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Imperial press and farmer. (Imperial, San Diego County, Cal.) 1901-1903, March 07, 1903, Image 1

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Imperial Press.
VOL. 11.
Prospect for Irrigation Along the Colorado River
A Project Requiring Vast Expenditure Which Would Bring Equally
Great Returns in Land Reclaimed.
By Frederick Haynes Newell, Chief Engineer, Reclama
tion Survey.
The following notes are from ob
servations made during a four weeks'
trip in California and Arizona, in the
course of which I floated 400 miles
down the Colorado River in a small
rowboat. The purpose of this trip
was to investigate the possibilities of
that section of the southwestern des
ert country in the line of irrigation,
and to get a preliminary idea of the
feasibility of conserving the great
floods of water which at certain sea
sons of the year pass down the Colo
rado River to the Gulf of California.
In some respects this projected en
terprise resembles the great reclam
ation works which have been con
structed by the English government
in Egypt, whereby the flood waters of
the Nile are impounded and distrib
uted- over millions of acres of fertile
delta land. To carry,, out to its full
possibilities this great project on the
Colorado River would require an ex
penditure of from $15,000,000 to $20,
000,000, which would give in return
an irrigated area of over 1,000,000
acres of extremely fertile land.
I first went to the Needles, in Cali
fornia, and there secured a wagon
outfit and drove up the Colorado
River as far as possible, to what is
known as Bulls Head, one of the
highest sites for a proposed reservoir
on the river; then came back through
the agricultural lands near Camp Mo
have, where the Indian school is sit
uated and where large areas can be
brought under irrigation by a high
line canal from the Colorado River.
Then I went back to the Needles,
and, in company with J. B. Lippin
cott, consulting engineer; Arthur P.
Davis, principal engineer; E. T. Per
kins, district engineer, and E. C. Bar
nard, topographer, started on a trip
down the river.
We were five days in an open boat,
camping along the banks of the
stream at night. We then struck a
little river steamer, the St. Vallier,
which was on the point of starting.
from Ehrenberg to Yuraa. All navi
gation on the river is suspended at
dark, and in fact is also often sus
pended in the daytime while the crew
is engaged in getting the boat off the
sand bars. 'There is a decided cur
rent, which runs about three miles
an hour and carries the boat from
one side to the other of the channel,
the water spreading out in many
places over a very wide area. It is
easy traveling along these channels
until one reaches a place where the
river widens out; then the water be
comes so shallow that the boats fre
quently get stuck. The little stern
wheel steamers which occasionally
use this river, when they get
stuck on a sand liar, turn
around, and the revolution of the
Wheel digs out the sand so that the
boat can drift on down.
We went down the river about 400
miles in all. The country back from
the river is arid and desolate, and has
very scanty vegetation except for an
occasional thorn bush. It is gener
ally considered to be a highly miner
alized country, and there are an al
most infinite number of prospect
holes and a few mines but very little,
if any. ore is now being shipped.
This is probably largely due to the
difficulties of transportation.
We saw very few people along the
"Water is King— Here is its Kingdom. 11
river. An occasional Indian was met
poling his boat against the stream,
carrying goods to the mining camps
or to the Indian school. These are
the Mohave Indians. They all use
punts or flat-bottom boats. There
seemed to be no white settlers along
the river except a few prospectors.
We found no mosquitoes at this ,time
of year, and the nights- were frosty.
The country is semi-tropical, having
very hot days and cold nights, espe
cially on the lower levels.
The Colorado River is the largest
river of the arid region. It can be
compared in size to the Nile of Egypt
and is similar in many characteris
tics. It differs in the flow, for this is
not as regular or as well sustained,
because of the fact that there are no
lakes at the head of the river to in
sure permanency of such f10w.... It is
navigable with difficulty, however,
for light boats on the lower part of
the river A large part of its course
is through canyons where the water
cannot be diverted upon the sur
rounding land. The lower river
passes through an open country, va
ried by a few narrow "Galleys. The
fall of rain there is very slight, and
canals taken out fill quickly with silt.
Silt is the great obstacle to the de
velopment of the irrigation feature,
and ditches will have to be given a
heavy grade.
. Reservoirs are necessary to store
and control the silt. Small works
are impossible and large ones will be
very costly. The land to be reclaimed
is probably as good as any in the
United States. The problem of get
ting water upon it is not easy of so
lution, for there are many alternative
plans. The land will produce large
crops in frequent succession, one fol
lowing the other as fast as it can be
planted, grown and harvested.
For the first 100 miles below the
Needles the river is mostly in can
yons or narrow valleys and ranges
• from 200 to 80u feet in width. It is
I generally very shallow. The valleys
I upon it grow wider as you go down,
and there are bordering bench lands
covered with gravel, but having a
fairly good soil and one that will be
I excellent when treated with the
| muddy waters of the river.
To place water upon these bench
j lands will require numerous dams
| from r>o to 100 feet in height and
from 800 to ]ouo feet in length. As
I Yuraa is approached, the valleys
widen out into the deserts of Arizona
and Southern California, but along
this part of the river there are pos
sibly millions of acres which may in
time be brought under irrigation.
Above and in the vicinity of Yuraa
clams have been made to divert the
water by small ditches, but owing to
the large amount of sediment carried
by the water, these ditches have been
quickly filled and rendered useless.
One of the chiof difficulties in util
izing the Colorado River is on ac
count of the great amount of fine
earth carried in suspension by the
water. When the course of the water
is checked this material is dropped,
filling the reservoirs and canals. It
is necessary, therefore, to give the
canals a slope so great that the
water will run rapidly out at all times |
and not stagnate at any point until
it is put upon the fields. There the
fine earth serves to enrich the ground
and perpetuates the feitmty of the
Below Yuma, on the west side,
water is taken out in a large ditch on
the Mexican side of the international
boundary and carried into natural
channels, which terminate in what is
known as the Alamo or Salton River.
The Salton River flows into the Sal
ton Sink. Avhich lies partly in the
United States and partly in Mexico.
Water is now running from the Colo
rado River into the Salton Sink, but
it is necessary to keep at work con
stantly with dredges on this to keep
open the channel from the river to
the Alamo. -An appropriation of 10,
000 cubic feet per second of water
has been made from the Colorado
River, or about twice the amount of
the low-water flow. Only a small part
of this water is now actually used,
but if the lands are completely devel
oped it will be necessary to provide
water storage on the headwaters of
the^'Upper Colorado -to^furnish. the
necessary water for the development
of the lands in the United States.
The government is now giving
some consideration to this project,
but of course, our observations are
merely for the purpose o* coming to
a thorough -understanding of the pos
sibilities of all the arid region of the
United States in the irrigation field.
This Colorado River project is one of
va°t expenditure, with equally vast
returns in the land which would be
available for settlement; with a num
ber of others of similar character it
will serve as a sort of reserve outlet for
increasing population in the years to
come. Mv trip as a whole was most
interesting "and valuable, and in
course of time we will be j»ble to e\vf>
some definite ideas as to what the ex
nemliture in the building of reser
voirs and other works of water con
servation would accomplish in that
Questions and Answers.
In a recent Issue of the Press there
was published an article under the
heading of "Imperial Catechism," in
which we unintentionally did an in
justice to the dealers in agricultural
machinery at Imperial. A correspon
dent writing to the Imperial Land
Company for Information as to ship
ping in horses and agricultural ma
chinery was advised to bring such
horses and Implements, rather than
to sell them at a sacrifice, as the
prices were high In the valley. This
was Intended to convey the Idea to
the settler that prices were high as
compared to the prices that could be
obtained If such articles were sold
and then a supply purchased again
after arriving at their California des
The facts are that agricultural Im
plements can be purchased as cheaply
In Imperial as they can be purchased
elsewhere and then shipped In. A
person at a distance cannot afford
to ship In their goods, probably, un
less It be In carload lots. People
will buy where they can buy the
cheapest as a rule, and yet other
things being equal, It is always good
policy for settlers In a new country
to buy their goods at home and thus
help to build up their own section,
for the business men of a given
locality are always at work building
up the ranches, and they are there
fore entitled to consideration.
The agricultural implement men of
Imperial have faced the music in a
manly way and have done good ser
vice in shipping in goods for the bene
fit of the ranchers when it would
have been almost impossible for the
ranchers to have gone away from
home and made their purchases and
then shipped the goods in on their
own account. The Press recognizes
this condition of affairs and would not
intentionally say a word that would
divert a dollar ; from what is justly
due them.
How Flagstaff s Grow.
The people of Riverside have just
erected a flagstaff made from a euca
lyptus tree that is one-hundred feet
in height. .-,.■■ 4i
It only takes a few years to grow
such a tree here in Southern Califor
In 18 75 the writer planted a little
blue gum tree four inches in height
in the then embryonic town of Po
mona. In 1881, six years later, that
tree measured ninety feet in height
and fifty-four inches in circumference*
one foot from the ground.
Here in Southern California we can
grow flagstaffs while you wait, figur
atively speaking.
Statistics published by the National
Bureau of Education show that the
high schools in every state of the
union are graduating more girls than
boys — some of them twice or three
times as many. The whole number
of boys in attendance at public high
schools in the United States in 1898
was 189,187; of girls, 200,413. Be
cause of the growing tendency to take
boys out of school early in order to
put them into business, girls are get
ting more schooling than boys.— Santa
Ana Herald.
It is only a few years since, it was
not considered necessary to give the
girls an extended education. Now
the graduates of the high schools
are mostly girls, and the fu
ture mothers of our country are to
be more highly educated than hereto
fore. Hence we may look for more
rapid intellectual strides on the part
of the people of our country than ever
The man who plants an apple or
peach tree for those who come after
him, or who adds to tlfo beauty and
usefulness of the pasture by making
two spears of grass grow where there
was one, will not have been an entire
failure. — Tennessee Fanner.
This being the case— and it is true,
what is to be said of the man or men
who convert a desert into a garden?
The cheapest thing in the world is
the good will of the little ones, and
nothing pays better dividends than
an Investment of this kind.
No. 47

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