Nature's Essentials

Little Rivers

The foot-wide ditches streaming water through Aspen’s West End, including the rivulets on the grounds of the Benedict Music Tent and Aspen Meadows, are among the wonderful aesthetic treats of summer.

By Michael Miracle May 1, 2014 Published in the Summer 2014 issue of Aspen Sojourner

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The cottonwoods watered by the irrigation ditches were already adding shade and elegance to the West End back in 1925.

They also serve a purpose. When cottonwoods were planted in the West End in the late 1880s to create shade for the homes in the growing neighborhood, a water source was needed for the native-but-very-thirsty trees, which usually grow near river bottoms, not in the dry sagebrush environment of the West End. The ditches, a water diversion from Castle Creek, were essential to the trees survival. They also gave Aspen’s firefighters easily accessed ammunition to battle the occasional blaze. Today, the historically designated ditches no longer douse fires, but they’re still the beverage of choice for those cottonwoods all day long.

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