Prime agricultural land along the Clear Creek floodplain, Colorado, attracted settlement in the 1850's but the demand for sand and gravel for 1900's construction initiated a sequence of events that exceeded previous interests and created the modified landscape and urban ecosystem that exists today. The Clear Creek valley corridor offers a landscape filled with a persistent visible and hidden reminder of it's past use.
The map sheets illustrate the Clear Creek landscape as a series of compositions, both at the macro view (in the spatial context of urban structure and highways from aerial photographs) and micro view (from the civic scale where landscape features like trees, buildings, and sidewalks are included). The large-scale topographic features, such as mountains and terraces, appear 'changeless' (they do change over geologic time), while Clear Creek has changed from a wide braided stream to a narrow confined stream. Transportation networks (streets and highways) and spiraling population growth in adjacent cities (from approximately 38,000 people in 1880 to over a million in 1999) form two dominant landscape patterns. Mining and wetland/riparian occupy the smallest amount of land use acres compared to urban, transportation, or water reservoir activities in the Clear Creek aggregate reserve study area.
Four types of reclaimed pits along Clear Creek were determined: water storage facilities, wildlife/greenbelt space, multiple-purpose reservoirs, and 'hidden scenery.' The latter involves infilling gravel pits (with earth backfill, concrete rubble, or sanitary landfill) and covering the site with light industry or residential housing making the landform hard to detect as a past mine site. Easier to recognize are the strong-edged, rectilinear water reservoirs, reclaimed from off-channel sand and gravel pits that reflect the land survey grid and property boundaries. The general public may not realize softly contoured linear wildlife corridors connecting urban, industrial, and natural space were once mine sites too. Multiple-use water projects from exhausted pits appear to be the new millennium parks, providing water storage, passive recreation, and habitat restoration for the Denver metropolitan area. The public objects to mining yet enjoys the reclaimed mine sites as recreation and wildlife space.