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The Virgin River and the Virgin Valley, circa 1945





1945 (year approximate)


Discussion of changes to the Virgin River bed and irrigation works around Beaver Dam Wash in Arizona and Bunkerville in Nevada.

Digital ID


Physical Identifier

Box 4 Folder 49 Irrigation Project for Southern Nevada - Moapa and Virgin Valleys 1927-1945


hln000614. John Wittwer Collection on Agriculture in Nevada, 1898-1972. MS-00181. Special Collections and Archives, University Libraries, University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Las Vegas, Nevada.


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Manual transcription





The Virgin River and the Virgin Valley by Jas. S. Abbott, Bunkerville I have often been told by people who knew that prior to 1861 the Virgin River, a clear stream, meandered down the valley through willows and grassy banks, and there were some families lived at the Beaver Dams and in the year 1861 a flood swept down the Beaver Dam Wash and washed away much of their land and they were obliged to leave and the channel of the river was widened from a creek (that it was said could be jumped in places) to a channel 30 to 50 feet wide, and the willows were mostly washed away but the green grassy flats remained and in 1877 when the town of Bunkerville was settled the river run clear and had fish in it. There was, however, much quick sand. At about the point where our present dam is the river swung in a circle to the south bank where it met hard formation which turned it north again forming a "U". At this point we built our brush and rock dam and pieced the head of our canal. The river was only 3 or 4 rods wide here and easily controlled. The head of our canal remained at this point for 15 or 20 years. Our expenses were very light. The year 1881 brought some bad floods which widened the river slightly and gave us much trouble and expense. The greatest damage as a result of the side floods that washed our canal almost completely away this runoff was mostly caused by cattle tracks that had been formed on the benches and the destruction of vegetation. This storm and floods extended to both sides of the river and many of the people who had begun the settlement of Mesquite were discouraged and left. The sheep and cattle trails and the denuded ranges of Southern Utah often sent in floods, and constantly the river banks were chafed away and lands adjoining began moving down the river. And it was said a man deed could not hold his lands. As the years rolled by more cattle and sheep and less vegetation sent us down some terrible floods and for a time it looked as though all -2- our lands and our towns would be washed away. Hundreds of acres of very valuable lands were carried away and the river widened to its present width at places, many hundreds of feet, and the grass along the river was completely gone. No feed for the cattle where at an earlier date, fat cattle and steers could be picked up at any time of the year. There was at the time of our arrival in 1877 much feed and billions of flowers on the benches and the hills, and the mountains. The maintenance expense on our canal was at one time from 25cents to 75cents an acre. Later on amount of the floods cost as much as $12.00 to $15.00 per acre. By proper control of floods and conservation of water and channeling of the river all the lands washed away could be restored as valuable pasture lands. And the heavy maintenance of our Irrigation canals, the value of our lands would be enhanced.