Eagle Nest History
Eagle Nest is located in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, nestled in the Moreno Valley between New Mexico’s two highest peaks - Baldy Mountain (12,441 feet) and Wheeler Peek (13,161 feet) - at the junction of US Hwy 64 and State Hwy 38. Situated at 8,300 feet above sea level, the village offers high-country terrain, including mountains, valleys, ranch lands, and scenic vistas with pine, aspen, wildflowers, and clean air surrounding beautiful Eagle Nest Lake. The abundant wildlife in the area includes bear, elk, mountain cats, beavers, and -- yes -- eagles, both bald and golden.
The first inhabitants of the Moreno Valley were Native American tribes who freely roamed in search of game for food and golden feathers for ceremonial worship. Every fall they traveled to the valley where Angel Fire is today to renew themselves with the Great Spirit. In the late 1860s, when gold was struck, prospectors began arriving. It's estimated that over six million dollars of gold came from the mines in the surrounding areas, including Red River and Elizabethtown. The town of Eagle Nest first began as a ramshackle mining town, providing a homebase of sorts for the miners. During the mid to late 1800s, ranchers also moved cattle onto the open range of the Moreno Valley.
In the early 1900s, the Valley began to again change. Ranchers Charles and Frank Springer and the Cimarron Valley Land Company were granted Permit #71 in 1907 to impound the water of the Cimarron River for irrigation by building a dam. Construction on the dam began in 1916 and continued through 1918. It is thought to be the largest privately constructed dam in the United States. The concrete structure stands 140 feet above the creek bed, is 400 feet wide, and 9.5 feet thick at its crest and 45.2 feet thick at its base.
The dam created a reservoir covering 2,200 surface acres. The reservoir was named Eagle Nest Lake because of the eagles that nested in the area. Eagle Nest Lake was stocked with trout, and fishermen began to arrive. With the fishermen came entrepreneurs. Moreno Valley was transformed from a quiet farming community to a rough and rowdy town that catered to the entertainment of cowboys and tourists.
The town was originally named Therma - after the postal inspector's daughter. After mail continued to flow in addressed to Eagle Nest Lake, the town was renamed Eagle Nest in the 1930s.
Today Eagle Nest still exemplifies the free-soaring spirit of the eagles that continue to rise above the community on the shores of nearby Eagle Nest Lake. And the surrounding mountains are still a source of life and commerce, treating visitors to year-round recreation – some of the best scenery, hiking trails, big game hunting, fishing, and snow skiing to be found anywhere. To the delight of ice fishermen, winter ice thickness on the Lake often reaches two and one-half to three feet.
Eagle Nest has its share of ghost stories, but it is far from a ghost town. As of December 1999, 60 businesses were registered with the Village Clerk, and the population is estimated at 300.
Eagle Nest is the eastern gateway to the Enchanted Circle, and offers year-round accommodations in the center of northern New Mexico's mountain wonderland as well as skiing, hunting, fishing, boating, hiking, craft fairs, museums, shopping and many other activities to our visitors. A newly renovated main street with sidewalks and antique street lights offers numerous specialty shops and down-home restaurants.