Corkins Lodge History

Our beautiful mountain retreat was originally founded in the 1920s as a private fishing camp.
Today we are honored to preserve our history and shepherd the ecology of the land we steward for future generations to enjoy. 

Black and white photo from the 1920s of white man standing on logging rounds in the mountains

Founded in 1928 by Phil Corkin Senior 

The original founder of Corkin’s Lodge was an enterprising, charming Irish man named Phil Corkin Sr.  As a 14-year-old boy, Phil Sr. stowed away on a ship to come across the Atlantic and seek his fortune in North America in the late 1800’s. He trained as a veterinarian in Canada, and worked various jobs around the Southwest until becoming a Ranger with the New Mexico Game and Fish department. He was first and foremost, however, an opportunist and a gambler.  He was said to have bet on anything from a horse race to which fly would cross the table first at a saloon.

6 men in outdoor gear in grainy black and white historic photo from the 1920s

1920s- A Private Fishing Camp

Some outdoorsmen friends approached Mr. Corkin in the early 1920’s and offered to partner with him on a rustic wilderness camp up in the mountains of the upper Chama River valley, proposing that he run the place for them all.  The property they decided on was located near the beautiful 2500-foot deep Brazos Box Canyon, with amazing views of the Brazos Cliffs. 

The Corkin’s Lodge property was thus originally purchased as a private fishing camp by this adventurous group. They would drive up from Albuquerque in Model-T cars on rutted dirt roads for the pleasure of fishing with their friends at “the end of the road” and the beginning of the rough wilderness of the Brazos River Canyon. This trip would take, on average, nine hours in the early 1920’s. Today you can make it in three-and-a-half hours.  

Black and white pictures of old Corkins Lodge signs

1929- The First Lodge

By 1929, the year that marked the beginning of the Great Depression, Phil Corkin Sr. was the sole remaining partner.  This was also the same year Georgia O’Keefe made her first trip to New Mexico and fell in love with the state’s enchanting landscapes.

With his wife and son, Phil Corkin Jr., Mr. Corkin made a go of making the beautiful property into a lodge hospitality business. They offered guests home-cooked meals, comfortable cabins and guided hunting and fishing trips on horseback up through the scenic high country and into the extraordinary Brazos River Box Canyon.

Phil Jr. wryly remembered in his teenage years that his father could always be found seated outside the door to the old lodge building, his chair tipped back, greeting his guests with hearty good cheer, while Phil’s mom worked in the kitchen and cabins. Phil Jr. chopped the wood, repaired the buildings, guided the guests out on their trips, and took care of all the rest of the hard labor.

On his return from World War II as a dashing young pilot, Phil mixed his work at the lodge with social time in Albuquerque. Apparently, a favorite with the ladies, he soon caught the eye of a lovely Texan secretary, Frances, at the Game and Fish department around the same time that he went in on Corkin’s business.

Frances, a smart and enterprising young woman who had worked her way up from a tough childhood in Lubbock, took a good look at Phil Jr. and told a co-worker that this was the man she was going to marry. Not so long afterward, the new Mrs. Phil Corkin Jr. joined her husband and parents-in-law to help run Corkin’s Lodge.

A black and white image of a man and boy fishing in the Rio Brazos

1950s- The Second Generation (Phil Jr.)

When Phil Sr. and his wife retired from the Lodge in the 1950’s, Phil and Francis Corkin took over. They were a hardworking team. Phil managed the buildings and the guests experience out on the land, while Francis did the bookkeeping, cooked three meals a day for guests, and with the help of several local teenage girls—including Philo, the current manager at Corkin’s Lodge—cleaned the cabins and served the guests. In the winter, they shut down the lodge and travelled the world.

Over the years they gradually added more cabins and expanded the business. Phil was eventually able to purchase two adjoining parcels of land and put together the beautiful property you find today. The Corkin’s worked hard to maintain the integrity of the lodge property, even as adjacent land was being parceled out into smaller lots.

Black and white photo of old truck from the 40s in the mud in winter with man in plan shirt looking at it
A historical image of the Corkins Lodge office with a man and boy standing out front
Woman and Man on horseback in front of Corkins Lodge sign
A closeup picture of Georgia Okeeffe

1967-Today Philo Martinez

Our guests speak fondly of our longtime manager, Philo Martinez. Philo began working at the Lodge as a teenager under the careful eye of Phil and Frances. She now runs Corkins Lodge with the same meticulous attention to detail and care of its guests. In 2017 we all celebrated her 50th year!

Smiling woman with short grey hair and transition glasses
A closeup of Aspen trees with green leaves

1970s- Evolution of the Property

Phil and Frances Corkin eventually retired, and sold the Lodge in the mid-1970’s. They had seen the lodge through many changes, including a move from a more traditional view of land use toward a more environmentally-sensitive position. 

1995- Nino Trujillo & Partners

Corkins Lodge passed through the hands of several proprietors until 1995, when the current owner purchased the property from a group of partners led by Nino Trujillo, of Albuquerque. Since this time, a long-term vision focusing on restoration of the land to its wilderness state has guided the work at Corkins Lodge.

Giant thin white waterfall against red rocks with trees

Today Forward

Preserving Our History and Stewarding Ecology

Corkins Lodge exists today with the same spirit that it was founded nearly a century ago: a beautiful way for people to escape their daily lives and experience nature and wilderness in all of it’s glory. Today, Corkin’s Lodge has kept the same rustic character of its early years. We have modernized and improved our amenities while preserving the original structures and features. The older cabins have been carefully restored to their simple, direct architecture, and new additions have been designed in keeping with the original work.

The Lodge is lovingly maintained in the spirit of Phil and Frances Corkin’s commitment to the land. Land conservation actions like road and livestock removal and the use of long-term forest management principles have helped restore the land to its wilderness state. We intend to keep it this way for future generations to enjoy for centuries to come.