Sunday, June 14, 2009

Day 25

Today we woke to cloudy skies. By the time Mik was walked and breakfast was over, the rain started and lasted through noon. About 2:00 PM the rain stopped. The skies are stilled overcast but I was able to grill a rib eye steak for dinner. A break in the rain is forecast tomorrow.

The Mackay Reservoir is on the Big Lost River. The Big Lost River and the Little Lost River are so named as they disappeared into layers of porous basalt and subsurface gravels. The rivers flow underground about 130 miles to the southwest. The waters eventually surface at Thousand Springs on the Snake River in Hagerman Valley, southwest of Twin Falls, Idaho.

Homesteaders were drawn to the Big Lost Valley in the early 1900s by the promise of cheap land and speculation that a 125-foot dam would be built to irrigate thousands of acres near Arco. Although the water was badly needed, residents of Mackay feared that the dam might fail and fiercely protested its construction. A prominent engineer condemned the dam’s design in 1910, plans were scaled back and a 65-foot dam was constructed followed by a cannel system in the early 1920s.

Drought hit the area in the 1920s and early 30s. Water shortages were made worse by evaporative water loss from the reservoir and lengthy irrigation canals. By 1930 nobody was getting enough water, farms were abandoned and property values were reduced by half.

Angry Mackay farmers, desperate to irrigate their lands, dynamited the dam’s controls, releasing the entire reservoir back into the river. This supplied water locally to Mackay and stopped the irrigation through canals to farms near Arco. Resolution came in 1935 when local residents banded together and purchased the dam.

Mackay Reservoir 04 Mackay Reservoir06 New snow in the mountains & high water

The reservoir is at capacity

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