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across seventy miles of it being below sea level. The town called Salton is two hundred and sixty-three feet below sea level, the lowest inhabited place in the world, but immediately to the westward the land rises rapidly. Indio, twenty-five miles away, is twenty feet below sea level, and Palm Springs,
forty-five miles distant, The Town of CALEXICO UNDER NORMAL CONDITIONS.
is five hundred ard
eighty-four feet above rock ceases, and the river flows on for sea level. From this heat-parched depth seventy miles over its own delta to where the country rises gladly to the beautiful it debouches into the salt waters of the San Jacinto Mountains. Gulf of California. All of this country Irrigation from this climbing river-bed now lying between the mouth of the to the low lands to the westward looked canon and the head of the gulf has been easy, and in 1900 the work of building filled in to unknown depth by silt brought a system of canals for the irrigation of down by the river. The fall for these Imperial Valley was begun. seventy miles is but two feet to the mile heading was made eight miles below and the river, like the Hoogli, wanders at Yuma, but the main canal was not carwill, filling in its bed and climbing out ried westward across the shifting sand upon it to flow on a quieter course, or, hills, but southward over the border into in times of flood, to flow out upon the Mexico and thence by a long detour back lower lands, which it in turn fills in with into California. A concession for this the detritus of its upper course.
work was given by the Mexican governIf the upper country is a land of lustyment. primeval chaos and titanic force, this low- The intake was an open ditch head er course, by contrast, is a gaunt salt- without control, a breach in the natural crusted shadow-land, the haunt of un- levee. In March, 1902, fresh water flowed certainty and death. In its mighty youth into the parched and salt-crusted fields in the mountains the river knows no curb of Imperial Valley and a hundred thouor restraint, but here, in its old age, sand acres of deathlike waste came under it writhes amid the ruins of its fortress actual cultivation and brought forth crops and dies among the shifting dunes of its whose values are well-nigh incredible. delta. So ancient is this delta that even in the vicinity of Yuma continuous bed rock has not been reached below the channel of the river, and in the Salton basin drills have failed to find rock at seven hundred feet.
To the westward of this delta is a vast sunken area which is known as the Salton Sink. It is an oblong concavity nearly one hundred and fifty miles
New River DURING FLOOD AT CALEXICO.
The California Development Company, ing without resources to dredge the canal in conjunction with a related corporation along the silted four miles moved down organized in Mexico, built these canals the river into Mexico, and cut a ditch and shared in the prosperity which they across from a point on the main river to brought. In September, 1904, there were a point on the irrigation canal below the in operation in this system over seven silted four miles. The distance was only hundred miles of canals and ditches. 3300 feet. The cut was made in the The magnitude of the work was more course of two weeks and was left without than the company foresaw and was suf- any headgate or controlling devise. ficient to keep it in financial straits. To This was completed in October, 1904, induce rapid colonization lands and water and word soon passed that water was rights were sold at a very low figure and flowing into the Salton Sink. The inunas the first payment required from the dated area developed rapidly and forced settler was too small to furnish the funds the Southern Pacific Railroad Company for extension and construction it was nec- to remove to higher ground over forty essary to secure outside capital to supply miles of its main line. House tops and
water as fast as the land was sold. In telegraph poles stood up dismally out the winter of 1903-4 the company was of the waters, and the valley. was again unable to supply all demands for water a saline lake. and as a result there were many crop fail- Freshets enlarged the unguarded caures and a consequent agitation for gov- nal, and the danger became so imminent ernment ownership of the system.
that the railroad company in order to Unfortunately government ownership save the trade of the rich valleys and to was not at hand and the company soon prevent the further washing out of its found itself with insufficient funds or tracks made a loan to the debilitated canal credit. The summer floods of 1904 filled company. With this money the first efthe first four miles of the canal with silt fort to safeguard the intakes was made. to such an extent that but two feet of An attempt was made to protect the lowwater flowed through it. This was plain- er intake in Mexico by flanking it with a ly insufficient for the needs of the coming double row of sixty foot piles. The line winter grain crop, and the company be- of these piles was parallel to and between the old canal and the river. Three at the rate of a mile in three days. The years preceding 1904 had been dry water in the Alamo branch was sixty feet and the winter of that year and of deep and the Salton sea rose eight feet the following, as if to make up for in fifteen days. The river was again the time lost, brought unprecedented ging for building materials, and it aprainfall, which swept tremendous tor- peared to engineers and settlers that if rents into the river. The level of the ca- the levels continued to cut back at the nal below the intake was soon cut down same rate they must soon cut below the by the rush of waters. The Salton Sea intake and so continue up the river with was growing hourly and the Develop- nothing but the Needles to bar the way. ment company made frantic efforts to Should such change of level be effected
stuff hay into the monster's throat. A the river would no longer be available dam six hundred feet long and one hun- for irrigation purposes, and the Sink dred feet wide, constructed of piling would be permanently flooded. driven twenty feet into the bed of the Since this washout in November, 1905, river, backed with mattresses of brush there has been a consistent endeavor to and wire was flung across the fatal cut. close the Mexican intake and reopen the
On the twenty-ninth day of November old intakes below Yuma. A substantial the second largest flood ever known on headgate has been built at the latter place, the Colorado swept down from the Gila, and a short distance above, the old intake raised the lower levels sixteen feet in one there is in course of construction anhour, overtopped dykes and dam, and other intake of steel and concrete. But abandoning the easy grades to the Gulf these upper intakes are of slight imporpoured merrily out into the low valleys. tance so long as the lower intake is not
The soft silt of the old basin was no effectively closed. The pilings and woven match for the aroused river and it crum- mats of the first attempts gave place to bled like fog before a breeze, so that at the Hind dam which stoutly held its Imperial there was dug in the course of a place, but about which the river found few weeks a canon one hundred feet a path. deep and a quarter of a mile wide whose The Mexican intake which might once waterfalls cut back toward the intakes have been safeguarded for a few thou
sands of dollars is now :
ROCKWOOD GATE IN HIND DAM. gathered hastily at the intake. Two thousand cords of willows lars, and three-quarters of a million dolwere woven together on forty miles of lars worth of materials were thrown into five-eighths inch steel cable into a great the gaping wound in the course of three mat, which was sunk in the stream, and strenuous weeks. Indians of six tribes about which great quantities of detritus from either side the border, Mexicans, soon collected. Through this mat eleven the Americans toiled in this Mexican wilhundred piles were driven as the support derness under the glaring sun by day for a railroad trestle thirty-eight hundred and in the swinging shadows of electric feet in length. Miles of laden cars were arcs by night to the end that the Mexican hurried to this trestle from every availa- intake might be closed and a vast and ferble quarry. Casa Blanca, Obilbee, Tacna tile country saved from the waters. and even Patagonia, three hundred and Epes Randolph, H. T. Cory, Thomas eighty miles distant emptied their quar- J. Hind, C. R. Rockwood and other able ries until 70,000 tons of rock, 40,000 cu- and effective engineers bent all their enbic yards of gravel, 40,000 cubic yards of ergies and employed all the great reclay and 100,000 sacks of sand had been sources at their command in the prosecuhurled into the breach. Meanwhile the tion of this desperate and costly cure, and army of scrapers and teamsters furnished presently the glad cry went up all over 300,000 vards of other material. Two en the southwest that the Colorado had been tire divisions of the railroad did little else conquered and that the Hind dam and during this time than haul material. The the levees were holding fast, and that the freight bills alone are said to have great destroyer again flowed over its amounted to a quarter of a million dol- delta to the Gulf. Land values in the un
· certain valleys again
assumed some stability and it was even said that the Salton Sea would soon be gone.
November had hardly passed, however, when a freshet from the Gila River surged down upon the new works, assaulted in vain the Hind dam, burrowed through nearby dikes and swept victori
ously and irresistibly BRUSH Mat as USED IN BUILDING DAM.
around the end of the
dam. The levee was cut under at once anticipation of the extension of governand the dam weakened at its base. mental assistance at an early session of In one day the river cut its bed down five Congress. His prompt action means feet and a raging granite-shod torrent much, as it is conceded that another two hundred and fifty yards wide and of spring freshet would, unless the dikes are unknown depth flooded the swollen chan- immediately rebuilt, cut down the channels that lead to the lower valleys. The nel of the river to such an extent that the fine silt of the delta that had been baked irrigation system would be useless, and in the sun was seamed by yawning fis- would so enlarge the breach that vast sures, and the first break was from a sums would be required to build an wash from one of these fissures which effective dike. It is estimated that opened below the dike. Beyond lay $25,- $2,000,000 of government money will be 000,000 in property trembling in the bal- needed. ance. The Development company had Steel sheet piling will take the place of played its last card and the harmless cut. the former timber piling and it is probathey had made to save four miles of ble that the old levee line will be foldredging had grown like the calf of the lowed. Meanwhile the governmental conoriental queen until it was no longer a trolling stations near Yuma for the consuitable pet.
trol of the flood waters of the Colorado Senators, representatives, and envoys and Gila are being rushed to completion, of the threatened state appealed to the and it is hoped that the strenuous days of President for Federal aid, and he prompt- the harmless little “Mexican Intake,” ly came to the rescue, asking the railroad which has wrought such disaster, are company to take up the work at once in numbered.