One of the most thoroughly researched, detailed histories of any irrigated region in the American West. --American Historical Review
Recommended . . . A worthy addition to recent studies of water administration in the West. --Western Historical Quarterly
A welcomed and excellent study that adds much to our knowledge of water development projects in southeastern New Mexico in the context of the history of the campaign for national reclamation." --Journal of Southern History
Settlement of the West came slowly, based on advances in technology and the harnessing of nature, especially water. Early on, the arid Pecos country seemed to have too little water to make it tamable. With the downturn in ranching in southeastern New Mexico and West Texas in the late 1870s, however, promoter Charles Eddy joined lawman Pat Garrett in a grandiose scheme. They would dam the Pecos River, build irrigation canals, and turn the area into an agricultural oasis.
Many Americans, including Western lawmakers, considered irrigation to be America at its best. Wealthy easterners invested in its development in the great traditions of American capitalism. Farmers laboring side by side to transform the desert into productive cropland represented the ideals of Jeffersonian yeoman democracy. These people, and the change of the Pecos Valley from rustic cattle territory to towns and irrigated farmland, formed the framework for this rich story of the American West.
Today the once formidable Pecos River has become a mere shadow of its former self. Dammed in many places for irrigation, its springs pumped dry in others, the Pecos today leads a precarious existence. Yet the contest over its water continues.
Stephen Bogener is a coauthor of Llano Estacado: An Island in the Sky.