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Arthur Lakes is one of Colorado’s more influential geologists and his legacy is well entrenched particularly at the Colorado School of Mines which has its library named in his honor. It would be impossible to summarize his legacy adequately in anything shorter than a book and fortunately one has been written by Dr. Beth Simmons and Katherine K. Honda entitled “The Legacy of Arthur Lakes” available through the  Dinosaur Ridge Visitor Center.  Basically Lakes was not only a discoverer of dinosaur bones along the hogback near Morrison, Colorado and in Como, Wyoming, a story told in a new documentary “Arthur Lakes: Discovering Dinosaurs” written and directed by Beth Simmons, but he was also a teacher, geologist, mining reporter, author, artist, journalist, and minister.

Arthur Lakes in 1907

Arthur Lakes in 1907 six years after his last visit to Garden Park. Courtesy of Dr. Beth Simmons


I believe that Arthur Lakes visited Canon City on three occasions, first time in 1878, second time was in 1888, and the final visit was in 1901.

Arthur Lakes Visit in 1888 – Marshall P. Felch excavating

In 1889 Arthur Lakes produced a Colorado School of Mines Annual Report of field work and analysis publication entitled; Geology of Colorado Coal Deposits.  On page 82 it is revealed that the field crews visited the site of the Marsh – Felch Dinosaur Quarry and that workers were busy excavating a dinosaur.

Dinosaur Discoveries and Oil Well on Oil Creek

About 10 miles to the north of Canon City is a small park through which runs Oil Creek.  This park is celebrated for two things, both perhaps having some obscure relation to one another – the discovery of oil in it many years ago and in later years of enormous saurian remains, similar in many respects to those at Morrison.  The rocks of the park consist principally of red Triassic sandstones overlaid by variegate shales and clays of the Jurassic, capped by the Dakota sandstone, forming a shallow, synclinal basin, the strata in the centre being horizontal.  These have been cut by erosion into towers, castle rocks, and other picturesque forms, a romantic spot suitable for sepulchers of the mighty saurian’s whose bones repose there.  At the time of our visit Professor Marsh’s party were excavating the skeleton of a gigantic dinosaur from the solid sandstone; the black ends of a huge thigh bone, six feet long and proportionately thick, were protruding from the rock, while a row of equally huge vertebra (part of the animals tail that had been exhumed) were lying on the bluff ready for packing up.  Quite a number of different animals of the saurian family have been obtained from the locality by Professors Marsh and Cope. Upon these Atlantosaurus beds in 1862 a well was put down in search of oil, (…the story goes on to talk about the oil wells in this area)

Based on personal communications with Dr. Beth Simmons the field investigations  took place in 1888.

I reviewed letters written by Marshall Felch to Professor Marsh and came across three letters of interest that reflect quite nicely the Lakes description.

Canon City Colo.

Aug. 5, 1888

Prof. Marsh

Dear Sir

… After removing some of this outer edge – and in which the skull was found = mentioned in my last = we struck quite a lot of bones – caudal vertebrae – a coracoid – femur –quite large – a humerus and two smaller leg bones nearly connected with the humerus….


 Canon City, Colo.

Aug. 11, 1888

Prof. Marsh

Dear Sir

… I have been at work for the last two days around the tibia and fibula of a Sauropoda and find some very peculiar bones – one wedged in between the distal ends of the leg bones and the other just at the end of the tibia….


Canon City Colo.

Sept. 7” 1888

Prof. Marsh

Dear Sir

….we find a large number of leg and foot bones mostly well preserved – and a good many vertebrae in natural position….

By coincidence this is the only year the quarry was photographed by an I.C. Russell for the U.S. Geological Survey, most likely about a month before Lakes’ visit.

Marsh Felch Dinosaur Quarry in 1888

Marsh Felch Dinosaur Quarry in 1888.  Marshall P. Felch on the left.

Based on a review of the letters the location of the work that Marshall Felch was conducting at that time would be fairly close to where this picture was taken (quarry no. 2) rather than quarry no. 1 shown in the picture.


Arthur Lakes visit in 1878 – the missing drawings!

This is for me by far the most interesting of the three visits!  In the late summer of 1878 Arthur Lakes  did six drawings, two of these have been located.  Hopefully in time we’ll be able to find the other four drawings!  This story is about the six drawings he did here in Garden Park.  My first knowledge of any of them was this one.


Marshall and Amanda Felch Cabin.  Slight colorization has been added.

Marshall and Amanda Felch Cabin. Slight colorization has been added.   The origin of this drawing was in doubt for some time.

I had for some time wrongly assumed for some time that this was drawn by Samuel Williston in that it was done the fall of 1877. He had done a fair amount of artwork and was spending lots of time at the Felch ranch during that time period.   In anticipation of a research trip to the Yale Peabody museum in the summer of 2012, I had a conversation with Daniel Brinkman pertaining to several research interests including this drawing.   This was because Williston was employed by Marsh at that time he was working in our area and therefore associated with the Yale Peabody.  Dan provided substantial assistance to me in regards to the collection of fossil material collected by Williston and Professor Mudge in 1877 at Garden Park all of which is housed today at the Yale Peabody Museum.

dinosaur on display in front of the Yale Peabody Museum

dinosaur on display in front of the Yale Peabody Museum


Dan Brinkman felt that the artistic style of the drawing was not reflective of what Williston might have done and wondered if it might be more reflective of what Arthur Lakes could have done.  Arthur Lakes was also employed by Professor Marsh and was a prolific artist drawing hundreds of prints over many years. Dan Brinkman shared this thought with Dr. Beth Simmons who had co-written the Arthur Lakes book mentioned at the beginning of this article.

The three of us carried on an extensive dialogue regarding who may possibly have drawn the picture above.

When it started to look like it was indeed a Lakes print, Dr. Simmons made a breakthrough.  Her detective work led to a letter from Lakes to Marsh dated May 19, 1888 where Lakes made a list of everything he had sent to Marsh in a sketch book.  The very last entry in that letter referred to sketches of the Canon City sites as listed below.

  • Felch’s house and castellated bluff behind
  • Lucas’ bone house (Oramel Lucas)
  • Lucas and father uncovering skeleton of Camarasaurus for Cope
  • Lucas’ camp
  • long Panoramic sketch of Castellated towers of Dakotah and underlying Jurassic beds up Oil Creek Cañon
  • Saurian hill oil creek (Cañon) Dakotah towers Jurassic saurian beds below and below that the red bottle rocks

JoAnn and I made a trip back east last fall and stopped in at the Yale Peabody Museum where we were graciously greeted and escorted by Dan Brinkman.   One of the special treats was a drawing I had not seen before which was called Bottle Buttes on the back of the print.  This was most likely one of the last two drawings listed above!

•Saurian hill oil creek (Cañon) Dakotah towers Jurassic saurian beds below and below that the red bottle rocks

“• Saurian hill oil creek (Cañon) Dakotah towers Jurassic saurian beds below and below that the red bottle rocks” by Arthur Lakes, courtesy of Yale Peabody Museum

The drawings that Lakes described in the letter to Professor Marsh were apparently included in a publication entitled “Explorations for and Discoveries of Saurian Remains in Colorado and Wyoming under Direction of Professor Marsh of Yale during 1878-’79-’80”

The “Bottle Buttes” drawing appears to have been drawn from about the location about where Oramel Lucas would have been residing with his sister Lucy [Lucas] Ripley and her husband Aaron.

Beth Simmons and I have struggled with a date when these drawings would have been done.  Beth intimately knows the legacy of Arthur Lakes and there just isn’t a good time as to when this could have happened.  We have finally settled on a time frame of approximately late August or early September of 1878.  This would coincide nicely with a visit to the general area by Arthur Lakes in association with a field excursion with the American Association for the Advancement of Science as mentioned on September 7, 1878 in the Colorado Springs Gazette.

The second, third, and forth drawing above refer to a “Lucas” which most likely would be Oramel Lucas, the man that discovered dinosaurs for Cope in early 1877 about the same time Lakes was making his famous discoveries for Marsh.

Based on the publication by John S. McIntosh entitled “New Information about the Cope Collection of Sauropods from Garden Park, Colorado,” it is documented that Oramel and his older brother Ira had just shipped off a large shipment of Camarasaurus bones to Professor Marsh at the Yale Peabody on August 25, 1878 so we know that work was in progress in the late summer of 1878 about the time of Lakes visit.

We were well on our way to solving the mystery of the photograph that I had originally suspected was prepared by Samuel Williston but there is one remaining mystery.  Where are the missing drawings? I initially asked Beth Simmons if they had it up in Morrison and they did not.  She suggested I ask Dan Brinkman about it and he and others at the Yale did an exhaustive but unsuccessful search to locate this publication.  Dan suggested I contact the Michael Brett-Surman at the National Natural History Museum (Smithsonian) to see if the publication had found its way there.  Both the Yale and the Smithsonian would love to find this publication so Michael  and Mary Parrish jumped in and conducted a thorough search at the Smithsonian but was also not successful.  Everyone made a valid attempt and I thank all of them for their efforts.    This publication has many Lakes drawings all of which are significant so hopefully someday this important publication will resurface.

Arthur Lakes in 1901

This year the Geological Society of America will include a field trip celebrating an AAAS/GSA/Colorado Scientific Society field excursion led by Arthur Lakes and other Denver geologists in 1901.  That trip included a stop here in Canon City.  On his third visit in 1901 Lakes may have come across John Bell Hatcher who was working the quarry under lease from Marshall Felch and was working for the Carnegie Museum in Pittsburg.   We’re lucky to have had Arthur Lakes visit us, a most remarkable individual.