The City of Fort Collins Natural Areas Department has been awarded a grant of $10,000 from the History Colorado State Historical Fund. The grant will be used to fund a Historic Structure Assessment of the Great Western Sugar Company effluent flume and bridge, which spans the Cache la Poudre River on Kingfisher Point Natural Area.
After 60 years of being out of use and only minimally maintained, the flume and bridge are in need of attention to ensure that they will be here for today’s visitors and future generations. In 2014, the National Register of Historic Places designated the site as a landmark and recognized it as significant on the state level in the areas of Industry and Engineering. The GWSC structure is one of only two suspension bridges in Colorado that are on the National Register; the other is the 1929 Royal Gorge Bridge. The Historic Structure Assessment will be performed by an engineering firm with experience in restoration of historic structures and will take approximately 6 months to complete.
Ron Sladek of Tatanka Historical Associates, Inc., and author of the landmark nomination stated that the “bridge is a rare example of suspension engineering in Colorado and the flume and bridge together are surviving examples of a historic industrial effluent disposal system.” Colorado once had more than 20 sugar beet factories, supporting tens of thousands of farmers, field hands, and factory workers from the early to mid-1900s.
The Great Western Sugar Company (GWSC) operated the factory in Fort Collins, which was located on the site of the current City of Fort Collins Streets Department (625 Ninth Street). Waste effluent from sugar beet processing was deposited in successive nearby settling ponds. Eventually the company ran out of property under their ownership on the north side of the Poudre River. In 1926, a GWSC engineer designed a suspension bridge that supported a metal flume to carry slurry of mostly lime, beet pulp, and water across the river for deposition on company land. The flume was operational until the mid-1950s when the plant closed. While most of the factory complex was demolished in the 1960s, the bridge and flume survived to present day because of their location along the river that did not receive high development pressure. In 2004, the Natural Areas Department purchased the last parcel of land that contained the bridge and incorporated it into Kingfisher Point Natural Area.
The historic Great Western Sugar Company Flume and Bridge are very visible from the Poudre Trail, south side of the river mid-way between Lemay Avenue and Timberline Road. The City of Fort Collins Natural Areas Department has installed an interpretive sign along the trail near the flume.