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Sailing Through 61 Years: The History of The Carter Lake Sailing Club



The History of the Carter Lake Sailing Club 

Jackie Gurley and Michael Gurley, Club Historians 


From Sloan’s Lake to Carter Lake

The Carter Lake Sailing Club was officially formed 61 years ago, as The Denver Sailing Club, making it the oldest sailing club in Colorado. Its members had been sailing on Sloan’s Lake in Denver since World War II as part of the Mile High Boats Association, an organization of all watersports lovers.  Sailboats were often the majority on the lake in 1946, with up to twenty boats participating in Sunday races.

But enjoyment of the sport was becoming increasingly difficult due to restrictions and regulations imposed on sailboats by Denver’s Boating Commission.  But the late 1940’s, sailors had begun to form their own club with the hope of having a united voice and regaining access to the entire lake instead of a restricted area. Otto Koehler was the driving voice behind the formation of The Denver Sailing Club, urging sailors to “unite as only by united force could anything be accomplished.”  Preliminary meetings were held and on August 20, 1953, the first official meeting of The Denver Sailing club welcomed thirteen members who each paid dues of $1. Emmy Koehler began the early history as Club Secretary, and all quotes here are from her original notes.

The Labor Day weekend in 1953 was spent sailing on Shadow Mountain Lake with four boats and eleven members. “Sailing was wonderful and the fellowship excellent.”  The club quickly grew from its original thirteen members in August to twenty-six members by the end of September, 1953.  Throughout the winter of 1953-1954, the members continued to meet to discuss plans for the future:  the acquisition of trophies, pennants for boats, racing, and general plans.  Discussions with the Boating Commission continued, but while sailors were granted access to the entire lake during the week, on the weekend they had to share the lake with the “speedboats.”

On May 24, 1954, Otto Koehler first reported on Carter Lake, a new reservoir to the north that would be half-full by summertime.  He emphasized a chance of leasing a lot from the government and the possibility of building a clubhouse there, with “everyone chipping something for the original cost.”  While members were most likely hesitant due to the distance, the opposition dropped “in exact proportion to the sinking water level at Sloan’s Lake, which had zero level for sailing by the end of July, 1954.

“Let’s give Carter a trial!” became the slogan during the month of August, and as soon as club members were notified they could use the lake, they launched boats on Labor Day weekend, three on Saturday and more boats on Sunday.  The first Regatta was held on September 17-18, 1954, with nine boats participating.

Emmy tells about that weekend: “Frankly, we felt like pioneers, battling that dusty road after leaving Highway 287, no accommodations whatsoever, no dock, no toilet, the water level only about 35 feet, plenty of mud.  However, the sailing was wonderful:  we had the lake to ourselves.  The farmers of the surrounding area became our friends as many of them had never seen a sailboat before.  Quite a few camped out; others stayed in one motel, and Sunday night we had dinner at the Wayside Inn in Berthoud.  (The Wayside Inn is still in Berthoud, but has been closed for many years.) In spite of, or maybe because of the hardships, we had a wonderful time.”

By the end of 1954, thirty-two members of The Denver Sailing Club were making plans for 1955 at Carter Lake, beginning with necessary equipment that included “buoys, toilet, and maybe a fireplace.”