I Wonder: Why is there a New York Canal in Idaho?

I Wonder: Why is there a New York Canal in Idaho?

Credit: Courtesy Bureau of Reclamation

Diversion Dam along Highway 21 on the Boise River diverts water into the New York Canal, which brings life to much of Ada and Canyon Counties.

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by Don Day
KTVB.COM

KTVB.COM

Posted on February 24, 2010 at 4:51 PM

Updated Friday, Feb 26 at 10:38 AM

How did the NY Canal get its name?
Bella & Tina Zito, Boise

The Boise Valley is technically an arid desert region – home to sagebrush and tumbleweeds. But the dry, brown landscapes are mixed with lush, green patches and ample farmland.

Much of the valley springs to life thanks to the help of a series of ditches and canals – with the largest being the New York Canal. It siphons water from the Boise River at the Diversion Dam and spawns a vast network of other canals and ditches. The water helps keep lawns green – and more importantly, provides irrigation for vast patches of farmland.

How did a waterway so vital to Idaho end up with “New York” in its name? Instead of following the water flow to solve the riddle – we followed the money instead.

The Idaho State Historical Society pulled together the story of the canal in a 1972 reference series article. After the 1862 gold rush in the Boise Basin, farmers quickly started snapping up land along the Boise River. By 1864, all of the land that could be directly served from the river was in use, and small canals started popping up to increase available space for farming.

In 1882, a group of investors went in search of a “promising opportunity for large scale investment,” and landed on a massive project to build a canal system in the Greater Boise area. The idea was to provide irrigation to 500,000 acres of land – more than 780 square miles.

The huge investment by that group of investors got the project on its feet – and naturally, the canal’s name was derived from them. Since the investors were from New York – it made sense to label the waterway after their home state.

It took nearly 30 years to get to the final goal – and in 1909, thousands gathered to watch water flow into the New York Canal – destined for Lake Lowell near Caldwell.
Next week: How does our "mixed" recycling get sorted?

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