Ute Mountain, is a peak within the Ute Mountains, a small mountain range in the southwestern corner of Colorado. It is on the northern edge of the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe Reservation; the Reservation forms the southwestern corner of Montezuma County. Nomenclature for this peak and its range varies; the highest peak is sometimes known as Sleeping Ute Mountain. All of these forms of the mountain's name and of the range's name can be found on various USGS maps and reports; the Ute Mountains, with a collective profile known as “The Sleeping Ute”, are a dense cluster of peaks 5 by 12 miles in extent and stand in isolation from other mountains. Despite being much lower than Colorado's highest peaks, Ute Mountain is the eighth most topographically prominent peak in the state, due to this isolation, it is notable for its large local relief in all directions its rise of 4,250 ft over the Montezuma Valley to the southeast. The Sleeping Ute is said to resemble a Ute Chief lying on his back with arms folded across his chest.
The mountains were valued as a sacred place by the Weeminuche Ute band. It is still a sacred place to their descendants, the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe and still plays a role in their ceremonies as indicated by the “Sundance Ground” on some topographical maps nestled between The Knees and Horse Peak; the northern part of the mountains were outside the reservation boundaries as reduced following a series of treaties in the late 19th century, but a trade of land now in Mesa Verde National Park 15 miles east, for federal land on the mountain, allowed the reservation boundary to be extended north to McElmo Creek and encompass the entire mountain range. In particular, this means that recreational access to the range by outsiders is restricted. Few roads or trails are found in the mountains, although radio towers and water tanks have been built, a road along Cottonwood Wash from Towaoc nearly reaches the summit of Ute Peak. A Ute Indian legend describes the Sleeping Ute as the sleeping form of a “Great Warrior God, known as a chief” who fell asleep while recovering from wounds received in a great battle with “the Evil Ones”.
Various other forms of the legend can be found. Recognized from many spots up to 50 miles east or west, the profile is best seen from 15 to 25 miles somewhat north of east of the mountains as in the accompanying photograph. Identified features of the profile include the following: Head - the profile of Marble Mountain provides recognized facial features while a feathered headdress can be seen tapering north from Black Mountain and Marble Mountain.. Crossed Arms – Ute Peak is the highest, the most prominent and eastern-most peak in the Ute Mountains Ribcage – Horse Mountain to the east and the twin peaks Black Mountain/Ute Mountain to the west form a recognizable ribcage. Knees – Hermano Mountain or “The Knees” are the knees of the figure. Toes – East Toe is a small and prominent igneous protrusion at the south-eastern end of the Ute Mountains proportioned and placed to complete the figure from the east. West Toe, a second protrusion, has a similar profile and is placed to complete the figure from the west.
The illusion of a reclining figure is further reinforced by its symmetry. The figure is nearly as complete seen from the west as from the east.located east of cortez Though on the southwestern fringe of the original Rocky Mountain home of the Ute Tribe, the Sleeping Ute is the most prominent feature of the high-desert Ute Mountain Ute Reservation. The only town on the Reservation, lies at the feet of the figure and is home to most of the Reservation's population; as the Reservation capital, Towaoc is the Ute Mountain Ute tribal headquarters. Cortez, the largest town in the area with a population of over 8000, lies outside the reservation 11.5 miles east-northeast of Ute Peak. The elevation of Cortez can be considered the base elevation of the Ute Mountains; the Ute Mountain Ute Tribal Park adjoins Mesa Verde National Park to the east of the mountains. The western boundary of Mesa Verde National Park is 12 miles east of Ute Peak; the Mesa and the Sleeping Ute share equal prominence as regional landmarks.
McElmo Creek and Canyon Of The Ancients National Monument form the northern terminus of the Ute Mountains and the Reservation. The Ute Mountains were formed by intrusion of igneous rocks at about 72 million years, concurrent doming, subsequent erosion; the most common type of igneous rock is porphyritic hornblende diorite, but rock types present range from gabbro to granite. Forms of intrusions include laccoliths, stocks and sills. One dike can be examined at a roadside there; the igneous rocks intrude a sedimentary section of Jurassic and Cretaceous rocks and the youngest rocks intruded are in the Point Lookout Sandstone. The intrusions are similar in form and rock type to those in other Colorado Plateau mountain ranges, such as the Henry Mountains and the La Sal Range and the Abajo Mountains, all nearby in Utah, but the intrusions at these three Utah occurrences are about 20 to 30 million years in age; the Ute Mountains and the similar Carrizo Mountains, nearby in Arizona, lie within a southwest extension of the Colorado Mineral Belt, but no ore deposits are known to be associated with these igneous rocks.
Crystal Reservoir is a 340-acre artificial reservoir on the Gunnison River in western Colorado. Located in the upper Black Canyon of the Gunnison, the lake was created in 1976 by the U. S. Bureau of Reclamation as part of a larger plan to impound the upper section of the Gunnison for the generation of hydroelectric power, water storage, public recreation. Crystal Reservoir is managed by the National Park Service as an element of the Curecanti National Recreation Area. Located at the far western end of Curecanti, Crystal Reservoir is the smallest, least developed, least accessible of the three reservoirs within the park. Crystal Reservoir is part of the Wayne N. Aspinall Unit of the Colorado River Storage Project, a Bureau of Reclamation project that retains the waters of the Colorado River and its tributaries, such as the Gunnison, for agricultural and municipal use. Crystal Reservoir was created by the impoundment of the Gunnison River 6 miles west of Morrow Point Dam by Crystal Dam, a 323-ft.
Concrete double-arch dam built by the Bureau of Reclamation. The last of three reservoirs impounded for the Aspinall Unit, construction on Crystal Dam began in 1973, 5 years after the completion of Morrow Point Dam and 7 years after the completion of Blue Mesa Dam; the western most of the three reservoirs, Crystal is the last impoundment before the river enters the deep and dangerous Black Canyon of the Gunnison. Crystal Reservoir is part of the Curecanti National Recreation Area, a National Park Service administered area responsible for developing and managing recreation facilities on the three reservoirs of the Aspinall Unit. Recreational opportunities at Crystal include boating and hiking. There are two small developed areas near the reservoir, Mesa Creek Trailhead and Crystal Creek Trailhead. Mesa Creek Trailhead is located west of Point Morrow Dam, can be accessed from a one-mile road running north of U. S. 50 at Cimarron. Hand-launched watercraft can be launched into Crystal from Mesa Creek.
A single boat-in campsite is located 4 miles west of Mesa Creek at the mouth of Crystal Creek. Mesa Creek is the trailhead for the Mesa Creek Trail, a to moderately strenuous 1.5 mile round trip that crosses the reservoir on a footbridge and travels west along the north shore. Though Mesa Creek is a day-use facility, developed campsites are available at nearby Cimarron. Crystal Creek Trailhead is located on Colorado Highway 92, 24 miles west of Blue Mesa Dam and offers access to the 5-mile Crystal Creek Trail. Moderately strenuous, Crystal Creek trail does reach the water but ends at an overlook 1800 ft. above the reservoir. List of largest reservoirs of Colorado Colorado River Storage Project Crystal Dam Curecanti National Recreation Area Blue Mesa Reservoir Morrow Point Reservoir NPS: Curecanti National Recreation Area Bureau of Reclamation: Crystal Dam
Flaming Gorge Dam
Flaming Gorge Dam is a concrete thin-arch dam on the Green River, a major tributary of the Colorado River, in northern Utah in the United States. Flaming Gorge Dam forms the Flaming Gorge Reservoir, which extends 91 miles into southern Wyoming, submerging four distinct gorges of the Green River; the dam is a major component of the Colorado River Storage Project, which stores and distributes upper Colorado River Basin water. The dam takes its name from a nearby section of the Green River canyon, named by John Wesley Powell in 1869, it was built by the U. S. Bureau of Reclamation between 1958 and 1964; the dam is 502 feet high and 1,285 feet long, its reservoir has a capacity of more than 3.7 million acre feet, or about twice the annual flow of the upper Green. Operated to provide long-term storage for downstream water-rights commitments, the dam is a major source of hydroelectricity and is the main flood-control facility for the Green River system; the dam and reservoir have fragmented the upper Green River, blocking fish migration and impacting many native species.
Water released from the dam is cold and clear, as compared to the river's natural warm and silty flow, further changing the local riverine ecology. However, the cold water from Flaming Gorge has transformed about 28 miles of the Green into a "Blue Ribbon Trout Fishery"; the Flaming Gorge Reservoir situated in Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area, is considered one of Utah and Wyoming's greatest fisheries. Contrary to its namesake, Flaming Gorge, the dam lies in steep, rapid-strewn Red Canyon in northeastern Utah, close to where the Green River cuts through the Uinta Mountains; the canyon, for which the dam is named, is buried under the reservoir 20 miles upstream. Red Canyon is the narrowest and deepest of the four on the Green in the area which made it the best site for the building of a dam. Flaming Gorge, on the other hand, was named by John Wesley Powell on his 1869 expedition down the Green and Colorado rivers for the "brilliant, flaming red of its rocks."Flaming Gorge Dam is one of six that make up the Colorado River Storage Project, a massive system of reservoirs created in the upper Colorado River Basin by the Bureau of Reclamation from the 1950s to the 1970s.
The project itself was the indirect result of a system of agreements signed by the seven U. S. states and two Mexican provinces in the early 20th century dividing the flow of the Colorado River among them. Among the terms stated in the 1922 Colorado River Compact reserved 7.5 million acre feet for the Upper Basin states of Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico and an equal amount for the Lower Basin states of Arizona and California. Due to the Colorado's high year-to-year variations in flow, the upper basin could not fulfill the lower basin's allotments in dry years, much water was wasted during wet years because of the lack of a means to impound it. Well before the CRSP's inception in 1956, the Bureau had begun to look for suitable reservoir sites along the upper Colorado and tributaries such as the Green, San Juan and Gunnison Rivers. One of the earlier proposals was called Echo Park Dam, at the confluence of the Green and Yampa Rivers within the Dinosaur National Monument in northwestern Colorado.
The Sierra Club, led by David Brower, rallied against the proposal in the media and in the courts. When the Bureau backed down from the Echo Park proposal, it was seen as one of the environmentalism movement's early victories – but it came with a compromise. A dam would still be built on the Green River, just 50 miles upstream near a brilliant red-rock canyon called Flaming Gorge. A common misconception is that the building of the controversial Glen Canyon Dam was part of this "compromise for Echo Park", but in reality the Bureau had always planned to build a dam at Glen Canyon regardless of the outcome of the Echo Park debate; the building of Flaming Gorge Dam started just a few months after the CRSP was approved in Congress, when President Dwight D. Eisenhower pressed a button on his desk in the White House and set off the first blast in Red Canyon. Site preparations and geologic inspections continued as Dutch John, the company town that provided housing for the workers, was completed just northeast of the dam site by 1958.
More than 3000 people would inhabit Dutch John at the peak of construction. The main contract for dam construction was awarded to Arch Dam Constructors, a conglomerate of Peter Kiewit Sons, Morrison-Knudsen Company, Mid-Valley Utility Constructors Inc. and Coker Construction Company. Actual construction at the dam site did not begin until late 1958, when work began on the diversion tunnel that would send the Green River around the dam site in order to clear it. By April 1959, excavation of the diversion tunnel had been completed and concrete lining was finished on August 17. Work on a pair of earthen cofferdams above and below the dam site commenced when the tunnel was ready and the river was channeled around the dam site on November 19 with the completion of the upper cofferdam. Keyway excavations for the dam on the right abutment and construction of the spillway inlet works in the left abutment was begun in September, all preliminary canyon wall structures were complete by early 1960; the lower cofferdam was finished in February, allowing workers to pump water out of the space between the two barriers.
The silt and sediment that comprised the riverbed had to be removed in order to reach solid rock where foundations could be drilled. Flaming Gorge was built in block-shaped stages of concrete called "forms"; the f
Crystal Dam is a 323-foot-tall double curvature, concrete thin arch dam located six miles downstream from Morrow Point Dam on the Gunnison River in Colorado, United States. Crystal Dam is the newest of the three dams in Curecanti National Recreation Area; the dam impounds Crystal Reservoir. Crystal Dam and reservoir are part of the Bureau of Reclamation's Wayne N. Aspinall Unit of the Colorado River Storage Project, which retains the waters of the Gunnison River and its tributaries for agricultural and municipal use in the American Southwest; the dam's primary purpose is hydroelectric power generation. Crystal Dam, like the higher Morrow Point Dam farther upstream, is a thin-shell arch dam planned to generate hydroelectric power. Unlike its upstream companions, excess water spills over the top of the dam through a notched-out ungated spillway that can create a 227 feet waterfall in times of overflow. Under normal conditions the river flows through an 11.5 feet penstock to the 28 MW turbine. The dam is deep within the Black Canyon of the Gunnison in pre-Cambrian metamorphic rock.
Crystal Dam was the last of the three dams in the Aspinall Unit of the Colorado River Storage Project to be completed. Crystal Dam's design and construction lagged behind Morrow Blue Mesa dams. Construction started in 1964 on a materials borrow pit, with construction at the damsite beginning in 1965 for an access road and exploratory drilling. Work stopped for five years. Planned as an earthfill dam, the design was changed to a double-curvature thin-shell concrete arch dam. After an initial bidding process in which all bid were rejected as too high, a contract for the diversion tunnel was awarded in 1972, holed through the same year; the construction contract for the dam itself was awarded to the J. F. Shea Company in June 1973. Cofferdam work continued into 1974, encountering problems with leakage though the upstream cofferdam. 24 inches wells were drilled below the cofferdam to intercept water. In the meantime the dam foundation was excavated, with first concrete placement in June. Excavation and concrete work for the powerplant started the same year.
Concrete work stopped in November, resuming in April 1975. Work was behind schedule. Concrete work resumed in April 1976, with final completion of the dam structure on August 30, 1976. Filling operations in the reservoir began on March 14, 1977, permanently blocking the diversion tunnel on April 12; the powerplant was not completed until 1978, victim of a fire in the contractor's warehouse that destroyed many electrical components intended for the plant. Because of Crystal Dam's then-new design, as a result of the failure of the contemporary Teton Dam in 1976, Crystal Dam was inspected in 1978 by divers to verify the integrity of the structure. Crystal Dam at the Bureau of Reclamation Crystal Powerplant at the Bureau of Reclamation Wayne N. Aspinall Storage Unit at Curecanti National Recreation Area
Morrow Point Dam
Morrow Point Dam is a 468-foot-tall concrete double-arch dam on the Gunnison River located in Colorado, the first dam of its type built by the U. S. Bureau of Reclamation. Located in the upper Black Canyon of the Gunnison, it creates Morrow Point Reservoir, is within the National Park Service-operated Curecanti National Recreation Area; the dam is between the Crystal Dam. Morrow Point Dam and reservoir are part of the Bureau of Reclamation's Wayne N. Aspinall Unit of the Colorado River Storage Project, which retains the waters of the Colorado River and its tributaries for agricultural and municipal use in the American Southwest; the dam's primary purpose is hydroelectric power generation. The dam and reservoir are contained in pre-Cambrian metamorphic rocks micaceous quartzite, quartz-mica and biotite schists, with granitic veining; the dam site is in a narrow canyon about 200 feet wide at the river and 550 feet wide at the top. The spillway discharge falls 350 feet into a stilling basin whose waters are retained by a weir below the dam.
Intake structures near the south abutment feed two 18 feet diameter penstock tunnels with 13.5 feet steel linings leading to the powerplant. A streamflow of 100 cubic feet per second is maintained at all times, equivalent to 200 acre feet per day; the Curecanti Project was conceived in 1955 with four dams. It was approved by the Secretary of the Interior in 1959, comprising Blue Mesa Dam and Morrow Point Dam. Crystal Dam's design was unfinished and was approved in 1962. Plans for a fourth dam were dropped as uneconomical; the project was restricted to the stretch of the Gunnison above Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Monument, a 40 miles length of the river. Work began at the damsite in 1961 with foundation drilling. In 1962 the power plant exploratory tunnel was excavated; the construction contract for the dam was awarded to a joint venture between the Al Johnson Construction Company and Morrison-Knudsen, with notice to proceed given on June 13, 1963. Access roads and a diversion tunnel were begun that year, with the diversion tunnel complete by May 1964.
Keyway excavation on either side of the dam continued through 1964. In 1965 work got underway with several tunnels started. Concrete for the dam was first placed on September 3, 1965; the powerplant was excavated by April 1966. Final concrete placement on the dam took place on September 14, 1967; the diversion tunnel was closed on January 24, 1968, with releases through the outlet structures the next day. Final completion was achieved for the dam on October 7, 1968, while work continued on the powerplant; the plant was accepted and a visitor center was completed in 1971, with final completion on May 12, 1972. The dam's grout curtain was extended in 1970 after leakage into the power plant reached 429 gallons per minute, using asphaltic emulsion and cement grout, reducing leakage to 37 gpm. Morrow Point Dam's powerplant is tunneled into the canyon wall 400 feet below the surface at the dam's left abutment, it houses two 86.667 MW generators, uprated from 60 MW each in 1992-1993. The generating hall measures 231 feet with between 64 metres and 134 feet of height.
First operating in 1970, it is operated as a peaking plant. An exploratory tunnel became a ventilation tunnel, while initial access during construction was made through the cable tunnel, with two headings raising the head of the tunnel arch. An access tunnel intersects the generating hall at a right angle, with two draft tubes excavated below. In irrigation season the powerplant is operated as a base load plant, providing peaking power in other seasons. Morrow Point Dam at the Bureau of Reclamation Morrow Point Powerplant at the Bureau of Reclamation Wayne N. Aspinall Storage Unit at Curecanti National Recreation Area
Green River (Colorado River tributary)
The Green River, located in the western United States, is the chief tributary of the Colorado River. The watershed of the river, known as the Green River Basin, covers parts of Wyoming and Colorado; the Green River is 730 miles long, beginning in the Wind River Mountains of Wyoming and flowing through Wyoming and Utah for most of its course, except for 40 miles into western Colorado. Much of the route is through the Colorado Plateau and through some of the most spectacular canyons in the United States, it is only smaller than the Colorado when the two rivers merge, but carries a larger load of silt. The average yearly mean flow of the river at Green River, Utah is 6,121 cubic feet per second; the status of the Green River as a tributary of the Colorado River came about for political reasons. In earlier nomenclature, the Colorado River began at its confluence with the Green River. Above the confluence the Colorado was called the Grand River. In 1921, Colorado U. S. Representative Edward T. Taylor petitioned the Congressional Committee on Interstate and Foreign Commerce to rename the Grand River as the Colorado River.
On July 25, 1921, the name change was made official in House Joint Resolution 460 of the 66th Congress, over the objections of representatives from Wyoming and Utah and the United States Geological Survey which noted that the drainage basin of the Green River was more extensive than that of the Grand River, although the Grand carried a higher volume of water at its confluence with the Green. It rises in western Wyoming, in northern Sublette County, on the western side of the Continental Divide in the Bridger-Teton National Forest in the Wind River Range, it flows south through Sublette County and western Wyoming in an area known as the Upper Green River Valley southwest and is joined by the Big Sandy River in western Sweetwater County. At the town of La Barge, it flows into Fontenelle Reservoir, formed by Fontenelle Dam. Below there, it flows through open sage covered rolling prairie where it is crossed by the Oregon and Mormon emigration trails and further south until it flows past the town of Green River and into the Flaming Gorge Reservoir in Southwestern Wyoming, formed by the Flaming Gorge Dam in northeastern Utah.
Prior to the creation of the reservoir, the Blacks Fork joined the Green River south of Green River, today the mouth of Blacks Fork is submerged by the reservoir. South of the dam it flows eastward, looping around the eastern tip of the Uinta Mountains going from Utah into northwestern Colorado and through Browns Park before turning west and south into Dinosaur National Monument where it passes through the Canyon of the Lodore and is joined by the Yampa River at Steamboat Rock, it turns westward back into Utah along the southern edge of the Uintas in Whirlpool Canyon. In Utah it meanders southwest across the Yampa Plateau and through the Uintah and Ouray Indian Reservation and the Ouray National Wildlife Refuge. Two miles south of Ouray, Utah, it is joined by Duchesne River, three miles downstream by the White River. Ten miles farther downstream it is joined by the Willow River. South of the plateau, it is joined by Nine Mile Creek enters the Roan Cliffs where it flows south through the back-to-back Desolation and Gray canyons, with a combined length of 120 mi.
In Gray Canyon, it is joined by the Price River. South of the canyon it passes the town of Green River, Utah and is joined by the San Rafael River in southern Emery County. In eastern Wayne County it meanders through Canyonlands National Park; the Flaming Gorge Dam in Utah is a significant regional source of water for irrigation and mining, as well as for hydroelectric power. Begun in the 1950s and finished in 1963, it was controversial and opposed by conservationists. A dam was to be built in Whirlpool Canyon, but the conservationist movement traded the Flaming Gorge dam for halting that proposal. Apocryphally, the Sierra Club, a not-for-profit environmental organization, lost its tax-exempt status for political action in opposing the proposed dam; the Green is a large, powerful river. It ranges from 100 to 300 feet wide in the upper course to 300 to 1,500 feet wide in its lower course and ranges from 3 to 50 feet in depth, it is navigable by small craft throughout its course and by large motorboats upstream to Flaming Gorge Dam.
Near the areas where the Oregon Trail crosses, the river is 400 - 500 feet wide and averages about 20 feet deep at normal flow. Archaeological evidence indicates that the tributary canyons and sheltered areas in the river valley were home to the Fremont Culture, which flourished from the 7th century to the 13th century; the Fremont were a semi-nomadic people who lived in pithouses and are best known for the rock art on canyon walls and in sheltered overhangs. In centuries, the river basin was home to the Shoshone and Ute peoples, both nomadic hunters; the Shoshone inhabited the river valley north of the Uinta Mountains, whereas the Utes lived to the south. The current reservation of the Utes is in the Uintah Basin; the Shoshone called the river the Seeds-kee-dee-Agie, meaning "Prairie Hen River." In 1776, the Spanish friars Silvestre Vélez de Escalante and Francisco Atanasio Domínguez crossed the river near present-day Jensen, naming it the Rio de San Buenaventura. The map-maker of the expedition, Captain Bernardo Miera y Pacheco, erroneously indicated that the river flowed southwest to what is now known as Sevier Lake.
Cartographers extended the error, representing the Buenaventura River as flowing into the Pacific Ocean. At least one charted the Buenaventura as draining the Great Salt Lake. Spanish
San Juan-Chama Project
The San Juan-Chama Project is a U. S. Bureau of Reclamation interbasin water transfer project located in the states of New Mexico and Colorado in the United States; the project consists of a series of tunnels and diversions that take water from the drainage basin of the San Juan River – a tributary of the Colorado River – to supplement water resources in the Rio Grande watershed. The project furnishes water for irrigation and municipal water supply to cities along the Rio Grande including Albuquerque and Santa Fe. Most major agricultural and urban areas in New Mexico today lie along the narrow corridor of the Rio Grande as it cuts across the center of this predominantly desert state. Spanish settlers arrived in the area in the late 1500s, followed by Mexican and American settlers in the 18th and 19th centuries, building large irrigation systems and diversion dams to allow agricultural production in the arid region. In the early 1920s, water supply in the Rio Grande basin was severely stressed, studies were conducted as to the feasibility of procuring additional water by transbasin diversion from tributaries of the San Juan River.
The 1933-1934 Bunger Survey studied potential locations for diversions and storage reservoirs, in 1939, the Rio Grande Compact was signed, dividing Rio Grande waters between Colorado, New Mexico and Texas including allocations from a potential future diversion from the San Juan basin. When the Upper Colorado River Basin Compact was established in 1948, it included provisions for the tentative diversion project under its water allotment to New Mexico. In the 1950s, post-World War II population growth in central New Mexico put larger strains on the Rio Grande's water, the need for a transbasin water project rose because water supplies in the area became overallocated. Studies for the project continued through the early 1950s, but actual implementation languished until 1962 when Congress amended the Colorado River Storage Act of 1956, allowing the diversion of part of New Mexico's share of Colorado River basin waters into the Rio Grande basin; the diversions proposed were for 235,000 acre⋅ft per year from three tributaries of the San Juan River in Colorado: the Rio Blanco and Little Navajo Rivers, to the headwaters of the Rio Chama, a major tributary of the Rio Grande.
The project would be constructed in two phases. However, Reclamation ran into difficulties because the Navajo Nation asserted rights to about 900,000 acre⋅ft of water from the San Juan River, which runs through their traditional lands. Resultantly, only the first phase of the project was constructed, delivering just under 47% of the original amount proposed by Reclamation. On December 19, 1964, construction began on the Azotea Tunnel, the main water tunnel for the project, running from the Navajo River south to Azotea Creek in the Rio Chama watershed. Work started on the Oso and Little Oso tunnels in February 1966, construction on the Blanco Tunnel began in March of the same year. In 1967, an enlargement of the outlets of existing El Vado Dam to accommodate increased flows from the diversion project was completed, construction began on Heron Dam, which would impound the project's main storage reservoir. Azotea Tunnel was holed through and construction was finished on the project's three diversion dams in 1970.
Heron Dam was completed the next year. Nambe Falls Dam, completed in 1976, was the last part of the project to be built; the dam was the only one built of a series of small independent irrigation units proposed under the project to serve Native American lands. In 1978, Reclamation announced the completion of the San Juan-Chama Project; the San Juan-Chama Project taps the water of the Rio Blanco and Little Navajo Rivers via a series of small diversion dams and siphons. Blanco Diversion Dam, with a diversion capacity of 520 cu ft/s, sends water into the Blanco Feeder Conduit, which connects to the 8.64-mile -long Blanco Tunnel and flows south towards the Little Navajo River. The water connects to the Oso Tunnel. Just upstream from the siphon, Little Oso Diversion Dam sends up to 150 cu ft/s of water through the Little Oso Feeder Conduit, which empties into the Oso Tunnel. Oso Tunnel, with a capacity of 650 cu ft/s, travels 5.05 miles south to the Navajo River, which it passes under via the Oso Siphon.
Oso Diversion Dam on the Navajo diverts additional water into the Oso Feeder Conduit, which joins with water from the Oso Tunnel and Siphon to form the Azotea Tunnel. The Azotea Tunnel, which has a capacity of 950 cu ft/s, runs south for 12.8 miles, passing under the Continental Divide. The tunnel terminates at Azotea Creek, a tributary of Willow Creek, in turn a tributary of the Rio Chama; the lower portion of Azotea Creek has been channelized to mitigate erosion from the higher flows. The main storage facility for the project is Heron Lake, a reservoir formed by Heron Dam on Willow Creek about 8 miles downstream of the terminus of Azotea Tunnel and 20 miles southwest of Chama, New Mexico; the reservoir has a surface area of 5,950 acres. Heron Dam is an earthfill dam 269 feet high and 1,220 feet long, standing 249.1 feet above the streambed. Heron Lake receives water from a catchment of 193 sq mi, augmented to over three times this size by the San Juan-Chama diversions. Nambe Falls Dam is located about 15 miles north of Santa Fe on the Rio Nambe, a tributary of the Rio Grande.
The dam and reservoir are functionally independent from the other facilities of the San Juan-Chama Project. The curved earthfill dam forms Nambe Fall