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Colfax Sesquicentennial 2014: Lake Colfax

By LeAnn R. Ralph

COLFAX —  In honor of the Colfax Sesquicentennial celebration in July 17-20, 2014, the Colfax Messenger will be publishing articles about Colfax history from time to time.

Part 6: Lake Colfax

We know it as Tainter Lake today, but the lake has not always been called Tainter Lake.

Back in 1910, when the dam was being built at Cedar Falls and the Red Cedar River and the Hay River were starting to form a lake, people had the notion that it should be called Lake Colfax.

But was it officially known as Lake Colfax? Or was Lake Colfax something that people in Colfax called it, but the official name was something else?

Judy Albricht, clerk-treasurer for the Town of Tainter, said she was recently looking at a plat map from 1928, and at that time, on the map, the lake was called Lake Colfax.

Albricht did not know, however, when the name was changed to Tainter Lake.

Recently while doing research through back issues of the Messenger, a reference turned up reffering to Lake Colfax in 1940.

In early November of 1910, the editor and publishers of the Colfax Messenger, A.C. and Jennie Chase, went on an extended trip down south and left the Messenger in the care of James W. LeBell.

In the June 24, 1910, edition of the Messenger, before the Chases left on their trip, A.C. Chase included this article:

“New Summer Resort.”

When the great Cedar Falls dam is completed and the backwater made permanent, a vast change will have taken place along its shores. Already one beauty spot near Harry Albricht’s home has been named “Picnic Point,” and Mr. Albricht informs us that he and his neighbor, John Butler, have already laid plans to put a pleasure steamer on the lake, and we have the assurance that the editors of The Messenger shall have the honor of being passengers on the first voyage of the ‘steamer’ on its initial trip.

New dam

In the December 2, 1910, edition of the Messenger, James LeBell included this article:

“Tranquil Stream Affords Power.”

The new dam at Cedar Falls is constantly being viewed by scores of people. Its construction was the outcome of many years of waiting. The activities of this stream, the Red Cedar River, have just asserted themselves and the once swollen stream with millions of feet of logs has been transformed into an unlimited power.

Aside from the anticipation of an electric line the body of water can be made a beautiful summer resort, where launches can ply the billows and make an attractive place near home.

A meeting of the Commercial Club was held at Dr. Larson’s office Friday night for the purpose of seeing what could be done toward the beautifying of Lake Colfax which lies about three miles west of town. A committee was appointed to interview farmers with land adjacent to the lake and solicit their cooperation in make it an attractive summer resort.

Cooperate with the club and make this the mecca of summer spots. This lake has a volume as great as any of the lakes around this section of the state and can be dotted with handsome cottages on its banks. View the situation and lend your valuable assistance.


The December 9, 1910, edition of the Messenger had this to say:

“Lake Colfax a Summer Home”

We have been informed by good authority that there has been considerable work done already on the banks of Lake Colfax. Trees are being fallen opening a way for further improvement. Some have disposed of their timber which lay adjacent to the water bed and men have already cleared such spots. No reason is apparent why there should not be a rush during the coming summer for ample room for new cottages.

The time is ripe and the waves are beckoning you for forge ahead that Lake Colfax may be the drawing card for all time to come.


The December 23, 1910, edition of the Colfax Messenger, included a map of the lake.

“Lake Colfax the Beautiful”

The work of the Commercial Club in its efforts to secure the cooperation of land owners adjacent to the Lake goes merrily on. No tiring spirit is manifest and hopes are entertained to have the unanimous support of those around the water bed in cleaning off time and preparing it for the coming summer.

Some may think they are but wasting time and energy when they take to cleaning their land that the water may swell to its full height and be safe and free from timber that launches may ply to and fro, but that is far from right. After you have accomplished your part and others have done likewise you will have full reason to be proud.

This body of water will not only afford a place for camping sport for the people around here, but will be a mecca for those of the same desire for hundreds of miles.

Can you afford not to improve your land when so great an opportunity stares you in the face? It will be a lasting drawing card for the years to come and bring people in our midst that no other source would, and in turn, each and every one would be benefited thereby. Cottages cannot be erected unless a site can be secured and those owning land nearby will have the chance of sale. Consider the importance of cooperating with the Commercial Club in this undertaking and let not another week pass until you have commenced the work of cleaning your land ready for the advancement of the approaching summer.

Still frozen

The February 24, 1911, edition of the Messenger included this article about Lake Colfax:

“Preparing For Spring.”

Lake Colfax is frozen over, but the warm rays of old Sol will cause the ice to sweep away and prepare the body for the opportunities of the Lake visitors. To say the least, Lake Colfax has all the chance to become a summer home for hundreds. When the various launches now under way are ready for the spring ply and the boat houses are covered for the spring storms, there will be plenty of fun for the many.

The Commercial Club are still working to secure the building of more buildings and boats, so when all is in readiness for the opening, people from afar will be attracted. The bus line from the depot to the lake will greatly aid the visitors as no time will need be lost in reaching the place of great fun.

To outsiders this Lake has been somewhat of a joke, but illuminated by various lights, the nights will picture one great scene. This will be a fine addition to the Lake sports. When Colfax sets out for a thing, there is something going to come.


The March 31, 1911, edition of the Messenger included a description of a tour:

“Committee Tours The New Lake.”

To ascertain the exact developments and prospects for Lake Colfax, an auto party consisting of Geo. T. Vorland, Geo. F. Martin, and Elmer B. Hill, lake improvement committee, and Ye Scribe with Ed Rosenberg, made a tour of the lake last Friday. There has been great improvements for the lake since the last trip was made and more will follow.

In many places there was a noticeable raise in the lake, possibly more than four feet, giving rise to the fact that the volume of it is steadily increasing. There are hundreds of acres of land now under water, that but a few months ago, figured as part of some farm. In every instance where large raises were evident, good banks were reached, and can support fully the anticipated raise, according to surveys made.

Ducks were already asserting their intention of making the lake their home, as large mallards in great numbers were encircling the air, taking a birdseye view of the situation.

Moving on to Cedar Falls the power plant was gone through, which is certainly a magnificent structure and fitted with electrical machinery that now furnishes power to various cities and towns. Another giant dynamo will be installed in June, still leaving room for several more, and these will necessarily be installed in due time to care for the increasing call for power.

On the return, making a tour of the opposite side of the lake, many interesting places came to view. The once picturesque, the old Lambs Creek Falls, has vanished and its height is dominated by the rise in the lake. In its stead, possibly 40 feet of water stands, leaving no trace of its existence. The bridge below the home of the drowned spot has been raised and now there looks to be fully fifteen feet from the braces below to the water. This gives ample room for boats that will be used, to find free access each way.

One feature about gaining an approach to the lake lies in the fact that the roads surrounding the entire body are very good. Much is expected for Lake Colfax during the coming summer.


A.C. and Jennie Chase returned to the Messenger from “down south” at this point. The Chases must not have been too interested in any development around Lake Colfax, because nothing was reported about the lake for more than a year and a half — not until a fishing party caught 183 pounds of fish.

The Friday, November 1, 1912, edition of the Messenger includes this information:

“A Big ‘Catch’”

George T. Vorland, C.A. Paul, E.B. Rosenberg, G. Hammer and Walt Pooler spent a few hours at Lake Colfax last Friday angling, and as a result, came home with 40 pickerel (Northern Pike) that “tipped the beam” at 183 pounds, the largest one in the bunch measured 3 feet and 2 inches in length and weighed 14 pounds.

Eighteen of the largest of the bunch weighed 117 pounds, and they were a fine lot.

Several other fishing parties have met with equally good success at the lake, and a specimen was taken out of the lake last Saturday that weighed 15 pounds.

Thus it will be seen that Lake Colfax is destined to become a famous fishing resort, and look for some summer cottages to “go up” there next season.

The November 8, 1912, Messenger included a story about people who had an unfortunate experience on the lake.

“Lost on Lake Colfax”

A party composed of Mr. and Mrs. A.D. Simpson, Mesdames J.L. Smith and Leon Snyder and Miss Martha Van Woert, “hied” over to Lake Colfax Monday to try their luck fishing, but in their anxiety for fish, got lost, so the story goes, and rowed about several hours, buy finally found the shore long after dark and autoed home, but had to return the following day to locate their boat.

It is indeed an unpleasant experience to get lost, and we sympathize with the party in thus losing part of the pleasure of the outing.


With the exception of a picture of men who had gone fishing in the lake that was published several editions after it was reported about people becoming lost on the lake, nothing more was mentioned in the Messenger about Lake Colfax through 1913 or 1914. If anyone built a cottage or cottages or a resort on Lake Colfax at that time, the Colfax Messenger did not report on it.