Caution: Colorado’s Low Head Dams Hazardous To River Enthusiasts
Being on the water in Colorado is great fun, but it also presents the possibility of danger for river enthusiasts.
Colorado has more than a thousand of these river structures and if you're going to be on the water it's important to know where they are.
What Is A Low Head Dam?
You'll see these structures that are built into and across streams and rivers. These engineered structures are put in place to divert water to support water usage, and in some cases to provide recreational opportunities for boating, rafting, and tubing. We have seen these popping up in western Colorado.
Why Are These Structures Dangerous?
According to the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, water that flows over low head dams will produce dangerous recirculating currents that can trap water enthusiasts and create a drowning hazard. Sometimes these dams are hard to spot when approaching them from upstream because of their height. They also create a calm pool of water that can be very misleading in regards to potential danger.
Do We Have These In Mesa County?
The DNR's Low Head Dam Map shows most of the low head dams in Colorado including several in Mesa County.
The most prominent low head dam in Mesa County is the one at Cameo that everyone sees traveling I-70 through DeBeque Canyon.
You'll find what's categorized as a Grade Control Structure on the Colorado River just east of Palisade.
There is a Diversion Dam on the river at DeBeque.
Here's a diversion dam you'll find on the Gunnison River on Orchard Mesa.
The DNR is putting out this information in the interest of public safety as the state's population increases and more people recreate on Colorado's rivers. You can look at the statewide map that shows where these low head dams are located. If you're going to be on the river, always avoided these structures and enjoy the water safely.
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