Irrigation development in Cache Valley has been typical of all the older irrigated sections in Utah. There was no machinery of any of the modern ditch building devices. Plows were scarce and only a limited number of shovels constituted the chief implements of ditch building. It was for this reason that the more easily constructed ditches and canals were first taken out. This resulted in the low lying lands being first brought under ditch and the development of the bench lands postponed to a later period.
As previously stated, the streams and springs of the Valley and their utilization have determined to a great extent the location of the settlements and their growth in wealth and population. Irrigation water was always one of the first and most important problems for every settlement.
In Logan, the first irrigation ditch was made during the first summer of the settlement —1859— when David Reese, Abraham Caldwell, Sidney Dibble, and Griffith Charles and others of that company made a small irrigation ditch and took the water from Logan River to water their gardens. Their gardens and small tracts of land were located in the present Eighth and upper part of the Seventh Wards on what is known as the Island.
In the early spring of 1860, the attention of the entire settlement was directed to making a canal that would bring the water from Logan River onto the plateau where the village was and irrigate the gardens and farmland. This was a serious problem and had to be accomplished otherwise the settlement would have to be abandoned. The interest of every family, therefore, centered around this proposed canal and all were determined to make it a success.
The head of the ditch now known as the Logan-Hyde Park Canal, was located on the Logan River near the present meeting house of the Eight Ward. Across the river basin and around the north hillside, the ditch was dug by handwork and was difficult construction as it all had to be done by pick and shovel and these were crude implements and not many of them. After getting the canal around the north rim of the river basin by the present site of the Deseret Mill and where it extends north near the present residence of Mr. George W. Thatcher, a “Go-Devil” was used and good progress was made. This implement consisted of heavy timber made in the shape of a triangle, similar to the snow plows used to clear the sidewalks in winter time. This was heavily loaded with men and several yoke of oxen were hitched to it and pulled it along and the loose dirt was pushed to the side and helped to make the banks for the canal. This canal also meant much to the settlers at Hyde Park and they helped to construct it so they could get water to irrigate their small tracts of land and gardens.
May 18th, 1860, the canal was completed and water was brought into the settlement. The settlers were much pleased with their efforts as the water insured them of good crops. On the side hill the canal gave considerable trouble with washouts, until its banks were set. For culinary purposes the settlers carried their water from the Little Logan River to the south and from the canal. Later wells were dug and furnished most of the water for this purpose.
In April 1865, work was commenced on the Logan-Richmond Canal. By this time many new colonists had arrived in the Valley and of course the demand for irrigation water to bring more land under irrigation, became greater, especially in those settlements located on the smaller streams. This canal was headed in the Logan River basin in the upper part of the Eighth Ward just below the present State power dam, and extended from the north rim of the basin to just below the Agricultural College hill and went north to Hyde Park, Smithfield and lower Richmond.
This canal was more difficult to construct than the first one, as it extended farther around the rim of the basin, but by that time there were more workers and they had better ditch building implements. The canal brought many more acres under irrigation and helped materially to increase the wealth and population of the settlements. By June the water was in the canal to Hyde Park.
Later the settlers realized that the soil of the uplands or east bench, was rich and with irrigation, abundant crops could be raised. The soils are alluvial and were deposited during the old lake stage when Cache Valley was included in the old Lake Bonneville area. These deposits were enriched by deposits brought in by the several creeks and rivers. After the lake subsided, the creeks and rivers further modified the soil distribution, especially on the east side by cutting through the old beach line, depositing and redistributing this material farther out on the old lake bed.
As more settlers arrived and land was taken up, the demand for irrigation water naturally increased and each time it became more difficult to obtain and likewise more valuable. Mr. Thomas Ricks, who had had considerable experience in railroad construction along with others, conceived the idea of constructing a canal on the north mountainside of Logan Canyon and bringing the water on to the uplands. A number of people in Logan, North Logan, Hyde Park, Smithfield and Richmond were much interested in the project and it was commenced. Its source was about one mile up the canyon on the Logan River. It was a difficult piece of construction because of so much rockwork and tunneling on the mountainside. Also, because of the length of the canal, washouts were frequent and many became discouraged and predicted the project a failure. Thomas Ricks and other would not give up, as they had faith in the project, and especially Ricks who expended all the money he had in trying to complete the ditch. It was finally completed and hundreds of acres of land were brought under it and where it extended the settlements rapidly increased in population and wealth.
The people who settled at Benson and those in the west fields of Logan needed irrigation water badly, so the Millrace was tapped at the old site of the Anderson Lumber Mill and a canal was constructed along Fourth West Street through the city and north fields and into the upper part of Benson. The water from the various mill sites combined with the Little Logan, were appropriated by settlers in the west field and lower Benson.
With the network of canals and power sites from Logan River it has become one of the great factors in the development of Logan and Cache Valley. Already plans are being considered for the construction of a large storage dam in the upper part of the canyon where the flood waters will be stored and hundreds of acres of land brought under irrigation and others supplied with more water.