by Bianca Segura
Lake Maloya is an important and well-celebrated past, not only to the community of Raton, but to many others that travel for miles to enjoy the lake and Sugarite State Park.
Built in 1916, it has grown to be a huge part of every Ratonians life--Lake Maloya offers many different recreational activities, but most importantly, it has been the area’s water source for approximately 100 years. With due diligence, the community of Raton has provided every means necessary in order to keep Lake Maloya and Sugarite State Park clean and looking as beautiful as mother nature intended it to.
The history of Raton and its surrounding area has changed dramatically over the past two centuries. Sitting in what was once called the Chicorica Canyon and Mesa, Lake Maloya is surrounded by a rich history that is authentic and held dear by inhabitants of Raton.
From once being the home of the Comanche, Ute, and Apache Native American tribes, immigrants soon settled here in the early 1800s alongside the Native Americans. Around the early to mid-1800s Sugarite Canyon became home to many ranches as settlers came to find the land was very beautiful and bountiful for grazing and raising cattle.
Spanish explorers, mountain men, trappers, and traders traveled this canyon as an alternative to the Raton Pass, making it more popular to people traveling through looking for a piece of land to settle. In 1841, our area was purchased and sold as part of the Maxwell Land Grant.
Coal mining became a major part of Sugarite's history as the Chicorica Coal Company, the first coal mining company in the canyon, started operating in 1894. Other companies started mines in the canyon as the years progressed into the 1940s. In the early 1900s, a small community grew into the Sugarite Coal Camp, which had nearly 1000 residents at one time.
The Sugarite Coal Camp had a population that fluctuated from 100-200 residents year to year, yet in 1915 reported about 500 people. Many of today's residents in Raton have some sort of family history dating back to these early coal mines that surrounded Raton and provided jobs to many of its people. The stories of Sugarite families are vast and unique, being that most were originally from countries like Italy, Spain, Yugoslavia, Ireland, and even Japan.
Back in 1916, the town of Raton had used eminent domain to attain its water supply from one of the mines using the reservoirs. Once the powers of Raton had attained Lake Maloya, pipelines and a water system were put in place leading to the town.
The only way one can truly experience the history of Sugarite Canyon and Lake Maloya is to pack the family up and come for a visit. Adventures are limitless in Raton.
Lake Maloya offers an exciting array of opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts, families and friends, and solotrippers. The fishing at Lake Maloya is not just an amazing experience, it can be an opportunity to participate in activities such as boating, hiking, horseback riding, hunting, camping, bird watching, paddle boarding, kayaking, plus over 15 miles of different hiking trails to explore.
RVs are always welcome with plenty of camping spots that accommodate indoor showers, electrical hookups at no extra cost, and of course the great outdoors waiting for you.
Photos by Bianca Segura
Some of the most popular trails include the Little Horse Mesa Trail to see the heights above Lake Maloya and the Coal Camp Interpretive Trail that allows you to tour the remnants of the Sugarite Coal Camp. If time is of the essence, try to make it down to the Sugarite Coal Camp ruins as they offer a fun, historical experience and also have a guided tour offered by the State Park's Rangers. The scenery among these trails can leave you breathless, figuratively and literally, as these trails are moderate to hike.
You will also find extraordinary wildlife along the way, ranging from trout, black bears, mountain lions, elk, deer, foxes, chipmunks, eagles, ravens, and many others. Make sure to bring a camera for deer selfie!
Addition to outdoor recreation and historical hikes, Sugarite hosts various annual events held in the canyon and at Lake Maloya, such as the Annual Fishing Derby and the Bodacious Butterfly Festival, and the Purgatory 4 Adventure Relay (formerly the Masters of the Mountains).
Every season, Lake Maloya is brought to life with the beauty of the mountains, fresh water, and fun attractions. Locals and tourists love to go tubing in winter, and take nature walks during Fall to see the color change of foliage, and head on guided tours with numerous outdoor groups.
Even a quick drive through the canyon is the perfect getaway from town for fresh mountain air. Anybody that loves the outdoors is welcome to create lifelong memories that are priceless and forever cherished at Lake Maloya.