History of Barr Lake State Park

Barr Lake Timeline: 1850 – 2016

Prior to 1850Buffalo and American Indians roamed the eastern Plains of Colorado and gathered at a buffalo wallow, a natural low area that collected water during the rainy season, currently known as Barr LakeBison-3
1866Buffalo wallow used as a stop along the Goodnight-Loving Cattle Drive trail bring cattle from Texas to the trailhead in Cheyenne, WYCattle Drive
1883Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad linking Denver and Chicago completed.  The final spike was driven at Platte City, later named Barr City, on May 14, 1883.Early Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad Train
1886

A small dam was built at the north end of the buffalo wallow forming the Oasis Reservoir.  The Burlington Canal was built to bring water from the South Platte River to the Oasis Reservoir.

Burlington Canal beside Barr Lake
1887

The Barr City Land Company was formed by several Denver businessmen to sell land in the newly plotted Barr City west of the Oasis Reservoir.  Residents of Denver traveled by train to Barr City to relax, fish, and hunt at Barr City and the Oasis Reservoir.

1888

Emil Burderin built a stone house north of the west end of the Oasis Reservoir dam.  The stone was brought by train from Dome of the Rock west of Colorado Springs.  The house was built in the design of a Swiss chalet, the home country of Emil Bruderlin.  The house is currently referred to as the Old Stone House.

Old Stone House

1900s

In the early 1900’s Oasis Reservoir became a popular birding spot.  Hersey and Rockwell conducted extensive bird studies in the area of the reservoir.

1909

Construction of the new dam built over the old dam was completed.  The new dam increased the size of the reservoir and quadrupled its capacity.  To accommodate the increase capacity of the new reservoir the O’Brian Canal was built and brought water into the southern portion of the new reservoir.  The new reservoir was renamed Barr Lake after a civil engineer who worked on the railroad completed in 1883.

Geese standing on the side of the Oasis Dam

1930-1965

Due to the rapid population growth of Denver post WW II raw sewage from the overflow of the Denver sewage treatment plan, slaughter houses, and packing plants along the banks of the South Platte River flowed into the South Platte River and ultimately into Barr Lake.  Barr Lake became known as the largest open sewage lagoon in the nation.

1931First Colorado Breeding record of double-crested cormorants at Barr LakeDouble-crested Cormorant landing on the lake
1937

First recorded Colorado nest of snowy egrets at Barr Lake

Snowy Egret with its catch
1965

A powerful thunderstorm over the headwaters of the South Platte River swelled the waters of the river and adjacent canals.  To protect the dam at Barr Lake the valves north of the dam were opened and the polluted water was drained from Barr Lake.  After repairs to the head gate on the South Platte River, canals, and dam fresh water flowed into Barr Lake.  The clean water afforded Barr Lake a chance of renewal. New water quality laws and construction of the new sewage treatment plant down stream from the Burlington Canal head gate improved the quality of the South Platte River water and the water in Barr Lake.

1973-1975The Division of Parks obtained a recreation easement on Barr Lake.  The state legislature allocated $2,000,000 to purchase land around Barr Lake in order to form a state park.
1977Barr Lake State Park opened to the public.
1982

Barr Lake Volunteer Naturalist Program started by State Parks and Division of Wildlife (DOW). DOW began construction on Barr Lake Nature Center.

1982

The Neidrach Trail completed and Dedication ceremony.  Neidrach, an Ornithologist, studied birds in the Barr Lake vicinity 1950s.

1986

Bald Eagles began nesting at Barr Lake

Eagles feeding Eglets
1988

Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory (then called Colorado Bird Observatory) headquarters was founded at Barr Lake State Park.

1989

Pioneer Trail built and opened in September.

1989

Gazebo and boardwalk completed. Neidrach observation decks and boardwalk completed at same time.

Boardwalk and Gazebo
1993

Barr Lake State Park assumed operation of the Nature Center through a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with DOW.

1999Bridge at inlet and new trail to bypass inlet structure completed
2000

RMBO restored Old Stone House and occupied as new headquarters.

2000

Neidrach Nature Trail interpretive signs were installed.

2004The Nature Center parking area was paved, and the Meadowlark Group Picnic Pavilion were completed.Drive-in for Kids under the Pavilion
2004

Prairie Welcome Trail was completed

2009

Resident Park hosting program was created

2010The Adams County Open Space playground near the Boat Ramp opened.
2011

The Environmental Learning Center opened at the RMBO headquarters, the Old Stone House.

2012The self-service kiosk installed and the parking lot at RMBO completed.
2013

Bald Eagle Gazebo & boardwalk were renovated

Boardwalk to Eagle Gazebo
2013Archery Range openedArchery Range
2013

Heron Rookery Trail & Gazebo opened

Great Blue Heron in Flight
2009-14A new water well and water system were completed
2015Niedrach boardwalk renovation was completed.  
2015The walking 3-D archery range opened in the Spring
2016The Nature Center renovation was completed and opened on April 1, 2016.

Barr Lake State Park Nature Center

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