History of Lake Pueblo
The area in and around Lake Pueblo has a very rich socio-cultural history. Diverse groups of people from Native American Indians to adventuresome pioneers have called this area home. Evidence of these groups remain visible in-and-around the park. According to the University of Denver, there are 130 prehistoric archeological sites in the park.
Park visitors can try to imagine sending smoke signals from Liberty Point (the main bluff above the lake) just like the large American Indian encampments used to. Personal accounts by former area residents tell how the signals floated all the way to the city of Fountain, nearly 30 miles away.
Early pioneer settlers to the Arkansas River Valley (parts of which are presently the reservoir) were hearty men, women and children that farmed, ranched and mined the area. The Homestead Act of 1862 helped build the town formerly known as Swallows and Turkey Creek, Colorado. The town school educated hundreds of children. Locals were connected to the rest of the country via the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad.
A devastating flood in 1921 killed 130 people and demolished the area, including the city of Pueblo. Many settlers left the valley after that.
The Swallows Cemetery Association includes original settlers that willingly share their stories of those days. The association maintains the cemetery created after the original graves from the Swallows and Turkey Creek cemeteries were moved to avoid flooding by the reservoir water. This cemetery, while not on park land, overlooks the north-end of the reservoir from the state wildlife area and is quickly accessed from the park.
Less than ten years after the flood, in 1930, the Frying pan-Arkansas Water diversion project began to develop the area for water storage.
Inventor of the Chuck Wagon, Charles Goodnight, a famous rancher and trail driver of the famed Goodnight-Loving Trail, decided to settle down in Pueblo and build a ranch for his new bride, Mary Ann Dyer. He built Rocky Canyon Ranch on the banks of the Arkansas River just west of Pueblo. A portion of that ranch is now in Lake Pueblo. During his years at the ranch, Goodnight developed innovative techniques that changed the way ranchers did business. Goodnight left his ranch in 1876; however, his legend lives on in the land he once called home.
In the early 1970s the Frying Pan – Arkansas Water Shortage Project began supplying irrigation water for 280,000 acres of farmland in the lower Arkansas Valley. The lake has also provided flood control, water for municipal and industrial use, and recreational opportunities.