This image may not look like much, but it represents an important part of the agricultural history of the valley. To a great extent Hood River owes its prosperity to the system of irrigation canals constructed early last century to keep the fruit orchards well-watered through our long, hot summers. Lois Peironnet visited the headgate of the Middle Fork irrigation canal in 1914 and captured this image. Please add your personal knowledge of the history of our irrigation districts.
Yes, it may not look like much, but those little wooden boxes are the life and blood of some communities.
They cause neighbors to threaten each other. They cause conniving within a family to sell the shares to that box. They cause old farmers to sneak out in the middle of the night and switch the boards around. And they cause a community effort to pay a fee and work together to make sure they stay healthy and run correctly.
And when the mountain has a low snow year, those wooden boxes are very unhappy.
l.e. on 29th May 2013 @ 7:20am
And the man in the picture to the far right? Any idea who he is?
connie on 29th May 2013 @ 8:48am
Thanks for the much-needed perspective. Hood River sure wouldn't be what it is today without irrigation canals. Canals, irrigation, canneries, transport. Neat historical tapestry we have here.
Scott Cook on 29th May 2013 @ 10:04am
I.e. you left out ditch digging, and cleaning, moving rocks by the tons, in the summer, to make a better flowing stream. Oh those open ditches, they were my curse. The grass and garbage in the screens, the apple's or pears, plugging the old pipes. But mostly it was the grass, the unending grass, clogging the screens and overflowing the boxes. Yes I truly miss all of that, "sarcasm." Now I walk into my garage and flip a switch, my underground system, which is pressurized, comes on at four in the morning, and lightly waters my garden. Efficient and water saving. Hurray for modern inventions!!! Thank you Hood River County, for burying and pressurizing the system.
And yes we had one of those sneaking old farmers, who would switch our line to his, but I will not name names. He was not fun to encounter, yet I was sent to change it back, and often felt in peril of my life. Kids nowadays, have no idea the fun they are missing out on, because of those dear old ditches, and boxes. lol
Lesa on 29th May 2013 @ 12:09pm
I forgot the summer fun of moving irrigation pipe. The endless miles of metal irrigation pipe. I carried a stiff, bent piece of wire, to pick the clogs out of the sprinkler heads. Yes I truly miss that, every few hours, all day long, moving endless miles of sprinkler pipe.
Lesa on 29th May 2013 @ 12:15pm
Wet gloves, muddy shovels, and tall rubber boots. These are the tools of the gender equality farmer. On our farm, we girls were truly, equal. ha ha ha
Lesa on 29th May 2013 @ 12:21pm
Connie.....I think that ghost of a man is sneaking over to move boards around and steal water.
Lesa....Not only was there the back breaking work of digging shovels full of grass sod out of the ditches, but I had to stand on top of that rickety framed box and try and pull the wooden gate up or shove it down. It was always swollen from the water and never wanted to slide easily.
If you got it crooked, then you were in a real "jam" trying to move it up or down.
The box in the photo looks like it is a "Division box".
l.e. on 29th May 2013 @ 1:12pm
I will never forget the summer my Dad and I were working on clearing the sod from the edge of a ditch. He dug into an ants nest without knowing. The first I knew of it was when Dad suddenly divested himself of his jeans, and dove into the ditch. I laughed near to bust, until he made me take his jeans and shake the ants out, while he stood dripping in the ditch. It was a hot day, and I began to envy him.
Lesa on 29th May 2013 @ 1:21pm
There used to be a really nice, system of gates, and boxes, and such on Indian Creek, behind Down Manner. When I was in high school we used to cross the creek on a metal walkway attached to it. It was damaged by flood and falling tree's, fell into disrepair, and was abandoned. I watched them hoist it all out of the creek a few years ago, with a helicopter. How I wish I had taken pictures of it, when I was a kid, before it was ruined.
Lesa on 29th May 2013 @ 1:41pm
Lesa; that was a diversion dam that sent water down a open canal to a spot near Union Street where it went in a wooden pipe following along the top of Indian Creek canyon to what is now Wilson Park, which was once a reservoir, there it then went underground to the Union Building downtown.
Jim Gray on 29th May 2013 @ 5:00pm
While we didn't have miles of irrigation pipe, we had enough and yes, Lesa, one had to pack a wire to clear that damn silt out of the clogged sprinkler heads. LOTS of silt....maybe because our place on Belmont was close to the end of the line. Don't remember any dry years but then we were only there from 1948 to 1960....Never thought to find out where the water came from or how we paid for it.....
Arlen Sheldrake on 29th May 2013 @ 6:56pm
Here is a history of the Middle Fork Irrigation Company:
Jeffrey Bryant on 29th May 2013 @ 9:00pm
The ditch in Pine Grove was a breeding ground for poison oak. To get to our water box the path went right up through it. Those that were the ones who usually got the stuff were sometimes exempt. Farm kids definitely knew what a piece of wire was for in the 50's......Nothing like a cool morning and getting blasted first thing by a Rainbird sprinkler to get you awake.
charlott on 30th May 2013 @ 7:11am
East Fork ditch in Pine Grove was a wonderful place on a hot summers day. One with their inner tube could float for miles. Ofcourse you would come to a bridge, have to transport yourself and tube over before you could start cruising along once more. Illegal to do that now........darn it, or believe me I would still float along. My aunt in her 60's used to have my uncle haul her way up the ditch and she would leisurely float along until she got home, as she lived right on the ditch. She was the one that introduced me to ditch floating when I was maybe 6 years old.
charlott on 31st May 2013 @ 6:02am