6. AGRICULTURAL LANDS.
The amount of agricultural land in Owen's River Valley is limited at present by the facilities for irrigation. In consequence of the river's course being in soft alkali soil through the middle and lowest part of the valley, its bed has sunk so far below the surface of the ground that its waters are not available for irrigation, except near its source. The small streams that rise high in the mountains, and flow down and across the valley, are thoroughly utilized, and it is to them that this region owes its importance, agriculturally speaking. Below the lake the valley is a barren desert, and, with but one or two exceptions, there is no land available for cultivation.
Passing east, the same general character obtains until the Cottonwood Springs are reached, where the Indians cultivate a few acres, raising pumpkins, melons, and corn. No white man has deemed this place as affording sufficient prospects of success to justify even his settling there for any time. About the Vegas Springs two ranches have been located recently, with good success to the settlers. Considerably more might be taken up were the supply of water more extensive. In addition to what was under cultivation at the Vegas ranch in 1869, about 80 acres may be mentioned as having been planted during the last year, but the proprietors state that the supply of water would be insufficient for any more. Peach-trees have been started here and are stated to produce finely.
The amount of land available on the Muddy and Virgin Rivers has already been estimated by yourself, and it is probable that a considerable deduction for the extent actually under cultivation at present should be made, since the Mormons, who were compelled to utilize every foot of ground that could be irrigated to support their surplus population, have abandoned the country.
In the vicinity of Saint George there are about 2,000 acres under cultivation, all that can be irrigated, in fact. A project was started, some years ago, to change the course of the Virgin River, and by carrying it, with a slight fall, higher up toward the table-lands, open up a vast extent of
There are quite a number of small, scattering towns near Saint George, but I am unable to state aught with regard to their facilities for agriculture; only those in the immediate vicinity are included in the above estimate.
From Saint George to Chino Valley, north of Prescott, only a few Indian farms were seen; those may consist of from twenty to two hundred hills of corn, a few pumpkin-vines, melons, and squashes; they do not, as a general thing, average much more, and what they do produce is, for the most part, eaten before reaching maturity.
The next arable land met with was in the Agua Fria Valley, the principal ranch being that of Mr. Bowers. I should judge that from 1,500 to 2,000 acres are here cultivated. Corn is mainly the staple product.
The Gila bottom can be cultivated throughout when the supply of water obtainable front the river is sufficiently great. A broad strip on each side of the river has been taken up by farmers, and from three miles above Florence to Maricopa Wells the country is being utilized; the principal product now is barley, in consequence of the large amount required at the various military posts throughout the country. At the Pima villages (Indian reservation) a considerable quantity of wheat is annually produced. At Gila Bend a large irrigation ditch, fifteen miles in length, is being taken out, and, when completed, will open up a large tract of valuable land. At Phnix, on the Salt River, about 10,000 acres are under cultivation, and here companies have been formed to construct proper ditches, &c. The lands along the rivers produce very large crops of barley; and the markets are generally good.
All, or nearly all, this region was formerly cultivated by a race which has entirely disappeared from the country. This is shown by the ruins of vast acequias located, in some instances, where farmers of the present day have never thought of going. At Phnix, where the irrigation ditches are on a very extensive scale for modern enterprise, I have seen the ruins of a vast canal three or four miles outside of any that have yet been attempted in this vicinity. A project is on foot, however, to open up the old acequia, and when this is done a large extent of country will be opened up, giving ample security for success to many more settlers.
Growths of mesquit have sprung up since the former inhabitants left this country, in some places forming impenetrable barriers for miles along the rivers; these having been cleared away, the ground, in all cases, is found prepared for irrigation, perfectly smooth, with the slopes properly arranged.