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Cartographic traces of Lake, Colorado


Maybe like me you’re wondering how a landmark falls off the face of the earth, in particular Google Earth, assuming as we do that web crowdsourcing is archival, not perishable. A stagecoach watering hole in Kansas Territory, formerly Arapaho, was Hedinger’s Lake, between present day Limon and Hugo. Like the history of Colorado’s water, Lake became Lake Station, later a railway siding, today a creek.


First some back-story: 1750. When gold looked to become the carrot to drive white man’s Manifest Destiny, the Indian Territories of what would become Colorado were labeled simply the Gold Region.


Back in 1815, the West was still La Louisiane, and place names were native, French and Spanish. Taos was one of the oldest Spanish settlements, site of the First American Revolution, against the Spaniards, and another revolt when the US invaded. Camp de Baroney sits on the Arkansas River, eventually resettled as El Pueblo. And there’s La Fourche Republicaine, a fork of la Rivoire Missouri, soon to lead a prominent migration trail west.


By 1848, St. Vrain’s Fort and Grante Ft., Bent’s Fort, were already protecting Anglo trading interests. (Note by the way, Old Park and New Park, eventually to be become the “North” to South Park.)


By 1864, the Cheyenne and Arapaho found themselves bordered on the west by the “Military Department of Utah” and ceding their lands to the Kansas Territory. (On this map we can see Montana City, the original Denver City. Denver eventually overtook Auroria and the metropolis. Mineral Springs became Manitou and Colorado Springs at the foot of Pikes Peak.)

Note the curiously singular representation of a “Kansas Lake” depicted at the tip of the south fork of the Republican River, whose waters will originate in the later to be named Lincoln County, at whose heart will lie Lake, Colorado.

The Rocky Mountain region lost many lakes by the mid 1800s when beaver were hunted to near extinction and with them the beaver dams. Note just West of “Kansas Lake” lies Beaver Creek.


With the gold rush, settler trails crisscrossed the West, for wagon trains, stagecoach and mail carriers. Lake was a stage at the convergence of the Butterfield Overland Dispatch and Republican Fork Trails, where they crossed the Big Sandy Creek to join the Smoky Hill South and North Roads (after similarly named rivers which were starting points in Kansas) or the spartan Starvation Trail to Denver. Today’s I-70 follows Smoky Hill North.


Was Hedinger’s Lake the water which travelers sought at the end of the South Republican Fork Trail?


This 1868 Union Pacific map predicted the stops heading eastward from Denver to be Parkhurst, Beaver, which later became Deer Trail, and Coon Creek, which became Kit Carson, opposite Sand Creek.


By 1870, Kansas was a state and the Kansas Union Pacific RR reached Denver. (Beyond the mountains: North Park, Middle Park and South Park.)


By 1873, leaving for Denver from Fort Wallace, there were stops at Kit Carson, Aroyo, Lake, Agate (pronounced “A-Gate”) and Deer Trail. (Note: still no Colorado Springs.)


A map circa 1880s, shows Hugo, Lake, River Bend, Godfrey, Agate, Deer Trail, and Byers, named for the founder of the Rocky Mountain News, formerly Bijou.


When the Chicago Kansas and Nebraska Railroad sought a direct route to Colorado Springs, it decided to intersect the Kansas Pacific at a new stop called Limon and that was the end of Lake. At Limon the westbound trains performed what was called the “Limon Shuffle” where passenger and freight cars were separated depending on which were going to Denver and which to Colorado Springs.


Lake Station remained a stop for the Union Pacific, and on this map which accompanied the 1910 census, it’s gone, in favor of a late addition, Bagdad.

As trains no longer needed to take on water, and could reach their destinations more quickly, many stops were eliminated. This 1925 train Union Pacific train schedule lists only Cheyenne Wells, Kit Carson, Hugo and Limon before reaching Denver.


Lake is still marked on railroad maps, though there’s not even an access road to reach it.


On other maps it’s just Lake Creek, spanned by an impassable decaying bridge. It’s now a wetlands area that provides a bird sanctuary.


For the USGS, Lake still serves as namesake for the topographical map of the Lake Quadrangle.

To be continued…

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