Our Story

The 2013 Flood

From its sparkling headwaters in Rocky Mountain National Park to its confluence with the South Platte, the Big Thompson watershed provides the water we drink, the food we grow, the wood we harvest, the fishing and wildlife habitat we enjoy, and the beauty we treasure. Whether you are a resident within the watershed, a downstream water user, or one of millions who visit and explore the Big Thompson River every year, this waterway holds special value to the livelihoods and lifestyles of those connected to it.

During the catastrophic flood of 2013, many of the ways people were connected to and benefited from the Big Thompson River were significantly impacted. The flood occurred over a five day rain event in September 2013 that brough 15-20 inches of rain to the watershed. Flood waters were funneled down the Big Thompson Canyon destroying the river channel, roads and infrastructure, homes, and much of the land around the river. The flood claimed two lives in the Big Thompson and six more statewide, led 13 counties to declare a state of emergency, and in total left a wake of damage estimated at over $2 billion statewide.

Storm Mountain

Big Thompson River in the aftermath of the 2013 Flood

BTWC Staff at Storm Mountain

US 34 damage resulting from the 2013 Flood at the Narrows

BTWC Staff at Storm Mountain

The confluence of the North Fork and the Big Thompson River was heavily impacted washing out roadways and depositing huge amounts of sediment

Our Beginnings

Soon after the flood, the Big Thompson Watershed Coalition (BTWC) was formed as a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization by a group of landowners, volunteers, and local agencies to help private property owners and other groups collaborate over flood recovery and long-term improvements to the health of this treasured area, its wildlife, and its communities.
From 2013-2018 we helped raise over $15 million dollars in federal, state, and local funds for flood recovery and river improvement projects, developed 3 large- scale river management and restoration plans, completed 10 major river enhancement projects and two infrastructure projects, and worked with over 150 private landowners and organizations in the process.
Flood Recovery

Flood recovery project at Cedar Cove post-construction

BTWC Staff at Storm Mountain

Flood recovery project on the North Fork of the Big Thompson during construction

BTWC Staff at Storm Mountain

Flood recovery project at Jasper Lake post-construction

BTWC Today

After completing our final flood recovery project in 2018, we began looking toward the future of the watershed and our role in it. Knowing that there was still a need for an organization to help with restoration and resiliency building in the watershed, we forged ahead and developed a new forestry program to address wildfire risk and increase forest health, we completed a River Envisioning Project that identifies priority areas for river improvement projects through Loveland, and we responded to recovery needs following the Cameron Peak Fire.

We have brought nearly $5 million to the watershed for Cameron Peak Fire recovery and are just getting started with growing our forestry and stream restoration program. We are focused on continuing to grow our partnerships and impact in the watershed and believe through collaborative actions we can build a better Big T.

Wildfire Recovery Workday
BTWC staff lead volunteers through a wildfire recovery workday
Forestry Project Planning
BTWC staff, Loveland Fire Rescue Authority, and landowners planning a forestry project
BTWC Staff at Storm Mountain
BTWC staff talking with community members about The River Envisioning Project at our annual Trek the Thompson Event

Our Mission

Working with others to take action that protects and restores the health and vitality of the Big Thompson watershed for the use and enjoyment of our community.

Our Vision

A healthy and resilient Big Thompson watershed benefitting fish, wildlife, and the people it serves through collaborative efforts for current and future generations.