Pat Lynch – The Hermit of Echo Park and The Yampa RiverMarch 25, 2020
By Herm Hoops
Pat Lynch (Patrick H. Lynch) was born in Ireland, although he didn’t know the exact year, it was sometime in the 1820s. Lynch left his homeland of Clonco, Ireland as a young boy in fear of the repercussions people faced for stealing a loaf of bread during the potato famine. Pat took to the sea on a merchant ship around age fourteen. He was either shipwrecked in Africa or fled overboard after an altercation with a shipmate. While in Africa he claimed he was taken-in by a tribe of natives and lived among them for several years. He also claimed to have married one of the tribe’s women and had two sons. He eventually became restless, escaped to the coast and fled on a British ship. Lynch traveled to India, South Sea Islands, and France.
Pat arrived in the U.S. around 1853 and worked different jobs until joining the U.S. Navy in the fall of 1860. When he enlisted, he used the alias “James Cooper,” though it is not known why. Later in life this would severely haunt him when trying to apply for his war pension.
During the Civil War, he served as a coal heaver on several war vessels including the North Carolina, Alabama and the Sumpter. While on the Sumpter, he was reportedly injured when a “time bomb” exploded as he heaved it overboard. The explosion shattered his legs and broke several other bones. Pat received an honorable discharge from the Navy on September 1862, but reenlisted the very next month and served on three more ships until his discharge in 1863. He traveled to Chicago where he served as a watchman for the U.S. Army Quarter Master Department. He served in a similar capacity first in Tennessee and later in Arkansas for most of the rest of the war. Later in 1867, he enlisted in the U.S. Army Company K, 37th Infantry under his true name Patrick H. Lynch in Kentucky. Lynch would be transferred to various posts until his eventual discharge in what was then Colorado Territory in July of 1870.
Lynch claimed to have played a part in the Indian Wars, but to what extent is unknown. What is known is that his duty brought him out west and he never left. After being discharged in 1870, Pat apparently tried to collect pensions under both names.
Pat eventually made his way into northwest Colorado – and the area comprising today’s Dinosaur National Monument where the Green River joins the Bear or Yampa River. According to Charlie Mantel, Pat had a small peach orchard and potato patch there. He jerked his peaches, and always carried a sack of them when he was on the trail.
He lived the life of a hermit for sixteen years in several caves in a canyon storing jerky and bread all over the mountains. He tamed beaver and deer until they were like farm animals. He could not be induced to kill one, but lived more like the coyote. If he found a dead horse or cow floating down the river he would fish it out and make jerky out of it by cutting the meat in strips and drying them. According to F.C. Barnes, a longtime friend of Pat’s, Pat lived just like a coyote.
He was said to have tamed a mountain lion who he could call and the lion would answer with a plaintive cry and sometimes bring him a fresh kill of deer. Lynch would call out to the lion and it would respond back from a prominent point in Echo Park with a sound “sweeter than any Jenny Lind, the Swedish Nightingale, ever sang.” Today this escarpment is known as Jenny Lind Rock.
Pat knew the area like the back of his hand and had many places where he would hole up during a storm or when overtaken by darkness. These were usually caves and many went undetected until years after his death. His most indelible marks were his carvings of large sailing ships in caves and overhangs and a few are still visible today. Pat kept a small herd of horses during his many years in the area which locals came to know as Pat’s Hole. He would ride to places like Lay and Craig, Colorado to get his pension checks and buy supplies.
Lynch claimed to have supplied Powell’s party with five mountain goats when they floated through Pat’s Hole on one of their expeditions. This is where the Powell party named Steamboat Rock and Echo Park. Lynch did encounter the Kolb Expedition which is the source of one of his more iconic photos. During his life in the canyons, Pat came to know members of Butch Cassidy’s Wild Bunch and at times traded horses with some of them.
Over the years Pat became friends with many of the families living along the river and would spend time going around and visiting. He helped the Ruple family move to Island Park going ahead of their wagons to find a pass for their ox teams to navigate. According to the locals, Pat would walk down the ice on the Green River or in the summer use a homemade raft to float from his home to visit the Ruples in Island Park. He would borrow a horse to return home, riding up over Blue Mountain releasing the horse to return to the Ruples on its own.
Lynch had several caves and cabin near the mouth of Hells Canyon that he occupied on and off until 1912. Charlie Mantel had Pats note “To all who this may consarn that I Pat Lynch do lay claim on this bottom for my home and support Wrote the 8th month of 1868 by P Lynch.” A ship under full sail petroglyph was pecked into the Castle Park Cliff. Pat’s cabin blew up one day after he had built a fire in the fireplace and went to the spring for water. Pat claimed that someone had tried to kill him, but Charlie Mantel believes that Pat had stored some powder or dynamite near the fireplace and had forgotten about it.
In 1900 the Jack and Mary Chew family left Browns Park and homesteaded in Pool Creek, near Pat’s Hole (Echo Park) and the Chew family became Pat Lynch’s nearest neighbor. Pat got along well and frequently visited the Chews, often joining them for meals. They said he always talked with an Irish burr and used the talk of seafaring men. Ralph Chew said that many times when talk would come up of someone dying or being killed, Pat would ask if they had been killed with an axe. Some believed Pat had killed a man in this way and that he may have come to this area to hide from the law.
Harry Chew and the family eventually helped Pat build a dugout cabin (near the Echo Park Boat ramp.) In summer when the main part of their animals were on the mountain, Mary Chew still had her milk cows at the Pool Creek Ranch. She would milk them night and morning, the cows would be locked in the corral overnight and be turned out in the morning to graze. The best grazing was down on the river by the Lynch cabin, and it was Doug and Enola’s (Burton’s too when he was big enough to go along) job to herd the 2 or 3 milk cows to the river and then go fetch them home in the evening.
The kids had explicit orders not to ride the cows as the cows job was to make milk and not for using energy to carry kids, as soon as they were out of sight of the house the 2 and oftentimes 3 kids rode one of the more gentle beasts to the river pasture and of course on return at night. Mary would often send a sack of garden produce down to Pat and the cow would get to carry that also. One day Pat Lynch and Tom Blevins came by the Pool Creek house around lunch time (he and Tom Blevins always managed to stop by about lunchtime). Tom Blevins lived in Brown’s Park and had also patented land along the Yampa River. The Chew’s had a litter of kittens that were just about big enough to wean. Pat mentioned that when they were ready he could use a couple as his house had a rodent problem.
When the day came to take the cats, they put the kittens in a gunny sack and along with the cows, Doug and Enola continued their tradition of riding the gentlest one. Before they had progressed very far one of the cats must have scratched through the bag and the cow promptly bucked riders off and ran away. When the kids got to Pat’s and let the kittens out of the sack they were so spooked that they ran off and Pat was afraid they were lost. Eventually, the kittens were found and hung out with Lynch. But the cow wouldn’t let the kids ride her with a sack of goodies again and it was a few days before they got her to let them ride.
One day when Enola was around 10 or 12, Pat Lynch and Tom Blevins stopped by around lunchtime. While sitting at the dinner table, Tom mentioned he could use the help of a young lady to tidy up his cabin and Pat felt he probably could too although his place was smaller than Tom’s so he couldn’t pay as much. The Chew kids didn’t have any opportunities to earn any cash so Aunt Enola thought it was a grand idea. After the two men departed, Enola approached her mom with the idea. Her mother paused a moment before she said, “You’re a developing young woman and those 2 dirty old men don’t mean to have you to clean their cabins!
Friends had said that Pat strongly believed in spirits and would often talk to them and set out food for them. He would also talk to the animals who shared his canyon home and believed they understood him. Pat was known as an eccentric man who thrived in isolation but also loved the company of others and telling stories – however improbable. Pat Lynch’s eccentric ways, fantastical storytelling, and ability to survive with hermit-like conditions made him a regional celebrity during his time. As Pat aged, he began to forget things. Friends said that he scarcely knew what he was talking about and would ramble on from one subject to another.
The last few years of his life he was too feeble to live alone, so for his last three years he stayed in the care of the Bakers in Lily Park. It is said that his last wish was to be set adrift on the river he loved so much. But, when Pat died on February 27,1917 he was buried in Lily Park near the confluence of the Little Snake and Yampa Rivers with a veteran’s headstone that still marks his grave. Pat Lynch was a man who spent more than 40 years living the life of a hermit and was one of the first Euros to explore and discover the beauty of what is now Dinosaur National Monument. With proper skills and preparation, you too can explore the seldom visited places in Dinosaur – a place that is truly a diamond in the desert.
The following poetic words, found in one of Pat Lynch’s caves reads:
“if in these caverns you shelter take
Plais do to them no harm
Leve everything you find around
Hanging up or on the ground.”
Clonco is located in the West of Ireland, in the County of Galway, Ireland
When the Civil War broke out, many Irishmen arriving in American and Canadian ports were tempted away from their ships and into the Union military service. The pay, and potential prize money, were enticing prospects. Many Irish came to the United States due to the Irish Great Famine (1845–1852). A significant body of these Irishmen later used the military experience gained in the American Civil War to fight against British forces with the goal of establishing an Irish Republic as members of the Irish Republican Brotherhood, the Fenian Brotherhood and Clan na Gae. Ironically an Irishman named James Cooper signed on as a Jack Tar in the Union Navy and served for twelve months as a Landsman, and was sent to the receiving ship USS North Carolina in New York Navy Yard for training. In November 1863 he was discharged and he went back to New York, and within the month had signed on for another year. He was quickly back on the USS North Carolina, but this time at the rank of Coal Heaver. He eventually ended his American naval career and returned to Ireland in November 1864.
J. H. Templeton, a pioneer of Moffat County, viewed Pat Lynch’s limb many times. “It had the appearance of being mashed and rolled in a sack, many pieces worked out, leaving ugly scars.”
“About 1870 he stopped at Colorado City at the foot of Pikes Peak, where he worked for several years, for a time working for my father in a rock quarry, living in our home, so you see, I knew him intimately. Afterward, he drifted out to Hahns Peak, where his unfortunate fate followed him. It was in the fall of 1879, he started on foot from Hahns Peak over the trail to Hayden, with only a lunch. He was overtaken by a snowstorm, lost his bearing, wandering for three or four days, arriving at a camp near where John Macks place is near Craig, where he found some cattle hides in a corral. It was dark, so he covered as best he could with these skins. The next morning, evidently waking in a dream, he said a spirit spoke to him, saying Pat, Pat get up, the Sun is shining.
He awoke and pushed the snow and hides with which lie was covered away, and hunted for a camp which he found nearby with no one at home, but with plenty of provisions, to which he helped himself. Here he stayed, bathing his frosted hands and feet, for several days until occupants came back.
Always of a superstitious nature, a strong believer in spirits. One of those who accompanied him was a woman who was always leading him right. The other, a Devil s imp, trying to get him into trouble. This solitude served to further unbalance his mind, rather than remedy it. At this location, he was quite successful, raised a nice bunch of horses and cattle until he became too feeble to longer care for them. They got wild and scattered, leaving him without means of support. Whereupon Mr . F . C . Barnes, postmaster at Lily (Park), and I, took up his case and were successful in getting him a pension, with which he was able to board with a family in Lily Park, for some years before his death, and there his body lies, and I hope the spirits will let him sleep in peace. Craig Empire Courier
Johanna Maria “Jenny” Lind was a Swedish opera singer, called the “Swedish Nightingale.” One of the most highly regarded singers of the 19th century, she performed in soprano roles in opera in Sweden and across Europe, and undertook an extraordinarily popular concert tour of the United States beginning in 1850. In 1850, Lind went to America at the invitation of the showman P. T. Barnum. She gave 93 large-scale concerts for him and then continued to tour under her own management. She earned more than $350,000 from these concerts, donating the proceeds to charities, principally the endowment of free schools in Sweden.
Deerlodge Park is a partly wooded flat beside the Yampa River, at the edge of a much larger area of meadowland (Lily Park), at the eastern edge of Dinosaur National Monument, in Colorado, just west of a line of sandstone cliffs that rise up quickly and impound the river in a deep, twisting and largely inaccessible canyon for 43 miles to its confluence with the Green River.
– “Pat Lynch – The Hermit of Echo Park”: Draft of Dinosaur National
Monument Handout; Herm Hoops; 1996;
– Notes from discussion with Doug Chew; Herm Hoops; 1987:
– Craig Press; Pat Lynch – The Fascinating Namesake of Pat’s Hole
(Echo Park); Paul Knowles, Assistant Director, Museum of
Northwest Colorado; April 1, 2019;
– Craig Empire Courier; Various articles; 1870-1926;
– Scott Chew Email to Herm Hoops; 07/21/2019;
– Dinosaur Historic Resources Study; Steven Mehls; 1985;
– Historical Aspects of Dinosaur National Monument; Harry Robinson;
– The Chew Bunch in Browns Park; Avvon Chew Hughel;
The Scrimshaw Press. Publication; 1970;
– Dinosaur Park History Study; Frank B. Searles; 1969;
– Blue Mountain Folks; Doris Karren Burton; p. 36;
– Deposition A; “Case of James Cooper, Alias Pat Lynch, No. 38,440 page 7.”
Patrick Lynch Pension File, Navy Cert. No. 39366; National Archives;
Herm Hoops’ life has always been associated with water: from bucolic farm ponds and awe-inspiring rivers to the endless ocean, and he’s always had an interest in history.
Herm, the son of farmers, grew up on a large dairy cattle and Morgan horse farm. After attending the University of Vermont he taught Vocational Agriculture and Forestry in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont.
He began running Western rivers in 1966. In 1972 Herm left Vermont and headed West for the better part of a year to run any rivers he ran across. In 1975 he began a career with the National Park Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Herm retired from the Dinosaur National Monument in 1996, but he has continued following his love of rivers as a guide, naturalist, historian, and he is proactive in protecting the river canyons of the Colorado Plateau. Over the years he has been acknowledged for his contributions to a large number of river guides and books. Herm has written articles for historical journals and magazines. He is a lifetime member of the Colorado Plateau River Guides, the Grand Canyon River Guides and recently was made an honorary life member of the Utah Guides and Outfitters Association. Herm has served on the boards of several organizations, including Plateau Restoration and Conservation Adventures (Moab) and Colorado Plateau River Guides.
The rivers have been good to him, and perhaps, he has been good to them.
Herm and his wife Valerie live in Jensen, Utah.