New Online Travel Itinerary for 25 Historic Western Water Projects

Buffalo Bill Dam, Shoshone Project, Wyoming, 1918. Bureau of Reclamation, Archive 8 photo.

Following the Reclamation Act of 1902, many dams, reservoirs, and canals were built in Western states during the early 1900s to provide the hydropower and irrigation water needed to support settlement, promote the spread of farming, and "allow the desert to bloom." Now, a new online travel itinerary provides easy access to site histories, essays, images, maps, and travel- and visiting-related information pertaining to more than two dozen historic water projects in 11 western states.

According to a National Park Service press release, Bureau of Reclamation Historic Dams and Water Projects: Managing Water in the West, is the 54th itinerary in the online Discover Our Shared Heritage travel itinerary series, a project that "supports historic preservation, promotes public awareness of history, and encourages visits to historic places throughout the country." This itinerary, which provides details about 25 historic water projects listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was produced by the National Park Service’s Heritage Education Services and its Intermountain Region Heritage Partnerships Program in cooperation with the Bureau of Reclamation and the National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers.

The 25 sites, some of which are associated with national parks, include: the Hoover Dam and three other projects in Arizona; the Grand Coulee Dam and one other in Washington; the Shasta and Parker Dams in California; the Gunnison Tunnel in Colorado; the Owyhee Dam in Oregon; the Belle Fourche Dam in South Dakota; four sites each in New Mexico and Wyoming; three each in Idaho and Nevada; and two in Montana.

To access the itinerary, go to this site. If you want to download it, click on Zip Version at the bottom of this page. A printable copy is accessible by clicking on Text Only Version at the bottom of the age. (Don't print it if you don't need to; it runs to 90 pages and can take a very long time to print.)

The online version of the itinerary is simple and fun to use. A handy index is provided at the left side of the home page. Many users will want to start with the alphabetical list of sites by state. Each link provided under a state heading takes you directly to a site packed with relevant information and statistics about a specific water project. It concludes with Plan Your Visit information that is very efficiently written and user-friendly.

If you prefer to use the map approach instead of the alphabetical site list, that's easy too. Just go to the Maps section accessible from the index and click on the placemark for the particular water project you are interested in. That will get the official name of the site, an aerial view, GPS coordinates, a link to the associated BLM website, and of course, a zoomable map.

The Learn More page is a helpful tool for accessing a wide range of additional information about the historic water projects. For each site, listed by state, it provides links to state and local tourist organizations as well as federal agencies (Bureau of Reclamation, Bureau of Land Management, US Forest Service, and/or National Park Service, as appropriate).

The three essays provided with the travel itinerary are Water in the West, Mission of the Bureau of Reclamation, and Bureau of Reclamation Engineering Achievements.

For links to the more than 50 other Discover Our Shared Heritage travel itineraries, organized by geographic region, click to this site.