James Creek’s headwaters originate within the Indian Peaks wilderness above Brainard Lake on the Front Range of Colorado. Waters from Brainard Lake flow into the South St.Vrain Creek and are diverted into James Creek at a diversion structure near Ward, CO. James Creek flows 12 miles eastward to Left Hand Creek, with a watershed area of 12,000 acres. James Creek is the sole source of drinking water for the Town of Jamestown.
There are four diversions in the James Creek watershed:
- South St. Vrain Diversion – The main diversion is the South St. Vrain Creek water diverted into the headwaters of James Creek.
- Gold Lake Fill Ditch -The Gold Lake Fill Ditch diverts a small amount of water from James Creek to Gold Lake, which lies on the divide separating the James Creek and Left Hand Creek watersheds. The water in Gold Lake is used as a winter reserve for domestic supply along Left Hand Creek and can be released into the Left Hand Creek watershed when necessary.
- Jamestown Irrigation Ditch – The town of Jamestown diverts water from James Creek at both an irrigation ditch and at a water plant intake for municipal drinking water use.
- Bueno Mill – The Bueno Mill had a pipeline diversion off of James Creek that has not been used for 30 years.
A Historical Note…
Prior to 1867 James Creek originated from drainages flowing from Duck Lake and had minimal flow. In 1867 James Arbuthnot discovered a low spot over the ridge from the South St. Vrain Creek to James Creek. A ditch was dug from South St.Vrain Creek to James Creek and a gate was placed at the junction to control the flow of water into each creek. The point of diversion was made famous by the court case Coffin vs. Left Hand Ditch Co. in 1882, and set a precedent for all future trans-mountain and trans-basin diversions in Colorado. This diversion is still operational today and is administered by the Left Hand Ditch Company.
“They were gonna pan gold up there…sluice,” explained Samuel’s grandson Wayne Arbuthnot, “so they went over to [the South St. Vrain] and they put a dam in there, and they run water down across and through their sluice box. It came down Jim Creek, is what it did.”
The people down in the valley wondered what happened to their water so they came up and blew out the dam.
“And my granddad and this fella dammed it up again and sat on it with a rifle this time.”
– Anne Dyni, Pioneer Voices of Boulder County