1962 our family purchased a very rustic cabin in Taos Canyon, New
Mexico. Built in 1933, it required extensive renovation and during that period
and 35 years of vacation trips afterward we nearly always passed through the Moreno
Valley, home of Eagle Nest town and lake.
Seems we were always in a hurry
to get to the cabin and paid little attention to the Moreno Valley when we passed
through. Researching the history reveals a rich past.
For centuries, Taos
Pueblo Indians and other area tribes camped in the valley to escape the heat during
summer seasons. Wild game was plentiful in the immediate area while a few miles
to the east, down Cimarron Canyon, buffalo herds roamed the vast plains.
In 1866, a Ute Indian carried some colored rock from Baldy Mountain located in
the valley, to Fort Union to trade for supplies. The rocks contained copper ore
setting off a mining boom.
More minerals were discovered, including gold,
and more than 1,200 mining claims were filed.
Eventually, E-Town or Elizabeth
Town, named after the original claim-owner's daughter, was established. Another
town named Virginia City was platted but never settled.
to the valley was improved with a good road operating through Cimarron Canyon
over which to haul supplies and equipment.
Mining development was hampered
from the start by a shortage of water. A magnificent scheme entitled "The Big
Ditch" and costing $250,000 brought water from the Red River just over the mountains
to the northwest. Only barely successful at first, the project was redesigned
and improved to make the Big Ditch project profitable.
In 1916, ranchers
Charles and Frank Springer built Eagle Nest Dam, impounding 100,000 acre
feet of water for irrigation and recreation. At first, a town at lakeside was
called Therma. When they applied for a U.S. post office they had to change the
name to Eagle
As this was before refrigeration was developed,
the citizens cut out blocks of ice from the frozen lake in wintertime, storing
it in ice houses insulated with sawdust.
illegal in New
Nest became famous through the 1930's for providing gambling
of all types. Old timers stated, "You could do anything you were big enough to
do" all in Eagle Nest.
Most of the games were rigged, the roulette wheels
could be stopped at will, mercury spots doctored the dice and all playing cards
were marked, but that seemed to make little difference to the customers enjoying
the climate and excitement.
During the 1940s, citizens recalled shootouts
between rival gaming operations bringing on a police raid which axed slot machines
on main street. Some operators dumped machines into Eagle Nest Lake to
escape prosecution, or so the story goes.
Today, the Moreno Valley is
home to the Vietnam Veteran's National Memorial site and continued tourist
and commercial growth.
The Angel Fire Ski Resort and township, began originally
by the LeBus family, passed through a succession of owners with the lack of seasonal
snow responsible for some financial crisis.
No doubt the Lord did his
part in creating the Moreno Valley as the scenery is magnificent. The history
of the area is rich with the promise of a bright future ahead. The valley is certainly
a destination site for a vacation.
© Delbert Trew
"It's All Trew" August 26, 2008 Column
to New Mexico? Book your hotel here & save:
New Mexico Hotels
brought river water to gold mines by Delbert Trew
My recent column
about The Moreno Valley, home of Eagle Nest town and lake, generated questions
about The Big Ditch Project constructed in 1868 to furnish water to the new gold