A century of providing water and life
by Lillian Eva Lieske
EAGLE NEST —East of the Village of Eagle Nest, on Route 64 and private property, the Eagle Nest Dam straddles the Cimarron River. This year marks the 100 year anniversary since the completion of the dam’s construction in 1918. In 1907, Charles and Frank Springer, two wealthy ranchers, and the Cimarron Valley Land Co., were granted a water permit to impound the water of the Cimarron River for irrigation.
The dam’s construction began in 1916, with the help of laborers from Taos Pueblo, and was completed two years later. It is primarily responsible for the Eagle Nest Lake. Eagle Nest Dam is considered to be the largest privately built dam in the United States, measuring at 140 feet high, with an arc length of 400 feet. Its surface elevation is 8,172 feet above sea level, when at full capacity. The dam was named after the eagles who built their nests on the sides of the structure. Years later, this dam still serves its intended purpose as a reservoir. The water it stores feeds a complex irrigation canal system to many farms and ranches as far away as 50 miles downstream. It also serves several municipalities,including Raton, Springer, Angel Fire, Eagle Nest, and Cimarron. In 2002 the state of New Mexico purchased the lake, which is presently Eagle Nest Lake State Park.
Eagle Nest and surrounding communities marked the 100 year celebration with events from June 30 through July 7 2018. The welcome and ceremony celebration was led by Eagle Nest Mayor Richard Cordova. Special guest speakers included the Governor of New Mexico, Susana Martinez; New Mexico State Engineer Secretary of the Interstate Commission Tom Blaine; John Longworth, the commission’s staff director; and Greg Carlise, who is the Eagle Nest Dam caretaker.
Present at the centennial celebrations was Ada Trujillo, who is the daughter of Neal Hansen. Hansen was the dam’s designer and engineer. Members of Charles Springer’s family were also in attendance. Both Trujillo and a member of the Springer family received a special plaque commemorating the 1918-2018 centennial. The kids’ troupe “Oklahoma Kids” sang the national anthem.