There once was a time when Colorado and surrounding states were known as The Wild West. Trappers and mountain men ruled the widely expansive, uncharted territories. For a time, The Grand Rapids Lodge in Grand Lake also shared that wild, lawless reputation. Its scandalous past including prostitution, bootlegging, gambling, and even ghost sightings!

Grand Lake itself wasn’t discovered by the white man until the mid-1800s by European hunting parties drawn to its wildlife, running waters and a natural lake. It wasn’t officially settled until 1867. During its early years, the towns modest beginnings included a general store, sawmill, and a hotel. Like so many western territories, Grand County experienced a brief gold boom, bringing miners to town for supplies and boarding. In 1915, John Lapsley Ish, a former miner, built and managed the Rapids Hotel offering guests running water, baths, and rooms with electricity powered by a water wheel on the nearby Tonahutu River.

Ish and his lodge were common, household names throughout Grand County. Since Ish’s time, the Inn has had some 30 different owners, each improving and adding to its original footprint. At one point a casino was discreetly located on the second floor and eventually, a brothel on the third for those “in the know”. An emergency buzzer was installed, alerting “naughty” workers and guests to clear the building upon its sharp warning.

And ghosts? A local Grand Lake book titled “Historic Walking Tour Guide of Grand Lake” wrote of the lodge “There is a friendly old lady that wanders the corridors, moves and hides items and opens and closes doors. She used to drink a bit they say and one day her husband just disappeared and was never found. Some say they have seen him too.”

Today the Rapids Lodge still operates in Grand Lakes North inlet. The original lodge is still intact and includes a fine dining restaurant offering hearty salads, home-made soups, steaks, seafood, and even local fish and wild game. Their wine list is quite remarkable as is their sweet course.

Today’s accommodations meet all guest needs including basic, overnight lodge rooms, suites, cabins, and condominiums that include small to full kitchens. Some are even dog-friendly. The complex is large enough to accommodate regular guests and special events like retreats, reunions, and weddings. Guests enjoy easy access to the town’s boardwalk which are a few short steps away. Boat ramp access and the entrance into Rocky Mountain National Park are minutes away by car.

If you’re interested in staying, dining or just visiting the Rapids Lodge be sure to call directly at 970-627-3707 or visit them online at

Tracy Navarrete