Arid Environment

Crews at Zion National Park unearth irrigation ditches in campgrounds

Irrigation ditches created by homesteaders in the late 1800s are being dug up by non-profit service provider American Conservation Experience Mountian West (ACE) in the campgrounds of Zion National Park.

Of the six historic ditches, four are National Historic Places, and most are underground, covered with dirt and debris from the years.

“Zion is in the forever business,” park spokesman Jonathan Shafer said on-site on Tuesday. “So what we want to do here is preserve this place so that people can enjoy it today and long into the future.”

For the homesteaders, pioneers of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the ditches were a vital artery helping them survive in the arid desert and were something they learned from the Southern Paiute Tribe, who already had ditches in the area, Rebecca Finnigan, environmental compliance archivist for the park with the Great Basin Institute, said.

Irrigation ditches in Zion National Park with a ranger looking at water drops, 1930s.

ACE, which the park contracted with for this project, is the modern version of the similar New Deal-era Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), which built quite a lot of the park.

Eight crew members from all over the country came to this section of southern Utah for eight straight 10-hour days to restore a piece of history, revive the environment and gain experience for a career in the outdoors.

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