Denver, CO

Remembering the 1933 Castlewood Canyon Dam flood

Natasha Lovato

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Hikers walk near the Castlewood Canyon Dam remains.Colorado Parks and Wildlife

Natasha Lovato / NewsBreak Denver 

(Franktown, Colo.) When the Castlewood Canyon Dam burst 89 years ago, the water traveled over 40 miles into Denver, submerging the city in four feet of water. 

On August 3, 1933, a raging storm burst the dam's walls and sent over one billion gallons of water through the surrounding wilderness and into Denver, causing immeasurable damage and killing two people. 

During the 1930s, rural telephone customers often shared party lines. When the dam broke, officials made an emergency call to notify families from Franktown to Denver to head for higher ground. 

They had little time to save personal belongings or livestock, and the water displaced about 5,000 people. 

In 1997, Castlewood Canyon State Park staff members assembled the memories of the flood survivors into a compelling book called, The Night the Dam Gave Way: A Diary of Personal Accounts. 

In the book, Leota Bostrom, who was 10, recalled witnessing a wall of water rushing down Cherry Creek. She remembers seeing tree branches, bushes, a dead cow, and a dog float by as she watched from West Seventh Avenue and Speer Boulevard. She said she'd never forget the stench of death. 

"The smell was unique to a flood and if you ever smell it you will never forget. Awful," she said. 

Now, hikers can see the remains of the dam site from the park's trails. The area where the water flowed is a dry, grassy thoroughfare. 

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The remains of the Castlewood Canyon Dam.Colorado Parks and Wildlife

To commemorate the 89th anniversary of the flood, Castlewood Canyon will host Dam Day from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Aug. 6 at the park's event facilities, 2989 Colorado 83 in Franktown.

The event includes the history of the dam failure, characters dressed from the time period, food, and games.

Dam Day is a free event, but participants need either an annual park pass or a day pass for $10 to enter the park. 

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Lovato covers local news for Douglas County, Colo.

Douglas County, CO
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