When Barbara Fleming and I were working on our photo book on the Poudre Canyon for Arcadia Publishing, I stopped at the United States Forest Service office on Centre Avenue in Fort Collins, CO and asked about photographs. As it turned out they had an underutilized photo archive, open and free to the public, and staffed by very helpful people, including Sue Struthers, Heritage Program Manager.

Barbara and I spent many hours searching through folders and notebooks, many that probably hadn’t been opened in decades, looking for unusual photographs of the Poudre Canyon. We found quite a few of them and, though my blog is designed to share my personal photographs and postcards, I decided to include three great USFS photographs of this stretch of the Poudre as well. You can see many more of their images in our book, Poudre Canyon (Images of America).

The last section of the Poudre Canyon I covered was posted on March 5, 2017 and entitled “Lower Poudre Canyon: Mishawaka, Tunnel, and Totem Rock.” That post ended with the canyon road completed through the Baldwin Tunnel, in the summer of 1916. Once the tunnel was completed there was an easy three- or four-mile stretch, before the very difficult Big Narrows section was reached. Work progressed slowly and, in September 1918, a very difficult section of rock was reached. A decision had to be made on whether to tunnel through it or blast it out of the way. Here is how the September 13, 1918, Fort Collins Weekly Courier summarized the decision.

“Superintendent Asher of the road camp was before the county commissioners this morning asking for instructions as to whether to try to round the point of rocks at the narrow [section] or to tunnel through. . . . A discussion as to which would be the cheapest took place. Mr. Asher said . . . that his opinion was that the tunnel would be the most satisfactory as in rounding the point so much rock might be thrown into the river that a dam would be created that would back the water on the upper side so high that the . . . road would have to be raised up into the cliffs which would be avoided if the tunnel is built.

“Engineer Edwards seconded these ideas [and added that] the tunnel can be worked from both ends at the same time which was not possible at the Little Narrows  and will be 40 feet long. The work can be carried on faster.

“The commissioners and Engineer Edwards will visit the spot Friday and decide just what to do.”

Below is a USFS image of that meeting, held on September 20, 1918.

01 PV Good Roads Asoc 1916 Full USFS B640
County Commissioners at Big Narrows, September 20, 1918. Unknown Photographer. USFS Photograph.

The results of their meeting was reported in the Weekly Courier that same date.

“The county commissioners with Engineer Edwards went to the end of the Poudre Road to view the work of the road builders and decide as to further constructions of the road. After deliberations it was decided to shoot [dynamite] the rock at the point of the Big Narrows instead of tunneling. This will make the cost of construction cheaper and plans have been made whereby with no unforeseen accidents the grade above will not have to be changed.”

The November 29, 1918, Weekly Courier again reported on the progress of the road crews.

“County officials went to the Poudre Canon road camp yesterday on an inspection trip and they found that Supt. Asher is making rapid progress with the work. . . . The heavy blasting will be finished by the last of the month and that will complete the hardest of the rock work in the Big Narrows. Only two large places remain to be shot out.

“The men have already finished half a mile of road beyond the narrows and they will connect this up with the new road at an early date.

“In two months the road in the narrows will be completed.”

It took over two years to get through the Big Narrows but it gave us one of the most scenic stretches of the Poudre Canyon road and it opened Fort Collins to Rustic and beyond. Here is an image of the Big Narrows taken circa 1925.

02 Big Narrows Wiswall 1928 B400
The Big Narrows, Poudre Canyon, c. 1925. Photograph by Bruce Wiswall

Taken for the Denver Tourist Bureau, this photograph was published in an unknown newspaper with the following caption, dated August 8, 1928:

“In the Big Narrows, Poudre Canyon. The pure joy of motoring over a wide, solid roadbed in the Cache la Poudre canon, out of Fort Collins, has its romantic angle when one recalls the pioneer days when Indians and Frenchmen battled for supremacy of a region where fur-bearing animals were numerous and the trapper’s trade was highly profitable.”

While I can’t see this caption bringing hordes of tourists to the Poudre Canyon, it is a really nice image of the Big Narrows and a classic automobile. If you think you recognize this car, you are paying very strict attention to my posts. It is the same car, probably a 1921 Marmon Model 34, which is shown in my earlier post on the Baldwin Tunnel. The auto and the young ladies have moved up the canyon a little and had their pictures taken again. This time, a close up of the car allowed me to find out something about the photographer. Here is a close-up of the automobile.

03 Auto CU in Big Narrows c1924 B640
Close-up of Automobile in Big Narrows, c. 1925

In the close-up, you can see some writing on the windshield. There is enough of it showing that I was able to determine that the car was from the Wiswall Tavern, in Grand Lake, CO. The proprietor of the tavern was Bruce Wiswall, who was also a photographer for the Denver Tourist Bureau. Wiswall occasionally used models in his shots and that may be the case with the young women in this photograph. One of the articles called Wiswall, “One of the most expert photographers on out of door pictures.”

Notice the wide running board and the ladder-like object at its edge. One of the experts on the Antique Automobile Club of America website identified it as a collapsible luggage rack built for the Marmon by a third party manufacturer.

The road up the Poudre Canyon was built mostly with convict labor. As construction moved along the canyon, the camp for the convicts moved with it. Here is another USFS photograph of the camp when, according to Case, it was located in what is now the Narrows Campground. It was moved to this location shortly after the heavy work was completed in the Big Narrows.

04 Convict Camp Narrows Campground USFS B640
“Convict” Camp near Today’s Narrows Campground, c. 1919. Photographer H. N. Wheeler. USFS Photograph.

Stanley Case, in his book The Poudre: A Photo History, discusses this photograph. Case says it was taken by H. N. Wheeler, better known as the Supervisor of the Colorado National Forest, than as a photographer. Case says the camp was located at milepost 101.6 and that the pointed rock, on the right edge of the photograph, is still visible from the road.

In 1921, work started on a road from the Poudre Canyon road to the college’s new Pingree Park campus. A bridge had to be built over the Poudre River to connect the two roads. Although today the bridges in the canyon are made of steel and concrete, early bridges were all timber construction. This picture, the last of the three USFS photographs, shows the construction of the bridge.

05 Building bridge at Eggers 1921 USFS B640
Construction of Pingree Road Bridge, 1921. Unknown Photographer. USFS Photograph.

This bridge is called a “three-span bridge,” with the first span going from the north shore to the first wooden trestle, the second span bridges the two trestles, and the third span connects the second trestle and the south shore. From the photograph, it seems like the river must have been partially diverted. Building a bridge in 1921 was obviously a pretty manual event. In this photograph, the bridge is pretty far along, with the decking being laid.

It was built some distance above the current steel Pingree Park bridge and was torn down years ago.

Recognizing the business opportunity the junction provided, Fred and Alma Eggers applied for and received a Forest Service lease to start building a little town named Eggers, Colorado. By 1922, construction was underway on the south side of the Pingree Park bridge. Here is an early view of Eggers, from a real photo postcard, circa 1925.

06 Eggers w Bridge B640
Eggers, Colorado, c. 1925. Image by Fishback Studio, Fort Collins, CO.

You can see the south end of the bridge in the bottom, right corner of the image. The two buildings in the foreground are the store/post office and a very small gas station. The last three views of Eggers are all from a circa 1935 real photo postcard.

07 Eggers Wide View 1930 to 40 B640
Eggers, Colorado, c. 1935. Unknown Photographer.

This full view shows the store/post office and gas station in the far right foreground, a couple of private homes in the center, and the Eggers School on the far left edge. Here are two close-ups from the same image.

08 Eggers CU1 B640
Close-up of Store/Post Office & Gas Station, Eggers, CO, c. 1935.

According to Case, the Eggers Post Office opened on April 23, 1926, and closed on April 30, 1944.

Mr. and Mrs. Eggers decided that their three sons and other local children needed a school. Construction of the school was a 1933 Works Progress Administration (WPA) project. While the CCC employed young men, the WPA employed older out-of-work men on public-works projects. This close-up shows the Eggers School.

09 Eggers School B640
Close-up of the Eggers School, Eggers, CO, c. 1935.

Closed in 1959, the building was moved near the Poudre Canyon Chapel and is today a museum of canyon history.

Case says all the Eggers buildings but the school house were gone by 1951, leaving only foundations.

My intention was to take this post through the Indian Meadows Resort but there were just too many images for one post. So, I’ll continue the trip up the canyon next Sunday, with images of Rugh Ranch and the Indian Meadows area. If I have the time, I may throw in a very short, one-image post on Wednesday to break up the trip through the canyon.

I appreciate everyone who views my blog and remember, if you ever want to comment use the Comment Box at the end of each post or email me directly at mcneil0115@comcast.net.

Thanks for your support.

Scroll down to the bottom of the page can click the “Poudre Canyon” category to see the rest of my Poudre posts.

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One thought on “Poudre Canyon from the Big Narrows to Eggers and the USFS Photo Archive

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