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Photographs of the Natural Resources Conservation Service, Colorado Snow Survey Program

 Collection
Identifier: WCSS

Scope and Contents

The Photographs of the Natural Resources Conservation Service, Colorado Snow Survey Program consists of slides, photographs, and films dated 1951 to 1996, with the bulk falling from 1964 to 1991. The collection includes images of snow survey sites and equipment, agency employees, and public outreach events. The majority of locations depicted are in Colorado's Rocky Mountains; however, there are also images of New Mexico and major dams along the Colorado River. Approximately a quarter of the slides are labeled with names of places or people. Two sets of slides are presentations with accompanying audio narration.

Dates

  • 1951-1996
  • Majority of material found within 1964-1991

Creator

Restrictions on Access

There are no access restrictions on this collection.

Restrictions on Use

Not all of the material in the collection is in the public domain. Researchers are responsible for addressing copyright issues.

History

The purpose of the Natural Resources Conservation Service's Snow Survey Program is to provide mountain snowpack data and water supply forecasts for the western United States. The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) operates under the U.S. Department of Agriculture and was known as the Soil Conservation Service prior to 1994.

As the West and its rivers were developed during the late nineteenth century, information on water supplies became increasingly important. The first systematic snow survey in the region was taken in 1909 in the Sierra Nevada by Dr. James Church. The intent of a snow survey is to measure snowfall and predict spring runoff, so is of great assistance to water managers as well as flood predictions. After a severe drought in the western U.S., Congress passed legislation funding a federal Snow Survey Program in 1935 as part of the Bureau of Agricultural Engineering. In 1939 the program became part of the Soil Conservation Service.

The availability of reliable data enables effective management of water based on spring runoff and benefits both agricultural and recreation sectors. Manual snow surveying methods remain in use today, even as developments in technology assist in provide fully automated measurements. In 1977, the first SNOTEL (SNOpack TELemetry) site was built and more frequent data became available from certain locations. There are now more than 850 SNOTEL sites across 12 western states and Alaska.

Colorado's network of snow survey courses dates to the early 1930s with Ralph Parshall as one of the state's earliest snow survey supervisors. The Colorado Snow Survey Program includes nearly 100 manually sampled snow courses and over 100 SNOTEL stations. There are also currently 53 field offices that report to the state office in Denver.

Extent

1.5 linear feet (1 document box, 2 photo boxes, 1 film box)

Language of Materials

English

Abstract

In 1935, Congress passed legislation funding a federal Snow Survey Program after a severe drought in the western United States. The purpose of the Natural Resources Conservation Service's Snow Survey Program is to provide mountain snowpack data and water supply forecasts for the western United States. The collection includes images of snow survey sites and equipment, agency employees, and public outreach events. Materials include slides, photographs,and film reels.

Arrangement

Slideshows are followed by slides found in binders retained in their original order, with slides and photographs categorized by archivists following. Media items are listed at the end.

The collection consists of 1 series in 4 boxes:

Series 1: Visual materials, 1951-1996 and undated

Acquisition

The Photographs of the Natural Resources Conservation Service, Colorado Snow Survey Program was donated to the Water Resources Archive in March 2015 by Magdelena Hulstrand of the Colorado Snow Survey Program office in Denver.

Online Materials

Some materials have been digitized and are available through the Colorado State University Libraries website. In the electronic version of this document, direct links appear in context.

Related Collections

The Water Resources Archive holds the Irrigation Research Papers, which contains documents and photographs related to snow surveys from the USDA's Irrigation Investigations Unit, as well as the Ralph L. Parshall Collection.

Processing

Processing was completed in February 2016. The collection was rehoused in acid-free materials. Photographs and slides were sleeved and stored in photo album boxes. Unlabeled slides were arranged based upon similar slide markings and sleeved. Duplicates, title slides, and images of maps and charts were removed, along with one videotape.

Title
Guide to the Photographs of the Natural Resources Conservation Service, Colorado Snow Survey Program
Status
Edited Full Draft
Author
Prepared by Krystle Ervin and Patricia J. Rettig
Date
Copyright 2016
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Repository Details

Part of the CSU Libraries Archives & Special Collections Repository

Contact:
Fort Collins Colorado 80523-1019 USA
970-491-1844