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

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

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.

lake (1 of 1)

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


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.

brownhead (4 of 4)


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


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.

1925-1936For a time, 1925-1936, Ralph Bergman owned the Old Stone House (Emil Bruderlin’s home). Sometime around 1936 Ralph built a home and barn on the section of land east of the Old Stone house. Robert and his mother lived in the home until the mid-1950’s. The home has since been torn down and the barn and part of the corrals are all the that remain.Bergman Barn (17 of 35)
1931First Colorado Breeding record of double-crested cormorants at Barr LakeDouble-crested Cormorant landing on the lake

First recorded Colorado nest of snowy egrets at Barr Lake

Snowy Egret with its catch

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.

lake2 (1 of 1)
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.CPW logo
1977Barr Lake State Park opened to the public.sign (1 of 1)

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

Barr Lake State Park Nature Center

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

NT (1 of 1)

Bald Eagles began nesting at Barr Lake

Eagles feeding Eglets

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

Bird Conservancy of the Rockies Logo_PNG

Pioneer Trail built and opened in September.

Pioneer Trail (1 of 1)

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

Boardwalk and Gazebo

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

NC (1 of 1)
1999Bridge at inlet and new trail to bypass inlet structure completed

RMBO restored Old Stone House and occupied as new headquarters.

house (1 of 1)

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

Prairie Welcome Trail was completed


Resident Park hosting program was created

2010The Adams County Open Space playground near the Boat Ramp opened.Photos (1 of 1)-3

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

house2 (1 of 1)
2012The self-service kiosk installed and the parking lot at RMBO completed.BarrLake (1 of 1)-4

Bald Eagle Gazebo & boardwalk were renovated

Boardwalk to Eagle Gazebo
2013Archery Range openedArchery Range

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.  niedrach (1 of 1)
2015The walking 3-D archery range opened in the Spring3d
2016The Nature Center renovation was completed and opened on April 1, 2016.BarrLake (1 of 1)


2 Comments on “History of Barr Lake State Park

  1. Amazing blog! Is your theme custom made or did you download it from somewhere? A design like yours with a few simple adjustements would really make my blog jump out. Please let me know where you got your theme. Cheers


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