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Irrigating with Wyoming’s Water

Now, as in pioneer times, with the advent of spring and irrigation season, farmers and ranchers look to available water to grow crops, water livestock and sustain life. 

An article in a 1904 railroad prospectus book touts the value of Wyoming’s water as thus:

“Without irrigation there would be no settled and prosperous West. It was the first weapon seized by civilization in the battle with desolation.

“There are seven different sections in Wyoming where large irrigation projects are being carried on. The government alone is spending upwards of $40 million to help water the large acreage of splendid lands in this western country.

“At the same time the irrigable land is becoming scarcer and scarcer, and every year the prices for these lands are advancing. The North Platte River Valley will soon be made the best-watered section in America, and when the canals and irrigation systems are completed in this section, they will constitute the largest irrigation enterprise on the American continent. There will be 91,000 acres of land under the Canals and Ditches of the North Platte and Encampment Canal Company alone.

“On account of the abundance of water flowing in the North Platte River and its tributaries, no reservoirs or storage will be necessary in order to have sufficient water for all irrigation purposes.

“Most of the irrigating ditches here are Farmers’ Cooperative Ditches, and the only cost of maintenance is the bare expense of keeping them in repair. The source of the irrigation water supply is absolutely unlimited, as the North Platte and Encampment Rivers, and their many tributaries, have an abundance of water the year around and are practically fed during the summer months by the thaws from the perpetual snow in the mountains, reaching up as far as the Great Continental Divide.

“This is a condition of productiveness which hardly one man in 10 in the West appreciated and which those who live elsewhere not only do not appreciate but scarcely understand or believe.

“The ‘Irrigation Farmer’ enjoys all kinds of advantages over the ‘Rain Farmer.’ He never fears the drought. He never scans the skies when his fields are thirsty. He does not need to depend on the spring and summer rains to bring forth his crops. He knows that up in the deep canyons of the surrounding mountains, far above the heat of the valley, up in ‘Nature’s Ice House,’ are stored the snow and ice that feeds the streams he owns.”

The article continues, “Thus, when his fields are thirsty he can give them drink, and so he plants with confidence . . . ” 

Whoa, dam up the creek and save that overflow for another “Postcard.”