Freeway Free in Colorado: The Headwaters Center in Winter Park – a GEM
The Headwaters Center in Winter Park, Colorado is a small delight, featuring creative audio, visuals, and interactive displays to immerse the visitor in the history and hazards of water and water management along the Continental Divide. It opened in July 2019.
As you walk through the museum, you can use your finger along a time line to change the waterflow and scenery along the walls, You can put yourself into a kayak or onto a mountain bike as you explore the recreation options around the river. You can fly like an osprey over the Continental Divide, searching out the watersheds of the Fraser, the Colorado, and other major rivers. You can (if you are small) crawl inside a beaver dam and commune with a beaver.
The Center is full of “I never thought of that!” moments. For example, I kinda knew that most of the rain along the Divide falls on the west side of the Rockies, while most of the people live on the east side. So massive tunnels have been build to divert water flow from west to east. (an interactive display allows you to turn a valve wheel to see the impact of this diversion on the ecology of the western slope). An unexplored consequence is that the water that would have run into the Pacific from the western watershed now eventually runs into the Atlantic. Long-term effects? We’re not sure.
The Center itself is designed to be completely off the grid, with solar panels and a back-up generator providing clean power. It is, of course, designed for advocacy. From the souvenir shelf (no full-size gift shop yet) a visitor can buy eco-bricks to lessen the water flow in toilets, re-fillable water bottles to make bottled water unnecessary, and other water-conservation tools.
A take-away flyer suggests action items which a visitor can take to become more aware and informed about Western water usage. The Center is a mind-changing, mind-expanding experiment in the power of information. Don’t miss it.