The construction of I-70 through Eagle County followed closely the plan advocated by Charles Vail, Colorado State Highway Engineer. “It will eliminate the ‘Seven Sisters’ area where snow slides now form a continual hazard on the east side of Loveland Pass. The route [from Empire Junction near Idaho Springs to Dotsero] would go through Dillon, Dowd and Vail Pass.” [Eagle Valley Enterprise, April 21, 1960 p.1] The Dowd Junction to Wolcott area was the most expensive stretch with 3.5 miles of construction estimated to cost $3.5 million due to landslide conditions and new bridge construction. The State Highway Department (now the Colorado Department of Transportation) held many meetings with local communities to discuss the path of I-70, including one in Eagle on August 31, 1965. This was especially interesting because the route of I-70 through Eagle involved rerouting the Eagle River.
In looking at Eagle (view from Eby Creek) in 1930, one can see Highway 6 as the main thoroughfare through town (midfield, left to right). The Eagle River, flowing from left to right, is crossed by the railroad bridge and moves past the Chambers Ranch at the bottom right of the photo. From there, it flows closely by the Gypsum cliffs at Eby Creek on its way west. It was just at that spot that I-70 was going to be built, with an interchange serving the town of Eagle.
The Eagle 7.5 min. Quadrangle Topo map from 1962 clearly shows the original route of the Eagle River.
“You wouldn’t recognize the Chambers ranch across the Eagle River, north of town—the old Ullman ranch house has been moved to make way for Interstate 70—the barn has a new location; one of the tenant houses has a new location and function—in the ‘yard’ of Lowdermilk Construction Co., on the former ranch land. Even the river will soon have a new location. The river bed is being channeled away from a cliff to make way for the 4-lane super highway, and it was understood the switch to a new channel is to be made this week.” [Eagle Valley Enterprise, May 6, 1971 p.1]
By June of 1971, forty years ago, the Eagle River channel was moved south of its original bed. “The Eagle was channeled away from the gypsum cliffs into a new bed to the east and southeast. Eby Creek flows into the old river bed, with a dam thrown up at the south end, with a spillway through a pipe emptying into the river. … The old wooden bridge spanning the Eagle just outside of town has long served its purpose, and is making way for a newer, sturdier bridge which will underpass the railroad track.” [Eagle valley Enterprise, June 3, 1971 p.4] If the original settlers of the town of Eagle could come back for a day, they might not recognize the place.