2017-03-01, Bruce Davis, Eagle Nest Dam

Earl PhillipsJim Maxon’s invocation started our Wednesday meeting.  President-elect Lya Jordan led the Pledge of Allegiance, and Earl Phillips led the singing of “Let Me Call You Sweetheart.”  After the introduction of guests and visitors, we met and greeted; Andrea Dresser filled in the date of the Mesilla Valley Club’s youth talent show:  April 7.

There were many, many happy dollars.  Among them, John Pickett challenged other local clubs to match our involvement in an upcoming community event:  Many Serve. 

The Program

Due to the illness of the expected speaker (who will come next week, health permitting), Steve Loman introduced Bruce Davis of Springer, NM.  Bruce is Bobby Rankin’s son-in-law, and has been coming to our meetings for several months now.  He brought his son John along to correct any errors he made in the presentation (there were not any). 

Bruce talked about the history of the Eagle Nest Dam, which was started generally at the same time as the Elephant Butte project, discussed last month.  His story began with an ancestor, Frank Springer, who when duck hunting on the Cimarron River found some land he liked and settled on it.  This family ranch is now 144 years old.  Springer had come from Wapalo, Iowa, to be an attorney in Colfax County, New Mexico; there was considerable legal activity around the Maxwell Land Grant and he was recruited to participate.  His brother Charles also came to New Mexico, and saw potential for farming in that area, envisioning a dam to create a reservoir now known as Eagle Nest Lake. 

Bruce DavisIn 1907, permission was obtained from the Bureau of Reclamation to build the dam.  Unlike Elephant Butte, it was privately funded and owned with an estimated cost of $1 million (in 1916 dollars).  Built between 1916 and 1918, the concrete arc dam was designed by Neal Hanson.  The dam is 108’ high, 150’ long, and about 8’wide at the top.  It is all concrete, with some granite in the base.  It was particularly over-engineered and has never had structural issues.  The original idea was to provide water to irrigate about 60,000 acres.  The river flow was overestimated considerably; the water in the lake irrigates about 6,000 acres, consistent over many years.  However, the lake provides a source of water for surrounding communities and facilities, including Raton, Vermejo Park, Philmont Scout Ranch, and the UU-Bar Ranch. 

In 1920, Charles Springer wrote his brother that he thought the project had been a failure.  For years, the lake was leased to the New Mexico Game and Fish Department, and used as a fish hatchery.  Beginning with discussions in 1990, the lake was eventually sold in 2001 to the state, overseen by the Parks Department, but still used by Game and Fish.  The Davis family retained 40 acres around the lake, where they lived until recently.  He noted that John Hernández was instrumental in helping the state engineer establish the water rights and how the lake should be operated. 

To questions, Bruce noted that the Parks Department has built a welcome center; that the lake holds 78,000 acre feet when full, covering 22 acres; that the spillway has been overflowed only twice, once in 1941 and again in 1994; that the dam is still very much in good condition; and that the area teems with wildlife, particularly whitetail and mule deer. 

After the Program

The can collected $25 for the Las Cruces Schools Battle of the Books project, supported by our literacy committee.  Lya announced that at the prior board meeting Walt Baker had become an honorary member; his health precluding his regular attendance.  Richelle had hopes for the drawing, since Mary Ellen left her tickets with Richelle.  Mark Santiago had ticket #164, but did not get the $500 since he drew the seven of clubs.  The odds of someone winning will continue to get better, at least another week.  President-elect Lya closed the meeting by leading the 4-Way Test.

<prior week   following week>

Guests of Rotarians



John Davis

Bobby Rankin

Jim Volk

Bob Seaton

Visiting Rotarians


Home Club

Andrea Dresser

Mesilla Valley

Greg Cory

Ruidoso (now in El Paso)

Student Guests



Steven Lam


Darius Totten




Date Club




Submitted by Bill HartyBill Harty  with photo help from Blaine Goss