McElmo Flume

Date: 6/1/12
Principal Researchers:
  • Kat Vlahos
  • Mike Nulty
  • Julia Ausloos
Location: Cortez, CO

Built in the 1880s, the flume was a marvel of engineering, delivering water to Towaoc and area ranches. It operated until 1992, but was replaced by the concrete canals of the McPhee Project and has since fallen into disrepair. Originally, Montezuma Valley Irrigation Company’s 150-mile ditch network contained 104 flumes. Using gravity, the ditches carried precious irrigation water from the Dolores River to farmers as far south as Towaoc. The route had to be carefully graded — too flat and the water would stagnate, too steep and it might escape over the edges at turns. The system was abandoned in the early 1990s after McPhee Reservoir filled.

In the summer of 2012 The Center of Preservation Research, in partnership with Anthony and Associates, completed 3D digital documentation of the structure. Utilizing a Leica Scan Station 2 to collect LiDAR laser scan data the team of Mike Nulty and Julia Ausloos were able to complete a 3D model of the structure. This data was used to create a 2D site plan and plan drawing of the flume. Additional visualizations were also produced such as still images of the 3D data. The site plan and 3D data will be used in a larger effort to help stabilize and preserve the structure.