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Cache la Poudre River National Heritage Area


Cache la Poudre River National Heritage Area begins at the Roosevelt National Forest in the Poudre canyon, flows through the City of Fort Collins and extends to its confluence with the South Platte River, just east of Greeley. The area commemorates the river’s significant contribution to the development of water law in the western United States, the evolution of the river’s complex water delivery systems and the cultural heritage of the region. From beer tastings at 25+ breweries and bike riding along 35 miles of the Poudre trail, to fly fishing the river and enjoying concerts and western rodeos, there’s a lot to experience here.

The People

Indigenous Americans including the Paleo-Indians, Ute, and Arapahoe lived along the banks of the Cache la Poudre River for thousands of years before being forced to relocate by the United States military in the 1870s. The Northern Arapaho tribe specifically used the region by the river for clan gatherings, ceremonies, and food gathering more than 100 years before European settlers made their way to the valley. White settlers and water leaders who came after, sought to manipulate the river for optimal human benefit. Farming proved to be the most regionally viable occupation of the time. With the turn of the 20th century, northern Colorado joined the “beet boom” bringing Mexican, German, and Russian migrant workers to the region. This and many other factors led to a diversification of northern Colorado’s economy in the twentieth century, making the Cache la Poudre river what it is today, a “hardworking” river, serving the needs of not only farmers but also urban residents, industrialists, and recreationalists.

Places to See

1883 Fort Collins Water Works

This historic facility was built in 1882-1883 to provide the growing town of Fort Collins with an adequate supply of water for fighting the building fires that plagued the early town. The water supply to homes also was expected to reduce waterborne illnesses. The Water Works building is located on a 26-acre site that includes a portion of the historic Cherokee Trail and Overland Stage route. Water delivery continued until 1905 when the new water filter plant opened in the Poudre Canyon. Designated as a State and Local historical landmark, the property is currently being transformed into a Water Interpretive Center. Guided tours of the site allow visitors to learn about the mechanics of water delivery. See artifacts, maps and displays, including the original steam pump room and the filter room. Tourism Information Open house events held the second Saturday of each month, May through October, 10:00 am to 3:00 pm. A virtual tour is available on their website.

Fort Collins Museum of Discovery

Along the banks of Cache la Poudre River, the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery provides hands on exhibits and programs that introduce guests to early European settlers; wildlands & wildlife exhibits; food, forage, and farm which includes information on the Parshall flume, Hispanic beet farm workers, and the first peoples exhibits.

The Hand that Feeds STATUE

Today sugar beet production is a small part of Colorado’s economy, but in the twentieth century it was the most important agricultural activity in the state. Area farmers relied on sugar beets as an important cash crop, however, each harvest required thousands of non-unionized fieldworkers. Successful beet cultivation required periods of such intense drudgery that farmers had to find wage-laborers to expedite the work. Farmers and sugar companies actively recruited Mexicans and Chicanos, and the region drew many migrants.

The standard tool for working the sugar beets was the short-handled hoe. The short-handled hoe required workers to stoop over as they cultivated crops. Working with the short-handled hoe had long term health consequences for the laborers. Campaigns by United Farm Workers and others helped outlaw the use of the hoe in 1975.

The sugar beet industry, which started in Colorado in 1899, was the largest employer of Hispanics in Colorado by the late 1920s. Without their labor, the sugar beet industry and other labor-intensive agricultural industries in Colorado would not have prospered. Through their sweat and toil, Colorado became the largest sugar producing state in the United States in 1909.

Windsor History Museum

Windsor History Museum features historic buildings from around Windsor built between 1882 and the 1920s. Each building helps tell the story of Windsor’s beginning with the completion of the Greeley, Salt Lake and Pacific Railroad through the sugar beet boom of the early 20th century. Buildings include a train depot, school house, farm house and chapel. The Train Depot includes many exhibits and hands-on activities for all ages and is a great place to start your museum experience.

Cenntennial Village

Centennial Village Museum is a living history experience that features over 35 historical buildings, costumed interpreters, heritage farm animals, and 8-acres of beautifully landscaped grounds. Visitors step back in time and learn about the settling of the western high plains, a time when grand houses, growing businesses, extensive prairies, and agriculture were all a part of daily life. CVM also offers a distance learning option which include pictures, texts, and videos of the historic Meeker Home.

Things to Do


Explore, Save and Win!

Don’t just read about history. Experience it! Whether you have an hour, an afternoon or an entire day, adventure awaits. We’ve curated four distinct tours that allow pass holders to explore history, connect with nature and enjoy all the Northern Colorado community has to offer. The pass is valid for a year so take your time and leave no stone unturned as you travel with tour guides, Drip & Drop, through the Cache la Poudre River National Heritage Area and beyond.

Take advantage of over $100 in discounts & deals offered by our pass partners. Save on admissions fees, beverages and more.
Prizes: For every six different pass location check-ins, you’ll earn a prize pack.
Monthly Drawings: Only one check in is needed for entry into our monthly seasonal prize drawings. 

Poudre pour

The annual Poudre Pour takes place each fall at the Windsor History Museum. Educational partners provide hands-on learning experiences about the history of the Poudre River and its ecosystem. Guests can tour the historic cabins and experienced what life was like for early settlers. Live music entertains the crowds between visits to the exhibitors, food trucks, and beer tents.

In 2022, thirteen breweries provided samples and competed for the day’s top prize- People’s Choice. Congratulations to Climb Hard Cider for winning the People’s Choice award in 2022. Other breweries participating included: Horse & Dragon Brewing, Purpose Brewing & Cellars, WeldWerks Brewing, Timnath Beerwerks, High Hops Brewery, Mash Lab Brewing & Kitchen, Odell Brewing Co., Zwei Brewing, Sweetwater Brewing Company, Green Brewing Company, Tightknit Brewing, Knuckle Puck, and Sky Bear Brewery & Pub.

Pedaling the Poudre

Cache NHA heritage culturalists provided guided bike and walking tours along more than 30 miles of the Poudre River Trail. Riders/walkers see locations where significant early water development occurred and where current water facilities operate. Participants gain a better understanding of how water is distributed among various users and why the appropriations system is the law of the river. Participants also learn about the history and heritage of the people who first settled in Northern Colorado.

Private tour of Bellvue Hydraulic Lab

In 1912 Colorado State University (then known as the Colorado Agricultural College) President Charles Lory made an agreement with the U.S. Departmentof Agriculture that issued-in the construction of a hydraulics laboratory at the University. In the 1920s, Professor Ralph Parshall and others built the Bellvue Hydraulic Irrigation Laboratory, located north of Fort Collins on the Cache la Poudre River near Bellvue, Colorado. 
This real-world outdoor laboratory allowed Dr. Parshall to develop the first accurate measuring flume. For the first time in history, people could accurately measure the volumetric flow rate of water. This location tells the story of Western water law, the Doctrine of Prior Appropriation, and how water scarcity and conflict came together in this region of Colorado to create nationally significant policy. The lab sits on land owned by the Jackson Ditch company and is a great example of how Cache NHA balances the preservation of natural, cultural, and economic resources, public access to the Heritage Area, and the rights of property owners. Tours are by request only.