1937: Independence: Finest pass in the state
In celebrating the 125th anniversary of The Aspen Times, we are printing a story or two from each year the newspaper has existed – 125 historical selections in 125 days. This series is in conjunction with the Aspen Historical Society.Road crews work day and night to make boulevard over divideWithin another year independence pass will be the finest route over the Continental Divide in the state of Colorado. It will not only be the highest commercial auto pass in the nation but it will be a regular boulevard also and motorists with late model cars will be able to ascend the to the 12,000 foot crest of the divide in high gear. Highway crews are working day and night in an effort to have the east slope of the road completed from the top to the intersection with highway No. 24. Huge Diesel shovels, enormous caterpillar tractors and other miscellaneous heavy road equipment is being manned on 24-hour shifts – and traffic is kept moving with but little delay. In many places the new highway will be wide enough to permit four cars to pass abreast, should that emergency ever occur, and the road is as smooth as concrete pavement, with but few switch-backs or hairpin turns. Without a doubt Independence will be the most traveled pass in the state in a few years, for it is the shortest and most direct route between Denver and the West Slope. It is being hued out of solid granite and even the heaviest truck will not, and cannot get stuck in the wettest weather. For that reason, the highway department is seriously considering keeping the pass open throughout the coming winter, for it can be maintained for a fraction of the cost of upkeep and patrol of Cottonwood, and motorists can drive over at any time they please without having to wait for a motor escort. The citizens of Aspen and the surrounding community wish to thank Mr. Charles D. Vail of the state highway department, for his efforts in giving this area new modern highways. The work on the pass will fit in with a huge road construction program which is to start out of Aspen in the near future which assures the Roaring Fork valley an oiled highway from Glenwood Springs to Highway No. 24 near Twin Lakes. The state department hopes to complete this project next summer and intends to begin work yet this fall on that portion of road between Aspen and Basalt. However, the work will not be started for several weeks yet, and it has been definitely stated that work between Aspen and the top of the pass will get underway nest spring. (Aug. 6)
Water in the once turbulent, swift Roaring Fork river, so named by early pioneers because of the steady, incessant roar its waters produced as they dashed thru the fertile valleys, has reached the lowest level in history, according to Aspenites who have lived here during the past several decades, and is causing much discussion among ranchers who depend upon it for irrigation, and sportsmen who are seeing their once favorite fishing stream run practically dry. The stream, which normally, or in former years ran from one to two feet deep throughout the summer, can in many places be crossed without getting one’s feet wet, for the flow goes as low as only 1,000 gallons per minute, thus leaving the river bottom practicably dry. This condition has been forcible brought to the attention of this community during the past two weeks, as there has been little or no rainfall during that time, and with the driest part of the season yet to come ranchers and sportsmen are wondering just what the outcome will be since demands on irrigation water will be comparatively heavy from now on until crops are harvested. Reports have reached the city to the effect that at various times the water diversion tunnels are taking every foot of water flowing down the streams above the retaining dams above Lost Man and in Lincoln Gulch and are turning none into the main channels, and this in all probability accounts for the lack of water in the Roaring Fork. With the stream running at such a low ebb, a cold snap in the fall will freeze it solid and kill every fish remaining in it, thus ruining the finest stream in the county. The water diversion project was shoved thru without guaranteeing, or building, water users in the Roaring Fork valley compensation reservoirs, it being understood that the tunnels would take only ‘flood waters’ which is usually considered the spring runoff, but after the project is in operating ones’ feet wet, for the flow goes as low as only 1,000 gallons per minute, thus leaving the river bottom practically dry. During the past week there has been a considerable amount of speculation being carried on among local citizens as to the possibility of having a water compensating reservoir built above Aspen to insure users in the valley an adequate supply throughout the summer and fall. (Aug. 12)
Aspenites who gazed into the northern skies Sunday evening and beheld the ‘deep red glow’ of what they thought was a forest fire of immense proportions, were seeing the aurora borealis, more commonly known as the ‘northern lights.’ The aurora borealis is a very rare occurrence in the high altitudes of the state and the first thought was that a forest fire was raging up in the Hunter Creek country back of Smuggler mountain. Several went so far as to investigate the source of the brilliant display, but soon attributed the phenomenon to the northern lights. Several persons reported that, later in the night, the red glow turned into many rare and gorgeous hues and stated that this rare manifestation of the aurora borealis was the most brilliant and beautiful they had ever seen. The display was reported to have been observed in all sections of the state. (Oct. 7)
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