In 19th century America, a few lucky men of vision found rich fields for their dreams. And so it was on the Snake River Plain. The water was available, running deep in the Snake River Canyon, but means did not exist for getting the waters onto the lands. A man of vision, I.B. Perrine moved from his native Indiana to southern Idaho in the late 1800s and began farming operations in the canyon of the Snake River just downstream from Shoshone Falls at Blue Lakes. Perrine planned an irrigation project that would cover 500,000 acres by taking water from the Snake River at a point then known as "The Cedars." In 1900, Perrine incorporated the Twin Falls Land and Water Company, filed notice with the State of Idaho for the diversion of water on both the north and south sides of the Snake River, contracted with the State of Idaho to develop 270,000 acres under the new Carey Act which set up procedures for private enterprise to develop irrigated tracts, and began to sell land and water rights.
|Farm workers pause from labor of "bucking spuds"hand picking up and sacking potatoes, fall, mid 1930s, on the Snake River Plain probably between Blackfoot and American Falls. The tractor-pulled potato-digger (right) scooped up soil and potatoes. On the left is a similar but horse-drawn plow. Potato sacks were attached to one's belt, and drawn between the legs as the harvester leaned over and tossed potatoes into the sacks. This was hard work. Potato prices were controlled by outside forces, and so the farmer found himself the victim of external economics. The situation is not much different today. Before the development of controlled atmosphere insulated buildings where potatoes are now stored in bulk , potatoes were stored in dug-out cellars, waiting for the best price on the market. A hay derrick is in the right background, with the haystack in the center. The hay was not baled, but piled in great piles, which were gradually moved to the feeding areas where livestock was kept. Note the well-dressed woman leaning on her shiny car in the left background. She has not been harvesting with the rest of the crew. Photograph by Cook Photography, Bannock County Historical Society Collection.|
A dam to effect the diversion of the waters was completed by 1905 and named for Stanley Milner, a business man from Salt Lake City, who loaned $30,000 towards the project. Water was sent first to the Twin Falls Tract on the south side of the Snake River through a canal 10 feet deep and 80 feet wide at the bottom and 120 feet at the top. Later canals were built on the north side of the Snake to irrigate the 185,000 acre North Side Tract (lovin, 1985). The Magic Valley was born.
Above Milner Dam, the first Federal water project under the National Reclamation Act of 1902 established Minidoka Dam which watered 120,000 acres on both sides of the Snake. Finished in 1907, lands were irrigated around the new communities of Heyburn, Paul, Acequia and Rupert.
The Twin Falls project, North Side Project, and Minidoka Dam were the first examples in the United States of irrigation waters provided by the U. S. Reclamation Service being merged with private and state water resources to develop huge irrigated tracts.As part of the Minidoka Project, Jackson Lake Dam was constructed in 1905 on the Snake River opposite the Grand Teton at Moran, Wyoming. Originally a small log dam, which was washed out by high water two years later, it was rebuilt several times more before being built as a concrete structure in 1916. This dam had to be strengthened in the late 1980s because of structural weakness and concern about earthquake damage. In order to be assured of water in dry years, the North Side Tract secured access to 322,000 acre-feet of water stored behind Jackson Lake Dam.