When is the last time you enjoyed a stroll along the Colorado Riverfront Trail or played a round of frisbee/disc golf out on Watson Island? It's almost that time of year again in Western Colorado.

When I enjoy a walk at Los Colonias or at Grand Junction's Botanical Gardens it's hard to imagine a time when this part of town looked a lot more like a junkyard. Believe me, a little googling will get you plenty of images of how bad it used to be over on Watson Island.

In fact, Grand Junction's Botanical Gardens does a great job of documenting how bad the dumping ground got in the 50s and 60s in the first few minutes of the video below.

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Grand Junction's Watson Island Used to be a Junkyard?

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Indeed. By1950, land along the Colorado River, and on Watson Island, got used for everything from spent uranium storage, dumping trash, discarded and wrecked vehicles, and lots of unsightly clutter.

Was Watson Island on Grand Junction's River Front Always That Nasty?

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Before the junk started to pile up, Grand Junction's earliest residents saw the Ute Indians make great use of the fertile soil around the Colorado River. In the 1920s a farmer named “Posey” Watson opened a flower shop on Main Street.

His farming grounds were protected by a channel that was built which created Watson Island. Gardening along the river and the Island became pretty popular until the 1950s.

Grand Junction Colorado's Riverfront Changed in the 1950s

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Watson's Family sold their land to a man named Tom Lewis in the early 50s. Lewis saw potential in turning all that land into a salvage yard. This marked the beginning of over 30 years of dumping all manner of things in this now 'salvage area'. Mr. Lewis passed away in 1996 after an auto accident.

How Grand Junction's Lion's Club Saved Watson Island and the Riverfront

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By the 1980s, Grand Junction had a real mess on its hands here. I've heard residents talk about vehicles being dumped right in the river when they ran out of room on Watson Island. Tap this link to see a photo of the old cars piled next to the leftovers from the Uranium Mill from the GJ Sentinal. 

The Lion's Club proposed $100,000 to buy the island only if the city of Grand Junction would match those funds. Once the island was purchased a gigantic cleanup effort began that even saw the state of Colorado make a contribution of $50,000 towards the renovations.

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Watson Island Becomes a Recreation Destination of Downtown Grand Junction.

The Tamarisk Coalition teamed up with Chevron, the Riverfront Commission, and the City of Grand Junction to help restore the riverfront and Watson Island to its current state.

We now have an 18-hole disc golf course on the island along with the gardens and walking trails to enjoy. The next time someone says they want to open a salvage yard next to a river, you know what to say!

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