A Record of a Portion of the Yuma/California Main Canal and the Yuma Valley Railroad

Author(s): Sarah Stringer-Bowsher, M. A.

Year: 2009


The Yuma Irrigation Project (YIP) was an early and essential Reclamation project in the Southwest, and the Yuma/California Main Canal and the Yuma Valley Railroad were important contributors to the success of the YIP and the early development of Yuma, Arizona. Construction on the YIP began shortly after a new federal agency - United States Reclamation Service - had been given authority to reclaim arid and semi-arid lands in the West in 1902. In only a couple of decades, the YIP infrastructure founded the transformation of desert into productive agricultural land as settlers, owners, and tenants realized the opportunities a stable water supply provided.

Engineers designed the YIP as a series of structures and facilities that aided in controlling and directing water from the Colorado River to project lands for cultivation. Originally the Laguna Dam diverted water from the Colorado River and two main canals - Yuma/California Main Canal and the Arizona Main Canal- conveyed it to laterals that then delivered the water to water users. Levees provided protective support of the newly created water works system as an elaborate network of berms constructed as important buffers to safeguard the nascent farmlands from flooding. Armoring the levees with rock riprap secured the soil-based levees and prevented water seepage during the flood season. Construction of the Yuma Valley Railroad atop the Yuma Valley Levee secured the berm with the placement of compacted riprap for the railroad bed. The railroad also transported project materials, passengers, and settlers' freight.

Reclamation completed the Yuma Valley Levee in 1911, finished the Yuma/California Main Canal in July 1912, and concluded construction on the Yuma Valley Railroad in 1916. By 1920, the Reclamation Service had produced a viable water project that encompassed the greater Yuma area. While the Yuma/California Main Canal and the Yuma Valley Railroad parallel one another in the project area, the structures were not constructed as the same project. Both aided in the operation of the YIP, but each provided a different function. The canal conveyed water to the East and West Main Canals that served the Valley Division, the Yuma Valley Levee protected the farmlands, and the Yuma Valley Railroad strengthened the Yuma Valley Levee with rock armament and provided transportation. Both the Yuma/California Main Canal and Yuma Valley Railroad were essential infrastructure to the YIP as a pivotal water project that laid the foundation for growth in the Yuma area.

Cite this Record

A Record of a Portion of the Yuma/California Main Canal and the Yuma Valley Railroad. Sarah Stringer-Bowsher, M. A.. Carlsbad, CA: Asm Affiliates, Inc. 2009 ( tDAR id: 399250) ; doi:10.6067/XCV8K0763W

This Resource is Part of the Following Collections

Temporal Coverage

Calendar Date: 1912 to 1914 (Dates of construction of the Yuma/California Main Canal segment and Yuma Valley Railroad segment in the project area.)

Spatial Coverage

min long: -114.636; min lat: 32.711 ; max long: -114.597; max lat: 32.734 ;

Individual & Institutional Roles

Contact(s): Arizona State Parks

Contributor(s): Chris Wray

Project Director(s): Jerry Schaefer, Ph.D.

Landowner(s): U. S. D. I. Bureau of Reclamation

Prepared By(s): ASM Affiliates, Inc.

Submitted To(s): Principle Engineering Group, Inc.

File Information

  Name Size Creation Date Date Uploaded Access
A-record-of-a-portion-of-the-Yuma-California-and-Yuma-Railroad... 9.65mb Jul 1, 2009 Feb 24, 2016 11:53:41 AM Public
Text on page 2 and Figures 1-3 have been redacted in this file.
A-record-of-a-portion-of-the-Yuma-California-and-Yuma-Railroad... 8.95mb Jul 1, 2009 Sep 14, 2015 9:37:24 AM Confidential
This file is unredacted.

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Contact(s): Arizona State Parks