1211 W. Highway 34 - Loveland, CO 80537
4 miles west of the Dam Store / entrance to Big Thompson Canyon
Park currently CLOSED for reconstruction following 2013 Big Thompson Flood
IT IS UNLAWFUL TO ENTER VIESTENZ-SMITH MOUNTAIN PARK. Violators will be ticketed/prosecuted.
Parks Re-Opens Fall 2018
July 20, 2018
We're making great progress and hope to have a grand opening sometime in September. Parking lots and concrete are poured, ADA accessible ramps to the restrooms and from the parking lot are established, and we're fixing up the butterfly building to name just a few things on the project checklist. Check our Facebook page for project photos.
June 22, 2017
Below are two pictures featuring recent work on the project. The river has been relocated to its new permanent location and the pedestrian bridge is now in place. The project is 50% complete and on schedule!
The planned restoration effort is based on the new, and very different, site conditions in the aftermath of the September 2013 Flood that scoured away most of the park’s features.
Click for the FULL SIZE Illustrative Master Plan HERE. (PDF)
Overall comments were positive and most respondents were supportive of rebuilding the park with low-impact and day use activities. Most people also understood that rebuilding the park similar to the past design wasn’t possible, although a few people still want to see a playground, more benches and a pond constructed. Forty-nine people did not feel the need for reservable shelters and fourteen people did not have a preference for shelters. Those that supported shelters felt reusing the CCC shelter would be good for large groups but only if there was adequate parking. Most respondents didn’t want shelter reservations to affect the day-use visitor. Seventy people felt that reusing the caretaker’s house for the Environmental Education Center was a good option. Seventy-one percent felt that two bridges were valuable and needed.
The September 2013 flood caused devastating damage to the historic Viestenz-Smith Mountain Park and scoured away most major park elements on the south side of the Big Thompson River.
The Park opened one year after the historic Loveland Light and Power plant opened in 1925. In 1926 the site was expanded to include 400 acres and was opened for picnics and hiking. In 1976 the Big Thompson River experienced a dramatic flood, during which the water flowed an estimated 30,500 cubic feet per second faster than normal. The dam was washed out, approximately 1,700 feet of pipeline was destroyed, and the entire hydroelectric dam was washed away. A new efficient power plant was constructed out of the pathway of future floods, and a new flood-resistant dam replaced the one before. The plant was reopened in 1978 and the park was restored at the same time. The floods in 1976 and in 2013 devastated the park and the river cut a new path each time further south within the park.
During the 2013 flood, the river breached, cut south in the park towards US 34 and caused severe bank erosion and scoured the park away south of the river. The flood destroyed the vehicular/pedestrian bridge, parking lot, sidewalks, irrigation pond, pump, playground and all the picnic and memorial plantings and benches. The historic Civilian Conservation Corps structure was washed away along with landscaping and trails. All associated infrastructure was destroyed. After the flood the city placed the river channel back to its pre-flood location. The city also completed other emergency repairs along with debris removal in the winter of 2014. The city now desires to work with nature and move the channel to its flood location and expand picnic and fishing opportunities on the north bank of the river, out of the floodway.
As a general philosophy, the City desires to approach proposed bank protection, armoring, or river training measures from a perspective that strongly considers natural aesthetics and an ecologically sound approach. Therefore, bio-technical/bio-engineering measures are desirable where they are appropriate within the project constraints and hydraulic conditions. Infrastructure protection that requires traditional hard armoring (i.e., riprap) is acceptable but the approach will be to bury, hide, and use vegetation over hard armoring whenever possible.
More Historical Information
- "Charles Viestenz Showed Dam Foresight" - by Kenneth Jessen
Loveland Reporter Herald article from October 27, 2013
- A Struggle to Build a Power Plant - History of Loveland Light and Power
Loveland Water & Power web page
- "History of Loveland's Municipal Light & Power Plant"
By Charles Viestenz (PDF)
- "Local Voices for Local Utilities: Electric Service- Page 1"
Utility News - January 2000 (PDF)
- "Local Voices for Local Utilities: Electric Service- Page 2"
Utility News - January 2000 (PDF)
Other Information Pertaining to This Park
- Birds of the Area Handout (PDF)
- Flowers of the Area Handout (PDF)
- Mammals of the Area Handout (PDF)
- Colorado Department of Agriculture "Protect Colorado's Landscape" Flyer (PDF)
- Colorado Department of Agriculture "Don't Destroy" Flyer (PDF)