In March of 1899, an German pioneer in Wyoming named Ole Frantzen filed an irrigation water right on the north slope of Green Mountain. His goal was to irrigate 100 acres of native hay in the meadows surrounding Cooper Creek. Mr. Frantzen built a mile-and-a-half long irrigation ditch, which eventually expanded to irrigate over 190 acres during his lifetime. Fast forward over 100 years, and like many historic irrigation diversions in Wyoming and the west, the infrastructure used to divert and convey water has fallen into disrepair.
When Pathfinder Ranches obtained the adjudicated water rights in 2017 to the Frantzen Ditch, it was discovered that the waters of Cooper Creek were actually flowing through the ditch year-round. The diversion headgate was completely gone, the Frantzen Ditch had blown out ½ mile from the point of diversion in Cooper Creek, and two large channels had been cut into the hillsides due to the inability for the waters of Cooper Creek to flow within its natural channel. A five foot tall headcut was working its way back up the Frantzen Ditch causing erosion and destruction to the ditch itself.
Pathfinder Ranches is addressing these issues in two phases. The first goal was to put the flows of Cooper Creek back into its natural channel, thus eliminating the movement of the headcut within Frantzen Ditch which erodes sediment into the stream. This project involved the removal of older damming efforts within the natural channel, as well as the plugging of the Frantzen Ditch and one blow out ditch nearby. In November (2017), the crew from Pathfinder Ranches completed these tasks.
(Above) Cooper Creek makes an abrupt turn to the west into the Frantzen Ditch at the site of the historic headgate diversion
(Below) With the Frantzen Ditch plugged, the flows of Cooper Creek reside within its natural channel
The second phase is to reinstall a headgate into Cooper Creek that will allow for the diversion of irrigation water per the Frantzen Ditch water right, as well as maintain the flows of Cooper Creek within the natural channel. Additionally, the Frantzen Ditch needs repaired to convey water to the irrigated meadows to allow for future native hay production.