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Walnut Creek Pond

Walnut Creek PondWalnut Creek Pond is located west of U.S. Highway 36 and west of the intersection of Church Ranch Boulevard and Reed Street. It is situated along the Walnut Creek Trail just east of Sensory Park and south of the Shops at Walnut Creek. The paved Walnut Creek Trail curves along the south and east sides of the pond. A connecting trail west of the pond at Sensory Park provides access between the Walnut Creek Trail and the Shops at Walnut Creek retail center. Access to the half-acre Walnut Pond is limited by the dense wetland along the adjacent creek and a thick growth of shoreline vegetation. The best place to view the pond is from the trail along its south shore.

Flowing toward the east, Walnut Creek snakes through the wetland west of the pond and then curves to run just beyond the pond’s northern shoreline. Near the northeast edge of the pond, the creek passes underneath Church Ranch Boulevard and continues east. The pond is supplied with water from Walnut Creek. Some of this water is pumped out of the pond to irrigate landscaping around the commercial buildings to the west, along the north side of 103rd Avenue. Excess water drains back into Walnut Creek through a rock-lined spillway along the low earthen dam wall that forms its eastern shore.

In 1870, George and Sarah Church purchased the land where Walnut Creek Pond is located from the federal government. The couple had migrated west from Iowa in the early 1860s. Following initial attempts at mining near Idaho Springs and farming north of Mount Vernon Canyon, in 1864 the family acquired a 160-acre parcel of land in the open countryside northwest of Denver. This tract contained the 12-Mile Station, a stop on the Denver to Cheyenne Overland Stage road twelve miles outside of Denver. George improved the property by constructing a two-story house next to the stage station and the Overland Stage stop became known as Church’s Station. The farmstead and stage station were located along the west side of Wadsworth Boulevard just north of 103rd Avenue. Before long, the Church’s two-story home was converted to a bunkhouse for travelers when George erected a better quality family residence nearby.

Over the following years, the Church Ranch expanded beyond the original homestead. Through a series of acquisitions, including the 160-acre parcel that includes today’s Walnut Creek Pond, the family amassed acreage that stretched from Sheridan Boulevard west to the foothills. Building a sizable livestock operation, the Church family used some of their land as pasture and planted much of the rest with feed crops. George built an extensive irrigation system involving a series of ditches and reservoirs that diverted and stored water from Clear Creek for his fields and livestock. The family empire passed down to George and Sarah’s son Frank, and his wife Katherine. Their children Ruth and Marcus also became involved in the family business, and by the World War I era the ranch consisted of approximately 27,000 acres.

Much of the Church Ranch remained agricultural through the 1960s and 1970s. Charles Church McKay, the great-grandson of George and Sarah Church, continued to manage the family’s extensive landholdings into the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Around 1990, he had Walnut Creek Pond constructed to provide irrigation water for crop fields in the vicinity, during a time when much of the land was nearing the end of its agricultural era. The acreage along the Walnut Creek Trail, including Walnut Creek Pond, was acquired by the City of Westminster for open space through several transactions that took place between 1992 and 2008.

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