"The Miracle of Water and the Beginning of Idaho's Magic Valley"
Magic in the Desert
Here, at the Hansen Overlook, you are in the heart of Idaho's Magic Valley. Once this valley was a dry sagebrush covered desert. Water from the Snake River magically transformed the desert seemingly overnight into one of Idaho's most productive farmlands.
Ira Burton Perrine (I.B. Perrine) is recognized as being the first to propose diverting Snake River water into canals for irrigation. His visionary thinking eventually made the desert bloom where rich volcanic soil produced abundant crops where dry sagebrush once grew.
In 1894, the Carey Land Act, named for Wyoming Senator Joseph Carey, provided a fixed amount of desert land owned by the U.S. Federal Government to be turned over to western states under the condition that the land be developed for irrigation. In October 1900, I.B. Perrine along with other investors submitted a formal irrigation proposal and an application under the Carey Act to bring Snake River water to 248,000 acres of land.
The Day Shoshone Falls Went Dry
On March 1, 1905, Idaho history was recorded when officials met on the newly completed Milner Dam to close the outlet gates. Ira Perrine watched from the sideline alongside 2,000 other people as his irrigation dream of many years unfolded. Late that afternoon, Shoshone Falls, thirty miles away, in an epic sight went nearly dry for the first time. The following day, canal gates were opened allowing the first irrigation water to flow. A bottle of champagne was poured in the canal in a ceremony that signaled the beginning of hope and prosperity for the new land that was named the Twin Falls Tract.
Sagebrush, Dust & Snakes
A provision in the Carey Act required the early landowners to "prove up" the land by establishing residence within six months and to have a small portion cleared and cultivated within a year. Proving up the land ready for crop planting was extremely difficult. Sagebrush ranging from one to five feet in height had to be removed in a process known as grubbing. Grubbing the sagebrush and clearing the land pushed dust clouds into the air. Dishes had to be stored upside down in homes that were merely tents, shacks or lean-tos. Water was scarce and had to be carried many miles from distant creeks. And rattlesnakes up to five-feet in length were everywhere.
Land, Land, Land! 50 cents an Acre
In July 1903, the Twin Falls Tract offered 60,000 acres. A settler could purchase farmland at 50 cents per acre up to 160 acres. Each settler also had to purchase water shares from the canal company at $25.00 per acre. In the end, the settlers could buy farmland at $3.25 an acre.