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Montrose in Montrose County, Colorado — The American Mountains (Southwest)
 

Early Irrigation in the Uncompahgre Valley

A Landscape Transformed

 
 
Early Irrigation in the Uncompahgre Valley Marker image. Click for full size.
By William Fischer, Jr., October 12, 2020
1. Early Irrigation in the Uncompahgre Valley Marker
Inscription.  

Early Irrigation in the Uncompahgre Valley
In the late 1800s, local irrigation companies constructed canals and ditches to divert water from the Uncompahgre River for farming and City use. Water was scarce and there was not enough for City residents and all the farmers. Spring floods and low summer flows made the early canals unpredictable. A more reliable source of water was needed.

The Gunnison Tunnel
As early as the 1890s, farmers began looking at ways to bring water from the Gunnison River into the Uncompahgre Valley, but the Black Canyon provided an almost insurmountable barrier. After some false starts, the Uncompahgre Project began. It was one of the first government-funded irrigation projects in the country and resulted in the 5.8-mile-long Gunnison Tunnel, which brought water to the valley. Its opening on September 23, 1909 was presided over by President William H. Taft, demonstrating its importance to both the Uncompahgre Valley and the nation.

Expansion of Irrigation
After the Gunnison Tunnel was complete, large-volume canals and lateral ditches were built to transport water from the

Early Irrigation in the Uncompahgre Valley Marker image. Click for full size.
By William Fischer, Jr., October 12, 2020
2. Early Irrigation in the Uncompahgre Valley Marker
The Supply Ditch is just beyond the fence
tunnel throughout the Uncompahgre Valley. By about 1920, a system of 438 miles of canals had been constructed to distribute water to nearly 73,600 acres of agricultural land. These canals continue to be used today and are critical to the agricultural success of the area.

[Bottom left yellow box reads]
You are standing at the Supply Ditch, which was constructed in 1882 to divert water from the Uncompahgre River. This ditch is just one of many constructed in the Uncompahgre Valley and was critical to early settlement. It now takes its water from Dry Cedar Creek.

[Photo captions in right side yellow box read]
• A large community of industrial workers constructed the East Portal of the Gunnison Tunnel within the Black Canyon of the Gunnison from 1905-1909.

• President Taft oversees the official opening of the Gunnison Tunnel at the West Portal in 1909. The South Canal, shown above, carries water from the Gunnison Tunnel to the Uncompahgre River for distribution throughout the valley.

[Other photo captions, from left to right, read]
• Threshing wheat near Delta in the early 1900s.

• The South Canal is the primary canal of the Uncompahgre Project.

• Sugar beets (pictured above) were one of the crops grown historically in the Uncompahgre Valley.

• A typical farm in the Uncompahgre Valley photographed by the

Early Irrigation in the Uncompahgre Valley Marker image. Click for full size.
By William Fischer, Jr., October 12, 2020
3. Early Irrigation in the Uncompahgre Valley Marker
Looking east
U.S. Reclamation Service in about 1910.
 
Erected by City of Montrose.
 
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: AgricultureCharity & Public WorkSettlements & SettlersWaterways & Vessels.
 
Location. 38° 27.288′ N, 107° 52.213′ W. Marker is in Montrose, Colorado, in Montrose County. Marker is along the GOCO Connect Initiative Trail, 0.2 miles west of the intersection of Townsend Avenue (US 550) and Odelle Road. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Montrose CO 81401, United States of America. Touch for directions.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 2 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. The Dominguez-Escalante Expedition / Dominguez-Escalante Country (approx. 1.3 miles away); Pageant in the Wilderness (approx. 1.3 miles away); Building An Empire: The Spanish Frontier (approx. 1.3 miles away); So Bold, So Beautiful a Land (approx. 1.3 miles away); In Behalf of the Light (approx. 1.3 miles away); The Utes / Uncompahgre River Country / Ouray (1833-1880) / Chipeta (1843-1924) (approx. 1.4 miles away); Montrose County Jail (approx. 1.6 miles away); Instrument of Surrender (approx. 1.6 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Montrose.
 
Also see . . .
1. Uncompahgre Project (Gunnison River Basin). (Submitted on October 30, 2020, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.)
2. The First Five: A Brief History of the Uncompahgre Project (Gunnison)
The Supply Ditch Near the Early Irrigation in the Uncompahgre Valley Marker image. Click for full size.
By William Fischer, Jr., October 12, 2020
4. The Supply Ditch Near the Early Irrigation in the Uncompahgre Valley Marker
. (Submitted on October 30, 2020, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.)
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on October 31, 2020. It was originally submitted on October 30, 2020, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania. This page has been viewed 46 times since then and 5 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4. submitted on October 30, 2020, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.
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Mar. 8, 2021