 1963 with a diversion capacity of 550 cubic feet per second.

Loutzenhizer Diversion Dam

The diversion dam is on the Uncompahgre River about 2 miles south of Montrose. It was a pile-and-timber weir with a concrete apron but was rebuilt by the water users into a concrete weir and apron with radial gates. The dam has a structural height of 24 feet. The canal extends generally northwest 14.5 miles from the diversion dam and has a diversion capacity of 120 feet per second. The original dam and canal were privately constructed and purchased by Reclamation in 1908.

Selig Diversion Dam

Selig Diversion Dam is on the Uncompahgre River about 5 miles northwest of Montrose. It has a timber-gated sluiceway with uncontrolled concrete overflow weir and concrete stilling basin. Its structural height is 25 feet. The canal extends generally north about 20 miles from the diversion dam. This unlined canal has a diversion capacity of 320 cubic feet per second. The original dam and canal were privately constructed and purchased by Reclamation in 1914.

Ironstone Diversion Dam

Located on the Uncompahgre river about 8 miles northwest of Montrose, the Ironstone Diversion Dam is a concrete structure with radial control and sluiceway gates with a concrete wing. The structural height is 17 feet. The unlined canal runs 14 miles northwest from the diversion dam. The diversion capacity of the canal is 400 cubic feet per second. The original dam and canal were privately constructed and were acquired by Reclamation in 1915.

East Canal Diversion Dam

Located on the Uncompahgre river about 10 miles northwest of Montrose, the East Canal Diversion Dam is a concrete and timber weir with an earth embankment wing. The structural height is 16 feet. The unlined canal extends 10.6 miles north from the diversion dam. Its diversion capacity is 165 cubic feet per second. The original dam and canal were privately constructed and were acquired by Reclamation in 1911.

Garnet Diversion Dam

The diversion dam is on the Uncompahgre River about 15 miles northwest of Montrose. The dam is a concrete-surfaced rockfill weir, and has a structural height of 8 feet. Garnet Canal is unlined and extends 10.7 miles northwest from the diversion dam. Its diversion capacity is 75 cubic feet per second. The original dam and canal were constructed by private interests and purchased by the Bureau of Reclamation in 1914.

Lateral and Drainage Systems

There are 438 miles of laterals which distribute water to project lands. A system of subsurface drains totaling 216 miles has been constructed.


Operating Agencies

The project is operated and maintained by the Uncompahgre Valley Water Users Association.

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Development

History

The lands comprising the project area were formerly part of the Ute Indian reservation. Settlement rapidly followed cession of the land by the Indians to the United states. By 1903, about 30,000 acres in the Uncompahgre Valley were irrigated by private systems which included five diversion dams on the Uncompahgre River. As the possibilities for greater use of irrigation water were evident, a larger development by the State of Colorado was started in 1901 but was abandoned. Work by the Reclamation Service began in 1903.

Active support for driving a tunnel from Gunnison River to the Uncompahgre Valley to obtain additional water was solicited as early as 1890. In 1894, the Geological Survey completed a reconnaissance survey and found it was too expensive an undertaking for local interests, but in 1901 the state of Colorado appropriated $25,000 to start the tunnel. Only 900 feet were driven before the funds were exhausted. In 1901, construction surveys of the project were begun by the Geological Survey, and the general scheme of the project was outlined in its first report. After the passage of the Reclamation Act in 1902, the Uncompahgre Valley was selected for immediate development. The original surveys by the Geological survey, plus the investigational work carried out by the Reclamation Service, served as a basis for authorization of the project in 1903.


Authorization

The Uncompahgre Project (originally called the Gunnison Project) was authorized by the Secretary of the Interior on March 14, 1903, under the provisions of the Reclamation Act. Rehabilitation of the project and construction of Taylor Park Dam was approved by the President on November 6, 1935.


Construction

Construction began in July 1904, and the first water for irrigation was available during the season of 1908 from the Uncompahgre River. The Gunnison Tunnel was completed in 1909, and the Gunnison Diversion Dam was completed in January 1912. The project was transferred to the Uncompahgre Valley Waters Users Association for operation and maintenance in 1932. Taylor Park Dam, built from funds allotted under the National Industrial Recovery Act, was completed in 1937. Other improvements made during the same period included enlargement, lining, and smoothing portions of the Gunnison Tunnel, constructing concrete and steel structures to replace some of the wornout wooden structures in the privately constructed irrigation systems, relining portions of the canals, and constructing a drainage system to relieve and prevent waterlogging of land.


Recent Developments

This project is within the Colorado River basin and is part of the Colorado River Basin Salinity Control Program., specifically The Lower Gunnison Basin Salinity Control Unit.

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Benefits

Irrigation

Almost 76,300 acres of land receive a full irrigation water supply from the facilities of the project. Principal crops are alfalfa, wheat, corn, oats, potatoes, beans, barley, onions, and fruit.


Recreation

Free camp and picnic grounds have been provided by the Forest Service at Taylor Park Reservoir. Cabins are available at privately owned resort developments in the area. Camping, picnicking, swimming, and boating are popular activities, and fishing is good for rainbow, brown, and Loch Leven trout. Some brook and native trout also are caught.


Flood Control

Although there is no specific reservoir capacity assigned for flood control, the Uncompaghre Project has provided an accumulated $639,000 in flood control benefits from 1950 to 1999.

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Last updated: May 17, 2011