One year ago this month, Colorado’s Front Range was hit with one of the most severe floods in the state’s history. Instead of the typically localized flash flooding that we occasionally get during the summer, this particular event was widespread – covering more than a dozen counties – and cut off many mountain communities due to heavily damaged highways.
From a climatological perspective, you have to go back to at least 1935 to find an event as large as this one. Though deadlier, the infamous Big Thompson Flood of 1976 was a very localized event and covered less than 10% of the area of last year’s deluge. In Larimer County, all major mountain canyon highways sustained some sort of damage. Northern Colorado’s premier wedding destination, Estes Park, was cut off from surrounding areas from the east for several days (for more on this, see my blog from October 2013 – “Keep Calm Marry On”). During the weeks following the flood, roads were repaired amazingly quickly and things began to get back to normal. By this past spring and certainly the summer, it was business as usual in town as tourists flocked to Estes’ many summer festivals. Ironically, during the flooding, few wedding venues in Estes Park sustained damage as most are well above the flood plain.
This was not the case at the Sylvan Dale Ranch downstream in Loveland near the mouth of Big Thompson Canyon. This historic ranch, which hosted dozens of weddings on a yearly basis for decades, sustained major damage. The force of the water scoured the entire valley and wiped out two of the three wedding sites including the Heart Pond and Daddy J Pavilion. Amazingly, the popular Heritage Lodge was just 3 feet above the height of the flood water and escaped all damage. Thanks to donations and the help of volunteers, the ranch started hosting weddings again by mid-summer. They built a brand new wedding site (see photos) out of the flood plain just above the main lodge. Thanks to fellow DJ Neil Carlberg from Too Much Fun DJ who took these photos at a recent wedding he was hired for.
In talking with other local wedding professionals over the last few months, most have said that the number of weddings they have been hired for this year in Estes Park was down a bit. I surmise this is probably because when the flood hit in September, many couples were in the early planning stages of their weddings and thought that it would be springtime before roads would be open to Estes, limiting possible access to the town (amazingly, all roads were all open by November). Weddings in non-mountain areas this year was up by around 25%. In looking at my calendar, and early reports from other wedding vendors, Estes will probably have a near-record amount of weddings in 2015.