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Preferred Structure Name:
Fall River Pump House
Structure Number:
Other Structure Name(s):
Other Structure Name(s)
No records.
Rocky Mountain National Park
Historic District:
Historic District
No records.
Structure State:
Structure County:
Rocky Mountain
Administrative Unit:
Rocky Mountain National Park
Historical Significance:

National Register Status:
Entered - Documented
National Register Date:
National Historic Landmark?:
Significance Level:
Short Significance Description:
The Fall River Pass Pump House and Catchment Basin are listed in the National Register for its design, which embodies the principles of NPS Rustic style, criterion C. The period of significance is the date of construction: 1938.
Long Significance Description:
The site is located in a less developed area. The Fall River Pass Pump House and Catchment Basin is a small facility, in a remote section of the park, built to serve a specific purpose, in this case, treating water for the Fall River Pass Museum (and after 1965 for the Alpine Visitor Center). The pump house itself embodies the NPS Rustic design goals: to make buildings blend with and be secondary to their surroundings. The stone construction and low profile reflects the alpine landscape in which it sits. The catchment basin, with its stone wall, embodies NPS naturalistic design principles. The design emphasizes the rustic pioneer atmosphere and unobtrusive traditional appearance that was used to house modern functions at the time. Historically, the site is associated with the growth of the National Park Service conservation movement. Specifically, as Rocky Mountain National Park grew in popularity after World War II and automobile traffic increased, the park needed to build facilities with modern conveniences for the increasing number of tourists.

In 1933, Rocky Mountain National Park opened Trail Ridge Road, ushering in a new era of visitation. Though Fall River Road had provided passage over the Continental Divide, its narrow width, steep grade, and tight switchbacks limited both the number and type of visitors. Trail Ridge Road offered unparalleled views of tundra, comfortable grades, and scenic overlooks. The Old Fall River Road intersected the new Trail Ridge Road at Fall River Pass. A stone ranger station, built in 1922 (Building 58, 5LR1204, listed 29 January 1988), already existed in this location. This small, stone building also followed the principles of the NPS Rustic style. In 1936, after Trail Ridge Road opened, the National Park Service built a stone museum in Fall River Pass (Building 170, 5LR1207, determined not eligible due to a lack of integrity, 5 November 1987). In an alpine cirque, more than 1000 feet below these buildings, the National Park Service built a pumphouse to move water up the steep slope to the museum above (the ranger station never had water pumped to it, and there is no plumbing in the building).

In March 1938, the National Park Service chose the location and approved construction in August 1938. The drawings on file are signed by L. Fletcher and W.G. Hill, two National Park Service landscape architects. The diesel-fired engines in the pump house moved water uphill to a water tank near the museum. Today the pump house is powered via an electric line buried in the slope. The pump house feeds water to a 60,000 gallon tank near the Fall River Pass generator building, which pumps it further up hill to a 20,000 water tank. Then, the water moves by gravity back downhill to the store and the Alpine Visitor Center.

Since the Fall River Pass Area has evolved over time, and several structures are less than 50 years old as of the writing of this document, this nomination did not consider the Fall River Pass area to be an historic district. The remaining buildings on Fall River Pass include:

• Fall River Pass Ranger Station, built in 1922 (building 58, 5LR1204, listed 29 January 1988)
• Fall River Pass Museum/Store, built in 1936 (building 170, 5LR1207, determined not eligible 5 November 1987)
• Alpine Visitor Center, built 1964-1965
• Generator Building, built at an unknown date
• Comfort Station, built 2000
Construction Period:

Construction Period:
Physical Event
Begin Year
Begin Year CE/BCE
End Year
End Year CE/BCE
Designer Occupation
Fletcher, L. and Hill, W. G.
Landscape Architect
Function and Use:

Primary Historic Function:
Pumping Station
Primary Current Use:
Pumping Station
Structure Contains Museum Collections?:
Other Functions or Uses:
Other Function(s) or Use(s)
Historic or Current
No records.
Physical Description:

Structure Type:
1 - 2,000 cubic feet
Square Feet:
Structural Component(s)
Short Physical Description:
This one-story stone building is built into the sloping hillside, with only the front elevation exposed. Local granite veneers cover the concrete walls. The structure is visually tied not only with the surrounding terrain but also with the buildings on Fall River Pass. Associated with HS-0171.A.
Long Physical Description:
The Fall River Pass Pump House is a one-room stobe building, measuring 14’-0” by 12’-0.” It is built into the sloping hillside, with only the front elevation exposed. The rebar-reinforced concrete walls are veneered with full local stone battered 12” to 1” in elevation. The roof is also constructed of reinforced concrete and then layered with gravel surfaced roofing and tar. The entry door, made of two opposed layers of planking, vertical and diagonal, faces to the east and looks down the valley towards Estes Park. A hatch door is centrally located on the roof for entry when snow drifts prevent use of primary door. The north window is a six-light horizontal window with hopper opening action; the south window has been replaced with a single “hammered” glass pane, presumably with a hopper action as well.

An alpine stream runs on the south side of the property, flowing in a west to east direction, it forms a confluence with another tributary flowing southwest to northeast. This stream is fed from a catchment basin (HS-0171.A) constructed in a similar rustic manner, of concrete veneered with local granite boulders. This water feature harmonizes with the surrounding alpine environment. This catchment basin (collecting sump) is located northeast of the building, roughly 200 feet away. The pipeline runs from this building, to the pumphouse, and then up the hill to the structures.

The structure sits at 11,175 ft. above sea leavel.