National Geographic : 1952 Nov
IL Itasmussen, U. . Bureau or reclamation Columbia Basin Carrots Grow Like Jack's Beanstalk Proving the amazing fertility of reclaimed sagebrush soil, this specimen took on gigantic proportions when harvesters neglected to pick it. It was produced in the Hunt irrigation project near Jerome, Idaho. Young Michael Weatherwax finds the vegetable an armload. these men were being laughed at as dreamers and crackpots because they advocated pump irrigation to reclaim the land we now saw emerging from desert. Despite discourage ment and ridicule, however, the two enthusi asts continued their campaign. Neither lived to see the dream accomplished, though the big pumps were under construction at the time of Mr. Woods's death in 1950. One of the major subsidiary dams has been named for Mr. O'Sullivan. In 35 years what critics branded as preposterous has become reality. A Vast Empire to Be Developed Today Spokane, the "Capital of the Inland Empire," proudly advertises itself as the "Gateway to the Columbia Basin" (page 610). Power from the Spokane River, which flows through the center of the city, and trade with farming and mining communities have in sured steady growth. Now the opening of the Grand Coulee project gives added impetus. Since 1940 the population has increased from 122,000 to more than 160,000. The country around Grand Coulee Dam will not bloom gardenlike overnight. This year only about half of 950 80-acre farms received water. Others will be added at the rate of some 60,000 acres a year until the entire project is under cultivation. Meantime authorized irrigation plans will be developed else where in the Columbia Basin. Possibilities of this enormous future em pire stagger the imagina tion. The day before the Moses Lake ceremony I had flown out from Wash ington, D. C., to the Seat tle-Tacoma Airport, where Charlie Johns and his assistant A. F. (Tony) Raiter, Jr., met me. We stayed overnight in the phenomen ally growing city of Seattle and early next morning drove over Snoqualmie Pass to the Columbia River Basin. No matter how often I make that trip, I always marvel at the sudden change of climate and vegetation as the highway crosses the summit of the Cascade Range. One mo ment we were in the lush fir, spruce, and cedar rain forest of the Pacific slope; the next in dry reaches of western pine. Here rainfall drops from an annual average of more than 100 inches on the west side to less than 10 east of the divide. Just over the summit we passed Keechelus Lake in a cuplike basin with steep, timbered sides rising 1,000 feet. A dam at the south end of this lake helps regulate the flow of the Yakima River for irrigation. At Ellensburg, seat of the Central Wash ington College of Education, we were in the lovely valley of the laughing Yakima River. The town, started in 1867 as a trading post by William Wilson, renegade white leader of a band of Indian raiders, was once called "Rob ber's Roost." Today the only reminders of wild West days in this city of nearly 10,000 are an annual rodeo in late summer, some In dians dressed in tribal finery on gala occasions, and a few descendants of Chinese miners who followed an early gold rush.