It’s Been Four Years Since Colorado’s Costliest Flood. Here Are 11 Others Known For Major Destruction

September 13, 2017
Image: CO Deadliest Floods Cover

Colorado's history of unexpected flash floods is both deadly and costly. The September 2013 floods that stretched across the state and closed access to Estes Park left nearly $2 billion in damages and killed eight people. Author Darla Sue Dollman says she's concerned the state's population boom puts more lives and property at risk.

Dollman documents the 2013 flood and 11 others in her new book, "Colorado Deadliest Floods." She has experienced first-hand how terrifying flash floods can be -- she studied and taught at Colorado State University when the Spring Creek flood hit in 1997. 

"I didn't know what was happening until I looked out my front door and realized the entire street was flooded," Dollman says.

Here's a quick bit about each of the 12 floods featured in "Colorado's Deadliest Floods."

1. The Great Flood of 1864

Image: Great Flood of 1864
Crowds gather on the sandbars created by the Great Flood in Denver, May 19, 1864. Photo shows the view west of Cherry Creek. 

2. The Bear Creek Basin Floods of 1896

"It will always be remembered for the shocking number of children swept away to their deaths in the dark, fierce, fold waters of Bear Creek." 

Hit: Near Morrison
Killed: Estimated 25-100 
Damages (adjusted): $6,843,012 

3. The Eden Train Wreck of 1904 

"The bridge was quickly rebuilt, but the engine was buried so deeply in the muddy gulch that the bridge was built around the mangled wreckage."  

Hit: Outside of Pueblo 
Killed: 111

4. The Denver Flood of 1912 

Photo: Denver Flood of 1912
Rescuers at the Bottoms, Denver Flood, July 14, of 1912. 29th & Inca Postcard, public domain.

Photo: Denver Flood of 1912"Some historians claim that Little Raven, chief of the Arapahoe Indians, warned the early explorers of flash flooding on Cherry Creek and told them specifically not to build on the land." 

Hit: Denver
Killed: 2
Damages (adjusted): $47,698,420 

5. The Pueblo Flood of 1921

"An entire city under water for a week - no one could possibly have imagined such chaos... The smell of rotting animals and unrecovered bodies was unbearable." 

Hit: Pueblo
Killed: Estimated 78 to 1,500
Damages (adjusted): $1,096,046,204 

6. The 1933 Castlewood Dam Disaster 

"The commission's studies showed that the dam was in a 'serious' state of disrepair and had constant leaks. It was noted that the dam's condition posed potential catastrophic dangers for Denver, but no action was taken." 

Hit: Denver
Killed: 2 
Damages (adjusted): $30 million

7. The Monument Creek and Kiowa Creek Floods of 1935

"They talk about their home slowly moving off its foundation then floating down the river with family members still clinging to the roof; they talk about watching houses split in half then slam into a bridge or sink in the water; they talk about watching the homes of their neighbors explode in a cloud of dust and debris." 

Hit: Colorado Springs and Kiowa 
Killed: Estimated 113 
Damages (adjusted): $800 million

8. The 1965 Colorado Floods 

"The owners of the racehorses were advised to move their horses as soon as possible, but many owners lived out of state, so the employees at the track moved the horses to the barn area... that's where one hundred horses drowned." 

Hit: Across Colorado 
Killed: Estimated 21-24
Damages (adjusted): $4 billion

9. The Big Thompson Canyon Flood

Image: Big Thompson Flood Route
Plaque displaying the path of the Big Thompson Flood of 1976 displayed at the Viestenz-Smith Mountian Park near Highway 34. 

"One of the most vivid memories of survivors scrambling up the sides of the mountains or clinging to tree branches was the sight of the giant water wall crashing down the canyon with strange, flashing lights coming from inside. As the waterwall passed, the horrified survivors realized the flashing light were the headlights of vehicles filled with people..." 

Hit: Big Thompson Canyon 
Killed: 144
Damages (adjusted): $35-40 million

10. The Lawn Lake Dam Disaster of 1982

"In layman's terms, the dam failed because no one cared, and eventually, it was forgotten."

Hit: Estes Park
Killed: 0
Damages: $46, 500,00 

11. The Spring Creek Flood of 1997

"Flooding was so immediate and rescue efforts so disjointed that the flood is now used to train emergency responders about worst-case scenarios." 

Hit: Fort Collins
Killed: 5
Damages: $250,000,00 

12. The 2013 Colorado Floods

"Rainfall records were set and broken in six major rivers and their tributaries, with residents of at least a dozen cities fighting to survive or waiting for evacuations. Some meteorologists called it the worst flooding in five hundred years." 

Hit: Across Colorado
Killed: 9
Damages: Estimated $1-$2 billion