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WaterShapesBy Jim McCloskey

When my wife and I made the long drive from St. Louis to Los Angeles in October 2017, I knew that once we crossed the Missouri state line in Kansas City (the glorious “City of Fountains”), we weren’t going to see any significant watershapes on the path we’d selected.

We stopped in some great non-aquatic spots in Kansas, memorably the Wizard of Oz Museum in Wamego and S.P. Dinsmoor’s Garden of Eden in Lucas. But mostly we set our sights on pushing through at an unwavering pace to Durango, Colo., with thoughts of the natural wonders we’d find thereabouts dancing in our heads.

As we approached the Kansas/Colorado border, we had a stroke of luck: I received a call from a friend in Colorado Springs who, upon hearing where we were, offered to put us up if we’d take a little detour and head north rather than south once we reached Pueblo. It immediately put me in mind that a fountain I had long carried on the list of waterfeatures I wanted to see and discuss in WaterShapes was right there.

I knew about this fountain because on the few occasions when we published a feature article in which an artist used a helical or circular form as the core of a sculptural fountain, I’d get a note, call or email from someone telling me that what we’d published was great, but if we really wanted to see something transformative, the Julie Penrose Fountain in Colorado Springs was beyond description and well worth a visit.

WaterShapesHere was my opportunity at last: Our first day in Colorado Springs was filled with blustery winds, hoodoos and the Garden of the Gods, which let us reserve the whole of our second and final day for America the Beautiful Park, where the Julie Penrose Fountain occupies a special place.

The winds relented and the day was fair and warm – but I was blown away just the same: The Julie Penrose Fountain stands more than 40 feet tall, and although I’d seen photographs, I had no idea either how large it was or that it turned on its axis four times an hour. I was overwhelmed – and moderately drenched when an unexpected breeze lashed us with water and mist shortly after our arrival.

When we were safely back home, I put a note about the fountain on my long list of coverage candidates – and in the press of business a Travelogue I was truly keen to write slipped into a crack from which it has only now been rescued.

As I began my usual research on the fountain’s creation and history, I came across the video linked below. It offers such a detailed perspective on the fountain that I’m going to let it do the rest of my work this time. Although the narration is almost painfully low key, the video itself captures the majesty of the sculpture, the transient beauty of the fountain effect and the sheer joy of hanging out in America the Beautiful Park with the mountains as a backdrop – even if you get soaked!

To see a video on the Julie Penrose Fountain in Colorado Springs, click here.

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