Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 43.djvu/173

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161
IRRIGATION IN THE ARID STATES.

ized districts and the great irrigation corporations, there are illustrations in thousands of beautiful and fertile valleys, and upon many a sunny hillside, that it pays to irrigate.

In the old placer-mining regions of California one sees much of the local use of water, ranch by ranch, spring by spring, cheaply, easily, and effectually. The miners have long been familiar with the management of water. They built hundreds of miles of hydraulic mining ditches, triumphs of engineering skill, bringing whole rivers from the snow peaks to the beds of gold-bearing gravel below. They siphoned streams over mountains; they belted their flumes in mid-air to perpendicular cliffs of granite a thousand feet from base to crest; they changed little Alpine valleys into mountain lakes. Such men as these find it only child's play to water their hillside gardens, to wall up the "flats" by mountain streams and flood them so that the white clover or alfalfa keeps green there all the year. Thus one finds oases of verdure and fruitfulness about the cottage houses of thousands of mountaineers in Shasta, Trinity, Butte, Lassen, El Dorado, and the whole Sierra range of mining counties south of “Old Tuolumne.” Such men as these live in all the mountain ranges of the western half of the continent, and not the least attractive chapter of the story of irrigation is that which tells of their home acres. Even where the annual rainfall is more than sufficient for the ordinary field crops and the deciduous fruits to thrive without irrigation, the dry air and sunlight of the semi-tropic summers often make the application of water desirable for specialized horticulture, or for the greatest obtainable profit from ordinary crops.

Here, then, are the primary schools of the irrigator in the thousands of hidden valleys of Idaho, Dakota, Utah, Colorado, Nevada, and California. Out of them, upon the wide valley plains, upon the vast distances of the high desert mesa lands, the young men of the coming generation of irrigation adepts pass on to greater victories. Artesian fountains spring up along their paths; rivers from regions of mountains, of forests and abundant rainfall, follow in their footsteps; they lead these rivers into the desert and plant gardens there—the grape, the olive, the date palm, the orange, the lemon, the banana, the pomegranate.

The facts and figures which I have used to show the progress of the States and Territories of the arid region are crowded with infinite suggestions and possibilities. Some time, it is not improbable, men may speak of the overflowing granaries, the unparalleled horticultural wealth along the Rio Grande, the Colorado, the Sacramento, the San Joaquin, and other great river plains, as history speaks of Egypt and Assyria in their splendid prime. What are the duties of the American people toward irri-