About the Beer Guzzling Bear at What is Now the Blue Mesa Reservoir?

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The towns of Kezar, Iola, Cebolla and Sapinero were all bustling little towns along the Gunnison River Valley. The area, known as the best flyfishing in the country, was fueled by a combination of ranching and resorts. The “rafting” portions of the “How The West Was Won” were shot on that stretch of river. The Denver and Rio Grande railroad’s run from Gunnison to Montrose through the valley and then on to the Black Canyon was one of Teddy Roosevelt’s favorite rides.

The J. J. Carpenter family built what is probably the most famous resort, The Sportsman’s Lodge, in Cebolla about fifty feet from the railroad track and near Cebolla Creek. Over the years, notable persona the likes of Delores and Bob Hope, Ben Hogan, Pete Eastman, Walter “Woody Woodpecker” Lantz and, according to local guide Loyd “Mac” McGraw, “Randolph Scott was a true Gentleman.”

But, perhaps the most famous guest, around the turn of the century, was Maude the bear. A captive of the resort, she was very docile and even played with the carpenter children. Often, on arrival of the daily passenger train, Maude would sit upon a pedestal nearby and drink beer from bottles. The “tourists” delighted in the spectacle and purchased many a beer for Maude and themselves. Eventually the beverage would take it’s course….Maude would lay down for a nap and the train would continue on it’s journey.

The Federal Government started construction on the Blue Mesa Dam in 1961.

Source: Loyd “Mac” McGraw

Rob Quint

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