Plans are moving forward to transform a dangerous stretch of the Arkansas River in Pueblo into a recreation area

Pueblo Water
The Southside Diversion Dam on the Arkansas River near Pueblo’s City Park has been the site of a number of fatalities over the years. Pueblo Water is working on plans to make the area safer with a series of navigable drops.

The $11 million Southside Diversion Dam Improvements Project is aimed at increasing safety and enhancing recreational opportunities on the Arkansas River in Pueblo.

The river spills over a small dam near Pueblo’s City Park year-round. Due to the strong current, it’s been the site of multiple deaths over the years, despite warning signage. 

The project would replace the structure with gradual navigable drops, according to Pueblo Water. The end result would likely open up about eight miles of the river to rafting, tubing and more from Pueblo Reservoir to the existing whitewater park near downtown.

Pueblo Water
Potential plans to improve safety in the Arkansas River include creating a series of gradual drops to replace a small dam near Pueblo' City Park. This illustration is for descriptive purposes only and changes may be made.

The utility also says the project will help create a fish passage for migration and make for better overall river health, as well as adding redundancy to local water infrastructure.

Funding sources include a low-interest Colorado Water Conservation Board loan and support from the city, county and the Pueblo Conservancy District, which manages the levee.

A Pueblo Water spokesman said they do not expect the project to affect residents’ water bills. The utility hopes to begin construction this fall and finish work by summer of next year.