James Stewart Ditch Wooden Pipeline
photo: Wooden pipeline
Wooden pipeline

The James Stewart Ditch wooden pipeline and trestle are located at Ridgway State Park in Ridgway, Colorado. Both structures once crossed the Uncompahgre River. Thepark is owned by the United States under the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Reclamation and managed by Colorado State Parks through contract.

The ditch may be one of the last remaining wooden pipeline ditches in western Colorado. Though long abandoned, it serves as a reminder as to the spirit and ingenuity that helped cultivate and civilize the wild and inhospitable West. 

Water for the ditch was appropriated in 1888 for manufacturing and irrigation purposes. The ditch originally diverted water from Dallas Creek for a sawmill operation located on the west bank of the Uncompahgre River near the former town of Dallas. Later its use and length were expanded to irrigate nearby fields and grow hay for early settlers.

Expansion of the ditch included transporting the water in a wooden pipe attached to a trestle across the Uncompahgre River. The pipe, portions of which are still visible, is made of stave-shaped sections held together by a heavy gauge wire wrapped around it. Historical records indicate that the ditch expansion was planned in 1918 so construction of the wooden pipe probably occurred shortly thereafter. The small town of Dallas disappeared when the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad decided not to locate a junction there, but rather chose the nearby town of Ridgway.

James Stewart Ditch Trestle and portion of wooden pipeline
James Stewart Ditch Trestle and portion of wooden pipeline

For public safety reasons, in 2008 Reclamation was forced to remove the trestle and portion of wooden pipe which crossed the Uncompahgre River. A photographic record was made, and sections of the wooden structure will be offered to the local museum and historical society and eventually may be displayed at the Park Visitor Center.

Sources of Information

Ouray County, Decrees and Testimony, Water District 68, #1

U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. (1986). Old Dallas Historical Archaeological Program. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.

James Stewart Ditch Trestle
James Stewart Ditch Trestle
Last Updated: 2/22/17