Exploring the Great Flood of 1976

We were free all Friday afternoon so we decided to take a drive through the canyon to check out the flood memorials. Like I mentioned in my earlier post July 31st marked the 37th anniversary of the Big Thompson Canyon Flood. There were 143 people killed that day although at the time the total was 144. One person had been among those listed as never found but had actually left, with his family, the morning of the flood without telling anyone. It wasn’t until 2008 that it was discovered they were still alive.

In case of flood


We set out early afternoon, making a quick pit stop Starbucks where ZuZu was given a puppucino. She’s been with us tons of times before but this is the first time we’ve gotten one.

Zu's Starbucks

She loved it!


There are two memorials and a historical site that commemorate the flood and its victims. The historical site is located at Viestenz-Smith Mountain Park which is easy to miss unless you know to look for it. It’s located in a little valley below the highway.

Park sign

It doesn’t look that big at first but it’s very long and has a lot to offer. It’s always been one of our favorite parks. It also used to be the site of Loveland’s Municipal Light & Power Plant that was destroyed in the flood.

Power plant sign

This is what it looked like July 31, 1976.


This was August 1, 1976.


This is what it looks like now.

Power plant

There are several plaques around the old equipment explaining what happened during the flood.

Flood sign 3

Flood sign 2

Flood sign

WZ old power plant



We moseyed around the park for a while, letting Zu get some exercise, before heading a few miles down the road to the next memorial. This one is dedicated to the two police officers killed while trying to rescue people from the canyon.

Zu police memorial


About half a mile from this memorial is the official flood memorial. It’s located next to the fire station.

Flood memorial


The bricks in the pathway leading to the memorial are all engraved with something. A name, a poem. There are some remembering those who died and other remembering those who survived. A few lists dates that survivors died. They were sold to fund the memorial itself and the pathway was completed in 2010.

Memorial bricks


Memorial 2

Memorial 3

On our way home we stopped at Colorado Cherry Company to buy some strawberry rhubarb jam. They have a great selection of juices, jams, and pies. Most of it is made in Colorado and I like supporting the local businesses. Plus they let dogs in the store which is always a plus in my book! We had to keep a watchful eye on Zu because they keep a few packaged goods in baskets on the floor and several things nose level on the shelves.

Zu cherry store

Cherry store ZuZu

There’s so much more than I’ve mentioned in today’s post. There are quite a few interesting articles and papers done about whether or not people were properly warned. Technology and warning systems were so different from today it’s hard to tell whether it would have made a difference. I’ve heard several people say residents knew the dangers but ignored them until it was too late. Regardless it’s still very sad and impossible to imagine what it would have been like. We drive through the canyon several times a month and never give a second thought to the disaster that took place there. In fact I had never been to the official memorial until this trip. I knew the basics about what happened but had never paid a lot of attention so I spent most of last Wednesday and Thursday nights reading articles, accounts from survivors & witnesses, and watching old video of the aftermath. On Friday when we drove through I looked at it with a different light. There are places where fences have never been repaired, old cars that were caught in the flood can still be seen and a house only a few miles from the entrance that belonged to a family of 5 who were killed while trying to escape.

That wraps up today’s history lesson. Hope you enjoyed it. 🙂


8 thoughts on “Exploring the Great Flood of 1976

  1. Kudos to you for stopping to look back and remember the heroic individuals of this tragic event! In order to move forward, we need to learn about our past! And I can not think of a better co-pilot to have on this journey than Zu! 🙂

    • You are very right about learning about our past. Due to how unpredictable floods are we have to admit where mistakes were made and find room for improvement. And I definitely agree about Zu being a great co-pilot, she’s willing to go anywhere!

  2. Ya know, I have not noticed this before but Zu looks a lot like Nikita in so many ways! Nikita is part German Shepherd / Akita. Zu’s head looks just as fluffy as Nikita’s and the tail is about the same too. Have you noticed this before? Awesome photographs, by the way & a great post too!

    • It’s so funny you say that; I was just thinking that the other day! I usually don’t have favorites outside of my pets but I always think Nikita is especially cute and it dawned on me that it’s because they look so much alike! She is Border Collie/Australian Shepherd but people ask all the time if she is part Sheltie too so I think she’s got a mix of a few other things. The fluffy tail is my favorite because it hangs to the side and makes her look so dainty!

      • Oh, so I am not the only one who think that they look alike! They do! Just viewing your pics on your post made me realize that. Nikita is German Shepherd / Akita. Her fur is super soft (from the Akita), her tail is so fluffy and her face looks like a Shepherd. That is cool that they look alike!

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