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Ask Gen. Palmer: Flooding not just a recent problem around Colorado Springs

October 24, 2013 Updated: October 24, 2013 at 3:09 pm
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Editor's Note: This column about local history appears in Sunday's print editions of The Gazette, on the "Who We Are" page. Send questions to dave.philipps@gazette.com; 636-0238.

Question: Colorado Springs has had a summer of flash floods. Did early settlers deal with this, too?

Answer: Floods have always been a part of living below Pikes Peak. I suppose the same combination of climate and terrain that attracted us to settle here also exposes us to trouble.

My home in Glen Eyrie is a perfect example. When I first discovered the natural park just north of Garden of the Gods, surrounded by red rocks and dotted with groves of pines, I was inspired to build my estate. Part of the beauty was a narrow canyon with a small brook issuing from the mountains, which not only provided a lovely view but concentrated the waters from above to be used to create a pleasant and productive landscape below. But that same concentration of waters, when aroused by storms, repeatedly ravaged parts of the Eyrie.

I turned Glen Eyrie into a paradise, piping water down from the canyon into ponds and fountains and digging 18 reservoirs and ditches to distribute the water. The Eyrie bloomed with roses, clematis, gladioli and gardens of wildflowers. We shipped soil from Kentucky so we could plant proper bluegrass. We had acres of pears, apples and grapes and were able to grow lovely mangelwurzels, which I'm disappointed to hear are hardly grown anymore.

But when we had downpours, the same mountains that supplied us water became a hazard. Several times floods ripped out my pipes and destroyed my reservoirs. A torrent after a storm in June 1921 wiped out the fine trail up the canyon - I was dead by then, but, rest assured, I keep up on the happenings of the Eyrie. It tore out the water pipes, demolished some of the bridges, wiped out the pond near the house and destroyed some rustic cedar bowers that I used to love to lounge under with my dog Yorick. In 1947, an even larger deluge swept tons of boulders and gravel down the canyon, wiping out pools, stone bridges, rock walls and almost flooding one of the houses.

We always rebuilt. I tried to learn from my adopted home, adapting as I came to know its ways, but I never gave up on it, even though it took work. I have always felt here is much music in ambitious enterprises.

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As told by staff writer Dave Philipps in Gen. Palmer's voice.

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