Lafayette’s most popular outdoor recreation destination is the city-owned Waneka Lake, a man-made reservoir situated in Waneka Lake Park at West Emma Street and Caria Drive.
Waneka Lake Park is a recreational and wildlife refuge in a suburban setting. Waneka Lake Park features playground structures, shelter facilities, picnic tables, benches, fishing areas, and a 1.2 mile fitness trail for walking, biking or running within its 147 acres.
The southeast corner of Waneka Lake Park features Lafayette’s oldest structure, the Waneka Granary. Although there’s general agreement that the granary was built in the 1870s, who built it is in dispute. The late Charles “Clancy” Waneka believed that Lafayette pioneer Adolf Waneka built it, while Clancy’s cousin, Charles “Chuck” Waneka has always argued that the pioneer Harmon Family built it. In either case, the structure provides an excellent window into early construction methods including hand hewned logs and square iron nails.
Colorado Div. of Water Resources records (Dam ID = 060225) indicate that the lake was built by Adolf Waneka in 1865 to hold water coming out of a nearby spring. Adolf gave his interest in the lake to his son, Henry “Boye” Waneka, who then sold to William, Frank and Guy Harmon in 1897.
Northern Colorado Power Company documents from 1906 and reservoir records at the Colorado Div. of Water Resources both show that the original name of Waneka Lake was “Henry Waneka No. 1 Reservoir.” Northern Power expanded the lake, which was later called Plant Lake, in 1906 to store 28 million cu. ft. of water for its steam generators. Mary Miller and the power company split 50/50 the rights to the additional water stored. When town founder Mary Miller owned the lake, it was known as the Millar and Harmon Reservoir.
Locals named the reservoir “Plant Lake” shortly after Northern Colorado Power Company constructed the 6,000 kilowatt Northern Colorado and Interurban Power Plant on the south edge of the lake in 1905-06. It supplied alternating current to the electric-powered Interurban passenger trolley service that connected Boulder to Denver. Joseph J. Henry of Denver developed the power plant business plan and directors included W.F. Crossley, Tyson Dines, W.H. Allison, Sen. F.E. Warren (from Wyoming), William J. Barker, Thomas Kelly, Robert S. Ellison, William Mayer and C.C. Bromley.
Blue Ribbon Hill east of Lafayette was initially thought to be the best place for the new Northern Colorado electric plant, due to the presence of Coal Creek water. The power plant was instead located at what is now Waneka Lake. Boulder County Clerk records show that Mary Miller bought the reservoir in 1904 from William, Frank and Guy Harmon, but the Harmons retained rights to some of the water flowing into Miller and Harmon Reservoir. The power plant was last used in the 1920s and was torn down in 1963.
Boulder County Clerk and Recorder records show that the City of Lafayette bought “Henry Waneka Reservoir” from J.B. Telleen in October 1972. Historian Andy Patten explained in 2006 that several years after the city bought the lake, the State of Colorado deemed the reservoir unsafe, but the City of Lafayette made repairs and brought the reservoir up to muster.
(Editor’s note: This posting is a mirror image of the 2018 Wikipedia posting describing Waneka Lake. That Wikipedia post, like this post, was composed by the author of this blog. Because Wikipedia content complies with Creative Commons guidelines, the content on this post is not copyrighted and can be copied and shared freely. But that’s just this post — the rest of the content on this blog is copyrighted.)