A series of bathtubs dot Wyoming’s North Platte River, filling and releasing water for summer irrigation, power generation, and recreation. During western expansion, it became necessary to control the river, building dams and reservoirs that helped to regulate flow between seasons and wet and dry years.

In September 2013, it began to rain in Colorado. And it didn’t stop. Northwest of Fort Collins, the North Fork of the Cache La Poudre River soon carried record amounts of water. In just a few days, flows leapt from three cubic feet per second (cfs) to more than 1000 cfs when the upstream dam could not hold any more water and began to spill over.