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Photograph albums documenting diversion of the Colorado River and creation of the Salton Sea, 1900-1911
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Collection Overview
 
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Description
Two albums of photographs documenting the California Development Company's project to construct a system of canals to divert water from the Colorado River for irrigation of the Imperial Valley, the subsequent breaks in the levees, and the flooding between 1905 and 1907 of the Salton Basin which resulted in the creation of the Salton Sea.
Background
The California Development Company was formed in 1896 by Charles R. Rockwood, who planned to convert the Imperial Valley desert into an agricultural oasis. Between 1900 and 1902, canals were constructed under the supervision of George Chaffey, water flowed into the Valley regulated by a wooden head gate, and thousands of new settlers arrived, and began cultivating fruits and vegetables. However, the waters of the Colorado River contained large amounts of silt, which soon interfered with delivery of irrigation to farmers, and blocked the head gate. Financially strapped, and unable to buy dredges to unclog the canals, the California Development Company began cutting a new intake from the river in summer 1904 at an unregulated point four miles south of the U.S.-Mexican border, even though they had no authority to construct a control gate there. The Colorado River flooded three times during the winter of 1905, and by March waters had broken through the dikes and were pouring into the Salton Basin at a rate of 90,000 cubic feet per second. Valuable farmland was washed away, part of the Inter-California Railroad was under water, the towns of Calexico and Mexicali were in jeopardy, and the Southern Pacific Railroad's main line from Los Angeles to Yuma was threatened. During the next two years, the Company made five attempts to control the river with no success. Finally the Southern Pacific Railroad, under the direction of E.H. Harriman, intervened in April 1906, loaning the Development Company more than $1 million, and bringing in civil engineer Epes Randolph to oversee the repair of the levees. The breach was not finally closed until January 1907.
Extent
2 albums (1147 photographic prints on 371 leaves) : b&w, cyanotype ; 26 x 38 cm (albums)
Restrictions
Property rights to the physical object belong to the UC Regents. Literary rights, including copyright, are retained by the creators and their heirs. It is the responsibility of the researcher to determine who holds the copyright and pursue the copyright owner or his or her heir for permission to publish where The UC Regents do not hold the copyright.
Availability
COLLECTION STORED OFF-SITE AT SRLF: Open for research. All requests to access special collections materials must be made in advance through our electronic paging system using the request button located on this page.