Heavy, intense rains in three areas on three different days caused outstanding floods on many streams in the South Platte River basin from Plum Creek, just south of Denver, downstream to the Colorado-Nebraska State line. The flood-producing storms followed a relatively wet period, and rainfall of as much as 14 inches in a few hours was reported. The storms occurred over the Greeley-Sterling area on June 14-15, over the Plum Creek and Cherry Creek basins on June 16, and over the headwaters of Kiowa and Bijou Creeks on June 17 after heavy rains on June 15. The flood crest did not pass Julesburg, in the northeast corner of Colorado, until June 20.
Previous record high discharges on many tributaries with drainage areas on the plains were exceeded, sometimes severalfold. The six principal tributaries carrying snowmelt runoff were contributing, but not significant, factors in the floods. The attenuation of the peak flow by channel storage as the flood passed through Denver was considerable; yet the peak discharge of 40,300 cfs (cubic feet per second) of the South Platte River at Denver was 1.8 times the previously recorded high of 22,000 cfs in a period of record starting in 1889. The 1965 peak would have been still higher except that all flow from Cherry Creek was stored in Cherry Creek Reservoir.
Six persons were drowned, and two other deaths were attributed to the storms. The total damage amounted to $508.2 million, and about 75 percent of this occurred in the Denver metropolitan area.
Descriptions of the storms and floods, detailed streamflow records, and information on damages, flood profiles, inundated areas, and flood frequency are included in this report. Several comparisons of the magnitude of the flood are made, and all indicate that an outstanding hydrologic event occurred.
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USGS Numbered Series
Floods of June 1965 in South Platte River basin, Colorado