From the Museum Archives: Pat Lynch — the fascinating namesake of Pat’s Hole (Echo Park)
As far as interesting characters in Northwest Colorado go, Pat Lynch is hard to beat.
Probably born in the 1820s (even he didn’t know the exact year), Patrick Lynch escaped his homeland of Clonco, Ireland, as a young boy while in fear of the harsh repercussions he could face for stealing a loaf of bread during the potato famine.
Finding his way onto a merchant ship, he traveled to various ports, including South Sea Islands, France and Africa. While off the coast of Africa, Pat was either shipwrecked or fled overboard after an altercation with a shipmate. Either way, 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 tribeswomen and had two sons. He eventually became restless, however, and escaped to the coast and fled by ship.
Pat arrived in the U.S. about 1853 and worked different jobs until joining the U.S. Navy in fall 1860. When he enlisted, he used the alias “James Cooper,” though it is not entirely known why. Later in life, this would severely haunt him when trying to apply for his pension.
During the Civil War, he served as a coal heaver on several war vessels, including the North Carolina, the 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 in September 1861, but reenlisted the very next month and served on three more ships until his discharge in 1863.
Military life must have suited Lynch, as he reenlisted yet again in the late 1860s — this time with the U.S. Infantry. He 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 soon made his way into Northwest Colorado, specifically, the area comprising today’s Dinosaur National Monument. He lived in various caves in the area and was known to have planted fruit trees. He also strategically stashed jerky around for miles. His most indelible marks, however, were his carvings of large sailing ships in caves and overhangs hearkening back to his days in the navy. A few are still visible today.
Pat eventually built a cabin in what was/is one of the most desolate, yet strikingly scenic, areas in the entire American West — “Pat’s Hole” (at the juncture of the Yampa and Green Rivers known today as Echo Park in Dinosaur National Monument). It was here he lived until just a few years before his death.
Pat was known as an eccentric man who thrived in isolation but also loved the company of others and telling stories — however improbable. He claimed to have supplied Powell’s party with five mountain goats when they floated through Pat’s Hole on one of their expeditions. He also claimed to have befriended a mountain lion that would occasionally leave him a deer on his doorstep. Lynch would call out to the lion, and it would respond from a prominent point in Echo Park with a sound “sweeter than any Jenny Lind ever sang.” This point is known today as Jenny Lind Rock. Jenny Lind was a world famous opera singer in the 1800s known as the Swedish Nightingale. She performed extensively in the U.S. after an invitation from P.T. Barnum.
Pat Lynch’s eccentric ways, fantastical storytelling and ability to survive with hermit-like conditions made him a regional celebrity during his time. He spent his final years in the care of his neighbors, the Bakers, and passed away Feb. 24, 1917. He is buried in Lily Park near the confluence of the Little Snake and Yampa Rivers with a veteran’s headstone.
Paul Knowles is assistant director of the Museum of Northwest Colorado. This article was originally published on the museum’s Facebook page. To learn more about Pat Lynch, or other colorful characers from Northwest Colorado’s history, visit the museum at 590 Yampa Ave., or follow the museum on Facebook at facebook.com/museumnorthwestcolorado.