The History of Evergreen Lake, Evergreen, Colorado
Evergreen Lake, located in the mountain town of Evergreen, Colorado, is a beloved destination for locals and visitors alike. The lake, which is surrounded by lush forests and snow-capped peaks, has a rich history that dates back to the late 1800s.
Early Settlement and Development
The area around Evergreen Lake was originally settled by homesteaders in the 1860s. One of the first settlers was John J. Clarke, who homesteaded 350 acres in 1878. Clarke raised cattle, logged, and built a small homestead cabin that still exists as the oldest part of the house. The center of the house and the stone-walled root cellar were built by “Cousin Jack,” the best carpenter in Central City, in 1883.
In 1920, Lucius (Lee) and Hazel Humphrey bought the ranch and moved there with their daughter, Hazel Lou. The Humphrey’s named the property Kinnikinnik Ranch. Lee Humphrey was known as the mountain area’s first year-round Denver commuter, driving a Model T for two and a half hours daily to reach the copy desk in Denver.
Creation of Evergreen Lake
Despite the early settlement, it wasn’t until the 1890s that the lake itself was created. In 1891, the Denver Mountain Parks system was established, and the city of Denver began acquiring land in the foothills for public use. One of the first acquisitions was the land surrounding the small lake that was then known as Squaw Pass Reservoir.
The 55-acre lake was created by Evergreen Dam, which was built in 1926-1927 by the City and County of Denver for flood control, water supply, and recreation. The dam was built to increase the size of the lake and create a park for the enjoyment of the public. In the 1920s, the park was renamed Evergreen Lake Park, and it quickly became a popular destination for picnics, boating, and swimming.
Civilian Conservation Corps and Recreational Development
In the 1930s, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) began to work on the park, building many of the amenities that are still in use today. The CCC built picnic shelters, a boathouse, and a dance pavilion, which is now the Evergreen Lake House. The CCC also constructed hiking trails and a playground, making the park a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts.
In the 1960s, the lake was stocked with fish, and it quickly became a popular spot for fishing. Today, Evergreen Lake is home to rainbow trout, cutthroat trout, and kokanee salmon, and it is a popular spot for catch-and-release fishing.
Evergreen Lake Today
Today, Evergreen Lake is a cherished part of the community, known for its stunning scenery, recreational opportunities, and rich history. Every year, thousands of visitors come to the lake to enjoy activities such as fishing, boating, hiking, and ice skating in the winter.
In addition to its recreational offerings, Evergreen Lake has also played an important role in the town’s history. In the early 1900s, the lake was a source of water for the town’s residents and was used for irrigation and fire protection.
Evergreen Lake sits above downtown Evergreen, which includes a mix of historic buildings and local businesses, including the well-known entertainment venue and restaurant The Little Bear. In the winter, ice skating is offered at Evergreen Lake. The skating season usually runs from mid-to-late December to late March depending upon ice thickness and weather. Evergreen Lake is the venue of the annual Skate the Lake, a New Year’s Day tradition, and the Evergreen Music Festival on July 4th.
Geology and Water Source
Evergreen Lake is located at the base of the Upper Bear Creek Watershed, which begins at the top of the Mount Evans Wilderness area. The water supply for the lake and the surrounding Evergreen Metropolitan District comes from this watershed, residing in the form of snow pack, rainfall, and lake storage.
The lake itself is about 600 acre-feet in size, equivalent to about 197 million gallons. It is a relatively shallow lake, with an average depth of 15 feet. The Evergreen Metropolitan District Water Treatment Plant draws water from the lake at a point near the dam on the east end. Despite being a surface water body and relatively shallow and small in size, Evergreen Lake provides a high-quality, low-hardness water supply. However, it is susceptible to impact from periodic high stream flows due to spring runoff and summer rainstorm events. The treatment process used by the District is capable of handling these periodic, poor water-quality events.
The health and well-being of the Bear Creek Watershed, and by extension Evergreen Lake, is monitored by the Bear Creek Watershed Association. This organization comprises groups with significant interest in and responsibility for the watershed. They conduct a significant amount of monitoring within the watershed to ensure the continued health of this vital water source.
Evergreen Lake Evergreen Colroado
Evergreen Lake is more than just a body of water; it is a testament to the rich history of Evergreen, Colorado, and a vital part of the community. From its creation in the 1920s to its current status as a beloved recreational spot, the lake continues to be a source of beauty, enjoyment, and vital resources for the people of Evergreen. Its history is a fascinating tale of human ingenuity and the power of nature, and it continues to be written with each passing year.