Friday, June 26, 2015

Bicycling Local History

One of my favorite signs
I usually don't write about my weekly bicycle rides because they are usually just simple, local rides, mostly taken for my health and well-being.  Today's ride though includes some local history and I always like to talk about history.
My 25 mile ride started on top of the mesa, east and above Castle Rock.  I rode south along Ridge Road for 5 miles, then turned back north on Lake Gulch road and mostly coasted downhill (steep) and along the open hills and fields to Castle Rock.
My bicycle is recycled; a 1990's-era REI Novara XR.  It is a flat bar hybrid with 700 X 38 tires.  I changed the adjustable stem and handlebar, replaced the worn-out suspension seat post with a fixed one, and added an old rear rack.  Adjusting the derailleurs and brakes was fairly easy.  The tires are good and I changed to another saddle.  The bike fits me just fine and is working as a "paved & gravel road touring bike" for me.  I prefer to live like what I believe, and I do believe in recycling, renewing and reusing.  That's why I also volunteer at Project Recycle in Castle Rock where we recycle children's bicycles and then give them to waiting and happy riders.
Back in Castle Rock, Lake Gulch turns into Gilbert Street.  About 2 blocks onto Gilbert, I turned left onto the Sellars Gulch bicycle trail.  This trail follows Sellars Gulch to where it flows into Plum Creek, where the town of Castle Rock was founded.  Here the trail follows the Greenway alongside ball parks and soccer fields to the Douglas County Fairgrounds. You cross Sellars Gulch on a bridge and follow downhill, under the railroad bridge to cross under Perry Street at Festival Park near downtown. Continuing downhill through the riparian area, I crossed under Wilcox Street and went left onto the Plum Creek Trail.
This area inclines uphill beside Plum Creek and follows to the end of the trail across from the Safeway grocery store.  The area here is restored habitat for the Preble's Meadow Jumping Mouse, a local endangered nocturnal rodent living along the front range.   I turned around here and rode back north with the intent to follow the Plum Creek Trail to the end at the Meadows development.
At the Sellars Creek junction, I turned left and followed the stream-side trail to where it joined with Plum Creek.  The Interstate 25 bridge is right at this stream junction.  The trail goes under the Interstate, then goes north alongside the stream in the open land by the highway.  The Interstate noise is loud with the passing cars and trucks.  The trail crosses Plum Creek again and climbs a bit on the higher west bank.  Signs here explain Preble's Meadow Mouse and how beavers were reintroduced here to help manage the stream.  Soon you climb to cross under the Wolfensberger Bridge alongside hand painted signs for Project Recycle along the retaining wall.

Passing the businesses alongside the Interstate, you turn away from the highway noise and drop into a low area alongside Plum Creek.  There on the left side of the trail are long cement beams with bent steel at the ends with trees growing up between them.  This begins the historic portion of the ride.  A sign here says "June 16th, 1965, after several days of heavy rainfall, raging floodwaters along East Plum Creek tore through the town of Castle Rock."  Apparently, a tornado had touched down at Palmer Lake, and another at Dawson Butte with the downpours flooding the already soaked ground. The sign goes on to explain the floods affected Denver, then Kansas and Nebraska.  Cars, homes, churches, roads, rail lines and bridges were destroyed.  Tons of mud and debris were left behind.
This event claimed the lives of 21 people and caused $504.4 million dollars in damage. Adjusting for inflation brings that total to $3.8 billion dollars in today's money (in 2014's Estes Park, Lyons and Boulder floods caused $1 billion dollars damage).  The photos of wreckage on the sign showed pretty severe damage. President Lyndon Johnson declared the area a disaster area.  The sign also explains the long cement beams above were the deck of the Wofensberger Road Bridge.  It had been torn from its supports and washed half a mile downstream to where it sits today.  Since it was the only bridge at the time connecting Castle Rock's east and wet sides, this was a serious issue.  Including the Wilcox Street bridge and the Titan Road Bridge (north of Sedalia) there was no bridge access left across Plum Creek at the time. More information about the flood is HERE and ALSO HERE.

The sign explains it all
This spring, the Historic Douglas County group put on an event in Castle Rock to talk about the 1965 Flood at the Phillip S. Miller Library in town.  They explained the background material about the weather and storms, and invited community members who were living here at the time to talk about the flood in detail.
As the flooding began, a disaster drill was already underway at the new Douglas County High School which placed emergency personnel on the spot as the event happened. Of the 21 persons who died on account of the flood statewide, only one was a Douglas County resident who was drowned when her car stalled on a bridge that was washed away. Black and white photos documented Sedalia's Presbyterian Church being destroyed and washed downstream at the confluence of east and west Plum Creek.  Ariel photos that were taken by the military helicopters providing rescue showed the extent of highway wreckage in Castle Rock.  We watched a video of an 8mm film of the flooding taken by a Castle Rock resident, and viewed a slideshow of photos showing the flooding and the destruction.  I-25 was in use then and the Interstate's Plum Creek bridge was washed out.  Sellars Gulch also overflowed during the flood, taking some buildings and trailers with it.
Community members spoke of how dirt was piled up in the creek beds for cars to drive on until the bridges were repaired.  Stories were told about people using their horses to get back and forth across the creek after the water went down.  Telephones were out for 4-5 days and groceries were hard to come by for a couple weeks.
During the flood, peak discharge on the Platte River (where Plum Creek flows into) at Denver was 40,300 cubic feet per second.  At Castle Rock, the high water flow rate was 126,000 cubic feet per second.  It was reported that a wall of water flowed north that was up to 3 miles wide and over 10 feet high.  With today's increased population in the area, the negative effects of the flood would have been much greater.

From the Library Meeting, a helicopter shot of Castle Rock from the north east showing the bridge and highway damage
Community members at the Library meeting who were living here at the time of the 1965 flood
Bicycling north along the side of Plum Creek, there were sounds of children splashing and playing in the water. People walked their dogs, rode their bicycles, or just walked.  The area here is open and wide for a couple miles, passing Hangman's Gulch Trail at an open field.  Later the trail crosses the creek and passes under trees in a beautiful riparian area.  Beaver sign is prevalent, with trees cut and logs laying alongside the stream.  I wrote about this portion of the trail HERE.
Passing under Meadows Parkway Bridge and saluting the painted silhouettes of soldiers, the trail continues north, eventually climbing above Plum Creek.  From the high ground I spot a couple of old cars by the creek, perhaps more damage from the 1965 flood, or perhaps just junked old cars.  The view to the northeast is of construction cranes building the new Castle Rock Parkway bridge at US-85 with Castle Pines in the background.
Here the trail turns more west, surrounding a drainage and turning under the railroad tracks through a stone bridge. Immediately after the tracks, you go under another modern cement bridge to Castle View High School, and ascend the hill to cross under Meadows Parkway.  Stopping at a trail intersection beside a park, I found myself across the street from housing construction.  My odometer showed I had bicycled about 5.5 miles from the other end of the Plum Creek Trail.  I turned around and rode back to town along the Plum Creek Trail, pausing under the I-25 bridge during the rain, then putting on my raincoat and riding in the continuing rain.  At the ball parks along the Sellars Creek Trail, I rested under a shelter until the rain stopped enough to ride again.
Here I turned right on Gilbert Street and rode to Plum Creek Parkway.  Turning left I geared down to my granny gears and climbed the hill along the wide sidewalk back up to Ridge Road.  I actually used my 34 tooth ultra-low rear cog on the hill in a couple of the steep places.  Once I had spun up to the top at Ridge Road, the sky opened up again and I put on my raincoat.  It rained the rest of the ride back to my car. I cut my planned 30 mile ride short to get out of the rain and finished at 25 miles on my odometer.
To start this ride, exit I-25 at highway 85, exit 184.  Turn left and follow Founders Parkway almost 5 miles to the traffic light at highway 86/5th Street.  Go through the light and turn left into the King Soopers parking lot and park.  Bicycle to the left and follow the sidewalk along Ridge Road to follow the route.  When the sidewalk runs out, take the road and follow Ridge Road south.
To get an additional 5 miles for a total of a 30 mile ride, when you climb back up to Ridge Road, turn right, then turn left onto Appleton Way, then right onto Lantern Circle and follow to where the Mitchell Creek Canyon trail crosses the street.  There is a disc golf course here.  Turn left onto the trail and follow it to cross Michelson Blvd. and continue along the trail to the next right turn.  Take this right turn and cross the field with a dry stream bed to your right.  Cross Michelson again and continue to follow the trail down into the canyon. The canyon area is a peaceful area and if you stop at a bench you can listen to and watch birds flit through the trees.  Climb out of the canyon, then turn right on Enderud Blvd.  Go a couple blocks to turn left onto Heritage Avenue.  Follow Heritage past Rock Ridge Elementary to Enderud Blvd., turn right and then go right onto the sidewalk at Ridge Road to get back to your car.

No comments:

Post a Comment