Water: Wyoming’s Liquid Gold
With the Upper North Platte River nearly dry as it flows through Saratoga, it seems appropriate to again spread a “Postcard” concerning irrigation.
Be it early 1900 or today, without Wyoming’s most precious possession – water – agriculture is dead and gone, along with everything else. When our forefathers were urging settlers to migrate West, water was used to lure them here.
Here’s how Wyoming’s liquid gold was plied as bait in an early 1900 prospectus book.
In a previous “Postcard,” it was reported, “The ‘irrigation farmer’ enjoys all kinds of advantages over the ‘rain farmer.’ He never fears the drought. He never scans the skies when his fields are thirsty. He does not need to depend on the spring and summer rains to bring forth his crops. He knows up in the deep canyons of the surrounding mountains, are stored the snow and ice which feeds the streams he owns.”
The article continues, “Thus, when his fields are thirsty, he can easily give them drink, and so he plants with confidence and reaps with profit. He never asks for rain, not even to cool the air, as there are no humid summers here.”
“Where irrigation prevails, the growing crops receive their moisture when it is most needed and just the right quantity to insure perfect development. The yield per acre far exceeds that of the ‘rain farming region,’ and rust, smut and blight are unknown.”
“This land under irrigation is capable of a wonderful yield. A country where can be raised 50 bushels of wheat per acre, 60 bushels of barley and 80 bushels of oats . . . and 400 bushels of potatoes per acre, with native hay and alfalfa running from two-and-one-half to five tons per acre, can certainly be called wonderful.”
“Under irrigation, beside crops, all kinds of vegetables and fruit grow to perfection, and in the foot-hills and on the mountain sides where farming is impracticable, livestock is pastured summer and winter without shelter. It is a free range.”
“The growing of alfalfa has become quite an important industry during the past few years in this part of the country. The yield is about four tons per acre, and many carloads are shipped out of the valley, besides that which is consumed at home by being fed to livestock. In the eastern market, there is a very large demand for alfalfa, and this is one of the conditions which makes irrigated land so valuable and in constant demand.”
The book noted, “Not only is the water of the North Platte River and its many tributaries which course through this section about which we are writing, available for irrigation purposes, but it is fast being harnessed for power purposes.”
But then, that’s another story.