Colorado Travel Planning Guides : Leadville : Interlaken Historic Resort

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Interlaken Resort
Interlaken Resort


Travel back through time at the
Interlaken Resort Historic Site.
by Lynda La Rocca, The Pueblo Chieftain

Location, location, location - It's a phrase that could have been coined by 19th Century millionaire James V. Dexter to explain his purchase of 80 acres and a small hotel on the scenic south shore of lower Twin Lakes, an area surrounded by dense forests and the majestic peaks of the Sawatch and Collegiate ranges.

By 1883, Dexter, a Union-Army Civil War veteran whose eclectic interests ranged from banking, mining and cattle-ranching to collecting gems, paintings and Chinese jades, had transformed the site into his dearest possession: the Inter-Laken Resort.

Sprawling over more than 2,100 acres, Inter-Laken was a secluded, year-round retreat for those wealthy enough to be able to afford the finest accommodations and amenities of the Victorian era. But Inter-Laken's heyday was short-lived. By the end of World War I, two decades after Dexter's 1899 death, Inter-Laken had been abandoned. Some of its buildings collapsed; others fell into disrepair. In the early 1970s, the remaining structures faced obliteration by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation's Twin Lakes Storage Reservoir.

That's when a coalition of local, state and federal agencies stepped in to save the site. In 1974, it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Interpretive signs were installed and buildings like the 1883 Inter-Laken Hotel and the 1895 Dexter House, which would have been flooded when the lakes filled to capacity, were moved 150 feet back from the shoreline to higher ground. Preservation work continues today through the Interlaken Restoration Project, a joint partnership involving nearly 20 agencies.

Accessible only by boat or on foot, the Inter-Laken Resort historic site is a popular hiking destination. Despite the 9,300-foot elevation, the well maintained and fairly level Colorado and Continental Divide trails make this round-trip excursion of just over four miles a relatively easy hike. But it's the beauty of Inter-Laken's surroundings, coupled with its historical significance, that make it truly special. Relaxing on the sheltered, wraparound porch of the extensively restored Dexter House and gazing across the lakes at 14,433-foot Mount Elbert, Colorado's highest peak, it's easy to imagine the Inter-Laken Resort as it was more than 125 years ago, when well-to-do guests strolled to the water's edge over lush bluegrass lawns ornamented with sparkling fountains and gardens of native wild flowers.

One popular summer activity also doubled as a means of transportation to the resort. While some guests arrived by stagecoach, on a route crossing a bridge that once spanned the channel between upper and lower Twin Lakes, the preferred way of reaching Inter-Laken was via the sightseeing steamboat Idlewild. Described by Leadville's Evening Chronicle newspaper as "one of the bravest, prettiest little boats afloat," this double-decked, steam-powered craft could carry up to 50 passengers. A 30-foot-long cutter-style yacht, the Dauntless, also plowed the icy-cold waters for both transportation and pleasure.




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