Grand Lake

The History of Grand Lake

Historic Grand Lake SMALLFormed by glaciers, surrounded by Colorado’s Rocky Mountains, Grand Lake has smitten tourists for generations. No one forgets Grand Lake. The lake itself is the deepest and largest natural lake in Colorado, and the area attracts an impressive diversity of wildlife.

Prehistoric peoples, and later Native American Ute, Arapaho and Cheyenne tribes made annual pilgrimages to the area (each summer) to fish, hunt and reap the bounty of nature’s harvest. It wasn’t long before trappers, traders and explorers followed.

In the mid-1800s, European hunting parties discovered Grand Lake. Some hunters constructed summer lodges and hired local mountain men as guides. The area was permanently settled in 1867. Grand Lake Village’s first full-time, year-round residents were an intriguing mix of miners (who participated in a brief mining boom) and hunting guides. In the late 1870s, silver was discovered in the rivers and mountains near Grand Lake. Prospectors bought supplies in local stores and established small mountain mining communities. Almost overnight, the town of Grand Lake transformed into a bustling economy.

Thanks to the groundswell of new residents, Grand Lake became the county seat in 1881, though it was short-lived. Soon afterward, mines ceased operation and arguments over the placement of the county seat even led to an infamous Fourth of July shootout. Despite the bloodshed and suffering economy, some miners planted roots and settled in the area for good. They fished, boated, hiked and breathed in the pristine mountain air. For many, the experience would never be equaled. They returned year after year. To accommodate them, a flurry of small hotels were built. Hammers and saws were everywhere it seemed, as new summer homes and dude ranches kept the construction industry’s plate full. As the years passed, an increasing number of visitors braved the wagon and stagecoach trip over mountain passes to enjoy glorious Grand Lake summers.

While nature provided the perfect backdrop for tourists, it was the personality of locals who defined the area “hardy, resourceful and eccentric people. Locals gained renown for inventing and replicating city-folk creature comforts. What couldn’t be hand-crafted was brought in by wagon.

What can you do when you get to Grand Lake? Wooden boardwalks line Grand Lake’s main street, which features quaint retail establishments and a variety of dining choices. Other popular activities include: horseback riding, fishing, boating, swimming, hiking, and snowshoeing. Skiers enjoy the adjacent trails of Rocky Mountain National Park. Snowmobilers are welcome in town and are pleasantly surprised by scenic trails surrounding town.Come once to Grand Lake and chances are, you’ll come again, and again….

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Shopping The Boardwalk

There’s a Little Bit of Everything!

Take a stroll on the “Boardwalk” and discover the quaint and interesting shops of Grand Lake Village. Novelties, gifts, sports equipment, clothing, jewelry, crafts, art and more can be found along Grand Avenue.

In between stops for ice cream and relaxing meals you’ll want to shop until you drop! Grand Lake also features amenities for both travelers and locals including groceries, hardware, liquor, fuel, and more.

There’s even a place for your pets to get whatever they might need at Mountain MongrelsTake them for a bone or biscuit, and you can even leave them there for the day while you hit the slopes or take in a day of Golf.

There’s something for everyone!




Lake Activities & Boat Rentals

Grand LakeRent a Boat, Fish, or just Hang out!

Grand Lake is a place where nature grabs your soul, and visitors understand the feeling of being able to really breathe again here. Its namesake, the Grand Lake, is the deepest natural lake in Colorado, dipping to 265 feet. Fed by high mountain runoff, the lake is clear and pristine. Home to the Colorado River Headwaters, streams and rivers snake through the area, inviting you to fish and hike along their waters. In the spring watch the wildlife emerge from Rocky Mountain National Park, cow moose and their young calves toddle across our local streets. In the summer months visitors can explore the lake by boat, kayak, and even paddle boards.

The historic Grand Lake Marina, located on the shores of Grand Lake, has been the reliable choice for lake recreation since 1955. Rent your own pontoon boat, Whaler, kayak, or canoe and enjoy stunning views of the Rocky Mountains and the Continental Divide. How about a chartered sunset party cruise for up to 35 people complete with catering, or maybe just a mocha coffee on the docks at our Internet Coffee House, The Wake.

The Historical Society

Kaufman House Museum small copyVisit a Museum, Learn Our History

In the summer of 1973, Pam Foster and Betty and Bill Caswell as newly arrived members of the Grand Lake community and members of a Chamber of Commerce committee studying Grand Lake assets, felt the city’s historic background should be preserved. Subsequently the Grand Lake Area Historical Society was organized. Patience Kemp and Dorothy Howard conferred in Denver with the chairman of the State Historical Department on the procedure to be followed to make the society official. Deadlines were met and by the end of 1973 the Grand Lake Area Historical Society was official.

The only remaining pioneer hotel in Grand Lake, the Kauffman House, was selected for purchase and restoration as society headquarters. Patience Kemp and Don Drake were instrumental in convincing the owner to sell the property to the society for $28,500.00. John Holzworth and Patience Kemp led donors and new society members in raising $5000.00 for the down payment. John Holzworth loaned the society $20,000 and Patience Kemp gave $3,500 to complete the purchase. The loan was paid off in 1983, just ten years later.

Learn more about the Grand Lake Historical Society here:


Rocky Mountain Repertory Theater – Main Street

CLCC Reperatory TheaterSee a Show!

Just as RMRT (Rocky Mountain Repertory Theater) tells stories to its beloved audience throughout the seasons, the Rep has a rich story of its own dating back to the 1960’s. Bringing Broadway musical hits from the Sound of Music to Footloose to the center stage, RMRT owes a great deal of gratitude to its founders and loyal supporters that paved the way.

In 1966, David Thompson and his family, with the assistance of the local Arts Council, launched The Troupe of American College Players in Grand Lake. It remained in Grand Lake until 1976, when it moved to Colorado Springs. Area residents, hungry to restore a theatre in Grand Lake, established The Grand County Theatre Association,which produced summer theatre in collaboration with Kansas State University and Loretto Heights College over the course of 10 years. For a time, these shows were presented in the round space of the old Pine Cone Theatre. Eventually, the theatre moved to the great outdoors, delighting audiences in a tent!

Strong community support and personal finances kept the theatre alive until 1986. In 1989, the Town of Grand Lake asked the Thompson Company to return to its roots and Rocky Mountain Repertory Theatre (RMRT) obtained its initial not-for-profit 501(C)(3) status. Thompson, his wife Audrey, and their six children kept the theatre alive until David’s untimely death in 1993.


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