Monument Lake is named for a knobby rock formation that stood before today's lake existed and that rose 15 feet above the center of the lake after it was formed. This "monument" was later toppled by a fierce storm and now lies at the bottom of the lake. Legends about its origins—as well as the lake's—remain. Here are two:
Legend #1 At the time of the volcanoes, water disappeared from the mountains, and Native Americans were dying of thirst. Two chiefs, one from a southern tribe and one from a northern, went on a long journey to search for water. When they met, they hugged in friendship. Then, realizing that neither had found water, they wept, and their tears formed a lake at their feet.
Suddenly, one of the volcanoes blew smoke and lava into the air. The two chiefs, still hugging, were covered by lava and turned to stone. The lake remained, encircling the two chiefs who had caused the water to return forever for the people.
Legend #2 Years before the white man came to the lake, this natural basin contained three tiny pools that were named the Little Love Lakes by the Comanches and Utes who camped along the shoreline. The Great Spirit loved to come there at sunset and walk on the waters, blessing the valley and the snow-capped Spanish Peaks rising in the background.
When the two tribes began to fight, the Great Sprit became angry, caused the waters to dry up, alkali to seep in, and the fish to die. Then, having meted out this punishment, he sank into the middle pool. A large rock rose slowly, marking the exact spot.
The condition of the lake before it was developed was much as described in the second legend—swampy and alkali-tainted.
Visitors' cars tell us this photo of Monument Lake Resort was taken soon after the buildings were completed.
An early postcard shows the newly constructed lodge and combination store and dining hall.
The monument before the lake was formed.
The area in earlier times, when the lake was swampy and alkaline. The monument can be seen in the center of the photo.
An early postcard shows the fish hatchery when it was operational. New management intends to restore the hatchery to full production.
In 1925, the Trinidad waterworks began to develop this lake of some 10 to 15 acres into a spare reservoir for Trinidad, 37 miles to the east.
In following years, the Works Progress Administration, Franklin Roosevelt's grand program to put people to work during the Depression, raised the lake level and cleared park areas along the shore.
Meanwhile, in about 1937-1939, the Izaak Walton League built a beautiful fish hatchery of native stone and stocked it with trout. The League also built a lodge and a combination store and dining hall.
Eventually the operation of the facilities was turned over to the League, which turned the profits back into building a bigger and better fishing resort with cabins and other improvements.
In its heyday in 1948, the resort had 100,000 visitors. In spring 1949, Dick Rutledge of Denver, on his first fishing trip, hauled out a 33-inch trout that weighed 21.5 pounds. Letters remarking on that fish came to Trinidad from as far away as Lima, Peru.
After mid-century, the resort slowly fell into disrepair. Although visitors continued to enjoy this special place, hatchery operations were discontinued, and the buildings and grounds received minimal maintenance.
In 2008, the City of Trinidad, which owns the property, entered into a lease agreement with Mike Robb of Westland Resources to manage the resort. New management's goal is to bring the resort back to its former rustic beauty and to add amenities.
The resort opened with new management on May 1, 2008 with some restoration and upgrades already in place. See the Master Plan section of this site to follow exciting developments as they happen.
The description on the back of this early-1960s postcard tells us that by this time, cabins had been added to the resort's amenities.
Cabins and buffalo at Monument Lake Resort in 1962.