By Yvonne O’Brien, Member
Friends of Eagle Nest Lake and Cimarron Canyon State Parks
Eagle Nest Dam and Lake are located in the Moreno Valley of New Mexico’s highest northern mountains. Settlers for many years dreamed of impounding the Cimarron River surplus, which would also halt periodic disastrous floods downstream. It was only in the early 1900s that this dream became a reality when Frank and Charles Springer, both lawyers and land owners, provided the direction and money to enhance their mining and land interests by building a dam.
In 1907, Frank Springer filed a construction application to the State of New Mexico, which was approved the following year by New Mexico’s Territorial Engineer, Vernon Sullivan. Permit 71 authorized both the construction of a dam and the downstream distribution system. Although Frank now worked in Washington, D.C., nearly all of his money flowed back to New Mexico to pay for the dam and land acquisition, which cost nearly $700,000.
The prestigious dam engineering/ design firm of Bartlett and Ranney of San Antonio, Texas was hired for the job and it assigned Neal Hanson Project Engineer. His first job was to bring in many workers from afar, plus local miners, cowboys, and a large crew from the Taos Pueblo.
Construction finally began in the fall of 1916. First, the old roadway had to be relocated to McAvoy Pass; inlet and outlet tunnels completed; foundation and abutments from the natural hillside prepared.