Document type: DU ETD
Collection: Geology Theses  
Title Irrigated Agriculture-The Grand Valley Project, Mesa county Colorado
Author(s) Walker, Paul David
School/Department Department of Geography
Institution University of Denver
Degree Type Master's
Degree Name M.A.
Type of Resource text
Degree Date 1967-12
Digital Origin reformatted digital
Rights Statement All Rights Reserved
Reason for Restrictions No restrictions
Type of Restriction No restrictions
Keyword(s) Geology
Abstract The early history of settlement and agriculture of Grand Valley in Mesa County, Colorado, began following the removal of the Utes from Western Colorado and their relocation on reservations in Eastern Utah in the latter part of 1881. The Grand Valley was, however, visited from time to time by fur trappers and explorers prior to this date. In 1776, an expedition led by Fathers Dominguez and Escalante passed northward across Grand Mesa just to the east of the Grand Junction area.1 A trading post was built by Joseph Roubideau about 1838 just east of the present site of Grand Junction. In 1853, Captain John W. Cunnison, seeking a route for a transcontinental railroad led an exploring party down the Gunnison River Valley past the confluence of the Gunnison and Colorado Rivers and on down the Colorado River Valley.2 Members of the Hayden Survey found only the Ute Indians in the area in 1875 and 1876 and cut short their field season because of skirmishes with the Utes. Following the exit of the Utes in 1881, the Grand Valley was opened for settlement. Immediately following the opening, George A. Crawford founded Grand Junction and fromed the Grand Junction Town Company. The most urgent problem of these early settlers was that of the irrigation of lands so that production of crops for food and the raising of livestock could be realized. The agricultural possibilities of the Grand Valley were considered negligible by members of the early exploration and survey parties. In 1853, E. G. Beckwith described the Grand Valley thus: “ The Valley 20 miles in diameter inclosed by these mountains is quite level and very barren except scattered fields of the greasewood and sage varieties of artemisia—the margins of the Grand (Colorado) and Blue (Gunnison) Rivers affording but a meager supply of grass, cottonwood, and willow.”3 In discussing the agricultural possibilities of a larger part of Western Colorado in 1875, A.C. Peale completely ignored the dry Grand and Lower Gunnison Valleys. “A comparatively small proportion of the country is fitted for agricultural purposes, farming land being confined to the portions of the valleys of the Uncompahgre and Gunnison Rivers and to some small valleys on the upper part of the Dolores and a few of the streams draining the La Sal Mountains.”4 After the Grand Valley was opened to settlement in 1881, it was soon realized that the climate was too arid to grow crops and successfully without irrigation. The solution to this problem began when the first ditch company was organized in 1882 to supply irrigation water from the Colorado River. In March of 1882, work was started on the Pioneer Canal, the forerunner of a number of canals which would be utilized in watering the lands of the Grand Valley. The first large project was the Grand Valley Canal, a privately owned system, constructed in 1883. Ditches were constructed by a number of other companies including the Grand River Ditch Company, the Mesa County Ditch Company, and the Independent Ranchmen’s Association. All of these companies were taken over by the original Grand Valley Irrigation Company. Other irrigation districts in the Grand Valley included the Palisade, Redlands, and Orchard Mesa Irrigation and/or Water Districts. Assistance from the United States Reclamation Service was requested as early as 1902 by local interest. Subsequently, investigations were made by the Reclamation Service. 5 The project was spurred on by the Grand Valley Water Users Association, now the operating organization of the project. This Association was organized and incorporated on February 7, 1905.6 On February 27, 1908, the Grand Valley Project was awarded 732 feet of water to be obtained from the Colorado River.7 Purpose of the Thesis This Grand Valley Project, the largest irrigation project in the Grand Valley, has given the people of the Grand Valley the irrigation potential needed to make this valley a prime agricultural area. Just exactly what the project has accomplished will be discussed in the remainder of the thesis. Along with the added advantages of having water for irrigation are the problems which must be solved. The thesis through statistical material gained from United States Bureau of Reclamation Project Histories will discuss the agricultural advantages brought about by this particular irrigation project. It will also discuss some of the inherent problems brought about by the irrigation of lands throughout the Grand Valley. Without irrigation in the Grand Valley area, it would revert to its nonproductive state as described in some early chronicles already cited. Organization of Remainder of the Thesis The thesis will be organized into seven chapters. The first and second chapters will present the purpose of the thesis and the review of literature pertaining to the subject. Chapter III will consist of general subsections dealing with location, size, land forms, soils, and natural vegetation of the Grand Valley as well as the part transportation facilities play in the present economy of the area. Chapter IV will deal with the early irrigation systems in the Grand Valley and will be a brief resume of those systems constructed so that products of crops and food and the raising of livestock could be realized. Chapter V will deal with the Grand Valley Project in particular and will be a discussion of the United States Bureau of Reclamation’s Project and will include information pertaining to farm incomes, land use, farms, and water flows and use. This chapter will also include methods of irrigation utilized under the Grand Valley Project and some of the problems inherent with these types of irrigation. Chapter VI will discuss the position of agriculture within the economy of the Grand Valley and Mesa County. 1 Baker, James H. (ed.) and Hafen, LeRoy R., History of Colorado, Volume I (Denver: Linderman CO., Inc.), 1927., p. 277. 2 Lohman, S. W., “Geology and Artesian WSater Supply Grand Junction Area Colorado”, Geological Survey Professional Paper 45 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1965), p. 13. 3 Ibid., p.14 4 Peal, A. C., “Geological Report on the Grand River District,” United States Geological Survey Territory Annual Report 9 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1877), p. 33. 5 Bacon, Herbert Lee, “The Peach Industry of the Grand Valley of Colorado,” (unpublished Master’s thesis, The University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado, 1953), p. 18. 6 Ibid., p. 19. 7 Ibid., p. 20.
Attached Files
Name Description MIMEType Size Downloads
du_mas_1967_P_Walker.pdf   du_mas_1967_P_Walker.pdf application/pdf 10.90MB 0

User Comments
Access Statistics: 0 Abstract Views, 0 File Downloads Detailed Statistics
Created: Thu, 08 Apr 2010, 17:52:32 UTC by Rachel Desormes . Detailed History