Fort Collins is a vibrant city with 300 days of sunshine and clear-running rivers. However, its beautiful landscape and proximity to the mountains can put the city at risk for flooding. The Cache la Poudre River, which begins in the high peaks of the Rocky Mountains and meanders down through Fort Collins, features stunning scenery for both residents and visitors to enjoy.
While picturesque, the Poudre River is subject to floods from snowmelt and thunderstorms. In fact, when a military post was first established in 1862 near the town of Laporte – then named “Camp Collins” – a roaring flood destroyed the camp, forcing settlers to relocate to higher ground near present-day Downtown Fort Collins.
Over the 19th and 20th centuries, other massive floods such as those in 1904 on the Poudre River and 1997 on Spring Creek have caused loss of life and significantly damaged roads, bridges, homes and businesses, forcing the City of Fort Collins to pay more attention to the power of nature and the importance of living adjacent to rivers and streams.
Flood on Vine Drive in September 2013.
Flood Safety and Preparedness Tips#
- Sign up for LETA911
- Keep updated on weather forecasts : a watch means conditions are in place for severe weather; a warning means severe weather, flooding, tornadoes, etc. are occurring or imminent
- Charge up portable electronic devices
- Don't risk driving through floodwaters
- Use caution when recreating, follow all recommended guidelines
- During high water, river banks easily erode and become unstable, stay away from banks
- Monitor trail closures and follow all trail closures signage and guidelines
- Be Red Cross Ready — get a kit, make a plan, be informed of weather concerns
- Know your flood risk
- Prepare a disaster supply kit
- Make a plan, designate a place where your family can rendezvous after an evacuation order is issued
- Move valuables to higher levels in your home or business
- Purchase a NOAA Weather Radio
- Consider purchasing flood insurance — only flood insurance covers floods
Protect the Floodplain ... It Protects You#
Flooding is a natural process. A healthy riparian ecosystem relies upon frequent inundations to survive and thrive. Along the Cache la Poudre River many riparian areas have been preserved, including Gustav Swanson Natural Area, Colorado State Environmental Learning Center, and Kingfisher Point Natural Area. In 2014, McMurray Natural Area underwent a major restoration effort.
Floodplains help reduce flood damage by allowing water to spread over a large area. This reduces the speed of flood water and provides flood storage to reduce peak flows downstream. The City of Fort Collins owns a number of parcels along Spring Creek, Fossil Creek and the Cache la Poudre River, permanently preserving these areas as riparian open space and reducing the flood hazard.
View this video to learn about river restoration along the Poudre River and importance of the river ecosystem.