Ditches across the desert: a story of irrigation along New Mexico's Pecos River



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Texas Tech University


Settlement of the West came slowly, based on advances in technology and the harnessing of nature, especially water. In the arid environment of New Mexico's Pecos Valley, the exploitation of available water resources, combined with corporate accumulation of land through manipulation of federal land laws, led to speculation and development in the frontier region of southeast New Mexico.

This dissertation traces that development, beginning in the late 1870s, and examines subsequent events in the Pecos Valley until 1925. First used as open range for cattle grazing, the Pecos Valley became the scene of ever more ambitious plans to establish an agricultural mecca based on irrigation and funded by wealthy investors from Chicago, New York, Colorado Springs, and Europe. Following a natural disaster and financial downturns in 1893, settlers and investors fled the valley, making its future uncertain. A series of financial reorganizations to attract much needed capital brought a major railroad to the valley, but the heyday of corporate irrigation was over.



Irrigation, Reclamation of land, Pecos River Valley (N.M. and Tex.), Water--Storage