Clear Creek

AddressFrom Gilpin Co. line easterly through Golden, Wheat Ridge, and Arvada to Adams Co.
QuadRalston Buttes, 1965; Golden, 1965; Arvada, 1965
SectionS36, T3S, R72W; S13, T3S, R69W
Elevationc. 7100-5250
SourceUSGS Topographic, Jefferson County Sheet #1, 1976; "More Than Gold," 1976, p. 10, Arvada Historical Society; "Colorado Transcript" September 10, 1879.
OtherVasquez Fork, Cannon-ball Creek, Vasquez River
Initialdate1996-08-15 00:00:00-06
Latestdate1998-10-16 00:00:00-06
HistoryClear Creek received its present name during the summer gold rush days of 1859. The earliest prospectors referred to it as Vasquez Fork, the name it had held since the 1830s, and the name was changed presumably due to its then-clear and turbulent waters. Nicknamed "Klar Krik" by some of the less-refined locals, it was described by persons such as Horace Greeley as being a powerful and turbulent stream teeming particularly with brown trout, difficult if not impossible to cross on horseback during summertime high waters. Irrigation canals have since sapped the river of its original power, in order to support agriculture downstream. So much water was diverted early on that by 1879 the downstream water had literally dried out. Throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries upstream mining operations completely destroyed the river's ecosystem and compelled people such as George West to complain it was belying its name since it was now "big muddy". Metallic tailings and human waste from upstream threatened downstream agriculture and the health of Golden residents. However, the water was the principal source of power for area industry, including flour mills, smelters, and a paper mill. The river has been home to virtually all kinds of gold mining attempted in Colorado, from gold panning to hydraulics to dredge mining, and evidence of this mining remains along the river in various places. Clear Creek has been prone to periodic severe floods, causing millions of dollars in damage to towns, railroads, farmers and industry. During later years it has been the focus of continuing open space and parks preservation initiatives by several entities.