Eagle Nest Dam celebrates 100th year

Courtesy Sangre de Cristo Chronicle

Eagle Nest Dam, one of the largest privately built dams in the United States, turns 100 years old this summer.

Eagle Nest Dam, one of the largest privately built dams in the United States, is 100 years old this summer.

The village of Eagle Nest and Eagle Nest State Park are celebrating with a weeklong set of events, including paddle races on the lake, concerts, a tour of the dam and a star party from Saturday (June 30) through Saturday (July 7). And there will be fireworks on the Fourth of July over Eagle Nest Lake, an event approved after a meeting between the three Moreno Valley fire departments, State Forestry and Eagle Nest Chamber of Commerce.

The dam was the brainchild of two brothers, Charles and Frank Springer, who landed in the Moreno Valley in the 1870s. They founded the CS Ranch in 1873, which is still operated today by their descendants.

According to a history of the dam by Greg Carlisle, the dam's caretaker on behalf of the New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission, the brothers realized they needed a steady source of water for their ranch to boost the value of their land. The Cimarron River made the perfect source.

They formed the Cimarron Valley Land Company, bought 600 acres of land at Eagle's Roost Rock and were granted a permit to capture flood waters in the Cimarron Reservoir to use downstream for irrigation, power production and towns.

It took a decade to get through the bureaucratic red tape before construction on the 400-foot-long concrete dam began in 1916. When the dam, engineered by Neal Hanson, was completed two years later, it was 45 feet thick at the bottom and 9.5 feet thick at the top.

The lake and dam were sold to the state of New Mexico in 2002 and became a state park. The water in the lake remains a critical resource for area farms, ranches, Eagle Nest, Raton and other towns.

Saturday (June 30) events include a tour of the dam at 8:30 a.m., the Kansas City Barbecue Society Cookoff, music in the park, kite flying at Gateway Museum, a noon anniversary celebration at the dam, and the Amarillo Corvette Car Show from 1 - 8 p.m. and the fourth annual Nashville to New Mexico Music Festival from 5 - 8 p.m., both at the Enchanted Eagle Park.

For a full list of the week's events, see eaglenestchamber.org .

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