Maybell Diversion Rehabilitation and Headgate Modernization Project

The historic Maybell Canal provides irrigation water drawn from the Yampa River to farm lands surrounding Maybell, Colorado. Construction and the initial appropriation of water for the canal began in 1899. The upper portion of the canal extends through Juniper Canyon, elevated above the Yampa River by a stone retaining wall, prior to crossing the river via flume and flowing towards Maybell.

Drought and increases in regional population led to an overuse of available water. This had a significant impact on the Yampa River and the Maybell Canal and put a strain on agricultural lands and the plants and animals that rely on these water sources. The condition of the aging headgate and canal is worsening the water-use issue: the headgate and headwall have been dilapidated for decades and the canal walls and features are less efficient than they were when they were installed, leading to water seepage and reduced control of irrigation water. In addition, the existing arched cobble diversion poses an obstacle and hazard to boaters and fish alike—especially during times of low flows—as it extends across the full width of the river.

Toward improving the sustainability and safety of the canal and seeking to balance the needs of agriculture and the environment, Maybell Irrigation District, The Nature Conservancy, and Friends of the Yampa worked collaboratively to develop and plan the Maybell Diversion Rehabilitation and Headgate Modernization Project. The project aimed to restore and redesign the headgate and headwall as well as lining portions of the canal to better manage the use of water drawn from the Yampa River. Construction occurred in 2023 and 2024 and included: replacement of the existing historical cobble diversion structure and headgate on the Yampa River; piping the first 70 feet of the Maybell Canal; stabilizing the banks of the canal through rock armoring and riparian vegetation; and the installation of flow-monitoring devices.

Authors: Charles A. Reed, Renee L. Collins, and Megan Carney Reed

Keywords: Irrigation, Ditch, Northwest Colorado, StoryMap


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