In December of 1888, Thomas P. Cottam and Thomas Judd made a preliminary survey to determine the probable cost of a canal. Early in 1889, Isaac C. MacFarlane made a working survey, and work was started as soon as his survey was completed.
In June of 1889, the La Verkin Fruit and Nursery Company was incorporated to establish nurseries, orchards, and vineyards and to promote fruit raising, stock raising and general farming, all of which would be benefited by the canal.
The building of this canal was difficult. The canal leaves the Virgin River on the north side about two and one-half miles above the La Verkin hot springs and follows along the precipitous canyon walls for about a mile and a half. The ditch then enters a tunnel through the mountains for about nine hundred feet opening out upon the La Verkin bench. Because most of the canal is built in the rocks, the builders felt it was completely secure.
The first years were difficult because the patches of gypsum in the rocks in the ditch constantly melted away, both in the canyon and in the tunnel. Lack of water when it was most needed threatened to make the project a complete loss. Leaks were plugged with rocks and then "pulled" with dirt. Cotton lint from the Washington Factory, straw, and bagasse were used without much success. Finally the worst places were flumed with lumber, and water became more certain. Water was vital to the western pioneers. The La Verkin canal was an extremely difficult, but successful, solution to this problem.