Cache La Poudre National Heritage Area

Thank you for letting me tell you about the Cache La Poudre National Heritage Area today and how a National Heritage Area (NHA) differs from a National Park, which is both important and of interest.

National Heritage Areas (NHA) were formed in a backlash when local communities were opposed not only to the land take over by the Federal Government for a National Park but also the many restrictions on the use of the land. The answer in the 1980???s was to form NHA’s , which are not managed by the government so it does not have any of the Federal Limitations. NHA’s are places where historic, cultural, and natural resources combine to form cohesive, nationally important landscapes.  Unlike national parks, NHA’s are large lived-in landscapes. Consequently, NHA’s collaborate with communities.

The first NHA was formed in 1984, signed into law by President Ronald Reagan.  Today, the program includes 49 NHA’s  across the country. Colorado is one of 16 states with more than one NHA  We have 3. South Park NHA, Sangre De Cristo NHA and Cache La Poudre NHA. With this designation, the NHA’s  are on the National Park Service website which helps bring in tourism. They receive only a nominal yearly stipend. They are not staffed by National Park Service employees.

NPS hierarchy: National Park ??? designated by congress, which means it is debated and voted upon; National Monument ??? designated by the President (as part of the Antiquities Act of 1913). Requires no act from Congress; National Historic Sites (like Bent???s Fort); National Battlefields; National Recreation Area; National Historic Trail.ALL OF THE ABOVE ARE STAFFED BY THE NATIONAL PARK SERVICE.
Again, National Heritage Areas are not staffed by NPS as the NPS does not assume ownership of land inside heritage areas nor impose land use controls.

Cache la Poudre National Heritage Area
The 120-mile Cache la Poudre River originates in the Rocky Mountains and flows across the plains to merge with the South Platte River. The river represents several milestones, including the development of water law in the Western U.S., the evolution of water delivery systems and shaping of the northern Colorado’s cultural heritage. The Cache la Poudre Heritage Area extends for 45 miles beginning in Larimer County at Roosevelt National Forest’s eastern border, through Fort Collins and ending east of Greeley. According to local legend, a group of French fur trappers were camped along the banks of the river in the early 1800s. When a snowstorm hit, they decided to lighten their load and hide (cache) their gunpowder (la poudre). As a result, the river was named Cache la Poudre (hide the gunpowder).

The mid-twentieth century brought fresh demands on the Poudre’s water. Well drilling boomed in the 1940s, 50s, and 60s as a result of improved equipment. The wells pumped ground water, which otherwise would have recharged the river. This decreased available water thereby undermining water rights in the river. The situation threatened the complex balance of water use established under the Doctrine of Prior Appropriation. Coloradoans wanted to safeguard historic water rights. In 1957, 1965, and 1969, Colorado passed laws acknowledging and protecting senior water rights from being impacted by well use again upholding the tradition of prior appropriation. In 1956 Parshall also identified a more challenging water issue: Examining the water problem we find the curve representing the population is rising and the curve showing the water supply is gradually dropping. People are on the move to live in Colorado, farmers are to be supplied with water, industry is expanding to use more water and we are going down hill on water supply.

Some experiences within this vast Heritage area include: to tour Fort Collins 1883 Water Works, which housed the area???s first pump house. The 26-acre complex???s four buildings and two revolutionary irrigation ditches drove water through wrought iron pipes to Fort Collins homes from the Cache La Poudre River until 1905. The Centennial Village Museum in Greeley, is an 8-acre complex of more than 30 historic structures that interprets the history of Greeley and Weld County from 1860 to 1920 including the boyhood home of Delphus Carpenter, a major figure in establishing the state’s water law as Colorado’s Commissioner of Interstate Streams.

To experience the Cache la Poudre NHA walk, bike, run or rollerblade the Poudre River Trail, a 31-mile paved trail along the river from Greeley to Windsor. Mammals, including porcupines, fox, coyotes and deer, and more than 300 species of birds are often seen. You may also explore the Arapahoe Bend Natural Area and see the ruins of the historic Strauss Cabin, homesteaded in the 1860, where some of the earliest settlers to use the CLaP water for irrigation. Colorado’s state mammal – the bighorn sheep – roams on the Cache la Poudre-North Park Scenic Byway, which follows the route from Fort Collins to Bellvue used by settlers to connect the northern plains of Colorado with the Green River Settlement in Utah. And at Lory State Park near Fort Collins,  rocky hills, emerald valleys and ponderosa pine forests supply a paradise for backcountry campers, hikers and bikers. The park is bordered by Horsetooth Reservoir, a locals’ favorite for kayaking, canoeing, and trout and bass fishing.