Early Homesteader’s Quest for Water

By Dean Greenwalt

Water was of primary importance in the success of the early homesteads. Mark Law’s first claim on Juniper Flats was rewarded with historic Rock Springs. He also filed for rights to springs in the canyons above the ranch, providing gravity flow through two separate pipelines into his reservoirs. Albert Miller was second, claiming lower Rock Springs where he built a concrete dam across the creek. Art Nolan sited his ranch in the hidden canyon immediately west. Two springs above the canyon and a narrows at its mouth combined to pool a huge bowl of underground water. Nolan’s concrete tank was gravity fed from the cave spring by a long run of old iron pipe joined with sections of Model T innertube tied with baling wire.

Latecomers were faced with a greater challenge. In her book “Bowen Escapades”, Gertie Bowen relates their struggles. The nearest source of water to Bowen Ranch was down in a canyon 1/4 mile west of the house where a small stream flowed from a spring. They first built a trail down into the canyon and installed a collector box and hand pump. Their old burro “Jip” was outfitted with a pack saddle on which was hung ten gallon buckets to each side. Hauling water was one of the weekend chores assigned to their boys, occasionally to their frustration. Gertie wrote: “Sometimes old Jip was frisky and he would take off across the bushes with pails and water scattering in every direction”.

The Bowens later acquired a trailer for their tractor. Buckets of water carried up the hill and loaded into two barrels on the trailer. The Bowen’s next improvement was to remove the platform body from their Model T and install a 300 gallon tank. They built a road as close to the spring as practical and installed a tank on the hill above the spring, a distance of around 15 yards. The tank had a standpipe to empty into the smaller tank on the Model T. After some years the tank was moved closer to an area used as a campground. Finally a pump was installed with the capacity to lift 162 feet out of the canyon. Gertie wrote: “We felt this was quite an achievement and we were thrilled at having accomplished that much. I will never forget how se sat on the top of that hill anxiously holding our breath as we waited for that trickle of water to come out of that pipe. And WHEN IT DID–Well! Words have no explanation for the feeling of relief we knew at that GLORIOUS moment. Now that may seem insignificant, but to us it was truly a gift from heaven.”

The final improvement was when Warren and Gertie completed the backbreaking task of adding 2500 feet of pipe to connect to a tank above the house. Through a total of 3000 feet of pipe, they were now able to pump all the way to the house. But there was one final hurtle. Gertie wrote: “At first we put in all iron and second hand pipe which, to our sorrow, gave us a lot of trouble. The iron rusted badly and the inside of the pipes became scaley, plugging the pipes as well as the pump. Eventually we had to install all new galvanized pipe all the way through the line. This was very successful and caused less trouble. Who do you think had all this work to do? None but the “BIG CHIEF BOWEN” himself and his spunky Squaw.” Such was the spirit of those early pioneers.


Dean and BanditThis story was written by Dean Greenwalt for the Friends of Juniper Flats Newsletter Spring 2007. It was a huge loss when Dean was killed by a driver involved in a high-speed chase in 2009. Dean was the previous owner of Rock Springs Ranch and although he lived in the city he spent much of his time on the ranch. He also spent time researching the history of the area’s various ranches. We will be reprinting those stories here. Olive Bowen was a member of Friends of Juniper Flats in the early 2000s, but since Dean’s passing we have lost contact. The photos in this article have been added, and although they are not of the exact elements mentioned in the writing, they illustrate some of the difficulties the early settlers faced and some of the solutions. In the early 1900s Arrastre Waterfall probably flowed year round, but that water happened to be in very steep terrain not suitable for homesteading. Here is a photo of the flow in the waterfall as it may have been in the past, but seen less frequently now. (Taken in 2005)33 falls on both side of rocks

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