Built from around 1888 to 1891 (sources vary), the flume transported water from the San Miguel River for use in placer mining for gold on the Dolores, four miles downstream from its confluence with the San Miguel.
For around 10 miles, the flume is attached to sheer sandstone cliffs above the San Miguel and Dolores. Using local materials, an estimated 25 men worked on the project, considered an engineering marvel for its time.
Carrying tens of millions of gallons of water per day, the flume only dropped about 90 feet along its route. At its terminus, the water passed through smaller and smaller nozzles to generate the high pressure needed to wash sediment through sluice boxes in hydraulic mining.
The flume operated for three years but failed to yield much gold, leading the company that built the project to go out of business. The flume was later used for irrigation “then abandoned, looted and scavenged for timber and other resources,” according to hangingflume.org.
Only a portion of the flume remains and the ruins have been listed on the National Register of Historic Places, as well as on Colorado Preservation Inc.’s Most Endangered Places list.
- Nancy Lofholm, “121-Year-Old Western Colorado Mining Flume Clings to Its Secrets,” Denver Post, April 14, 2012.
- Nancy Lofholm, “History Fills Hanging Flume,” Denver Post, May 22, 2005.
- History Colorado, “Investigating an Engineering Mystery: Western Colorado’s Hanging Flume,” December 2, 2015.
- Colorado Encyclopedia citing Ellen Z. Peterson, “The Hanging Flume of Dolores Canyon,” Colorado Magazine 40, no. 2 (1963): 128–31
|Date||September 27, 2020|
|Location||Hanging Flume Overlook in Montrose County, Colorado (map)|
|Organization||The Water Desk at the University of Colorado Boulder|
|Rights||Free to reuse under Creative Commons license, with credit to Mitch Tobin, The Water Desk|
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For more about the Hanging Flume, see this award-winning documentary by Gen9 Productions: