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The infinite variety of California will be more and more impressed upon the tourist as his travels take him farther from the beaten track. It is, truly, a land of contrasts; and only one who goes from the green valley of the Sacramento to the arid sands of the Imperial Desert will know how sharply marked the contrasts may be. The former will remind him not a little of the green and prosperous farm lands of the Middle West and the agricultural methods pursued are not widely dissimilar, but where else in the world can a parallel be found for the strange valley that lies beyond the rugged mountain ranges eastward from San Diego?

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Twenty-five years ago this weird, sun-blistered desert seemed the most unlikely spot on earth to become a place of incredibly productive farms and thriving towns. The arid bed of a long-vanished inland sea, lying from a few inches to three hundred feet below sea level, with a temperature varying up to one hundred and thirty degrees in summer and less than an inch of annual rainfall, surely gave little promise of ever becoming an agricultural bonanza. It was even more typically a desert, says one authority, than any part of the Sahara of which we have record. To the ordinary layman passing through on the Southern Pacific, nothing would have seemed farther from the range of possibility than that this counterpart of Death Valley should ever become a green and fertile land.

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There were, however, a few thoughtful pioneers who knew of the possibilities of the desert when water could be brought to it and who were aware that within a comparatively short distance the great Colorado River coursed through its channel at an altitude higher than the floor of the Valley. Here was water, practically unlimited, which needed only direction into an irrigating system to change the desert's sandy wastes into fertile fields. Dr. Wozencroft of San Bernardino was the first to take practical steps towards this great work, about fifty years ago. He endeavored to obtain from Congress a grant of land upon which he might carry out his project, but the idea was not taken seriously by the lawmakers, who dismissed it with a few jocular flings at the promoter's expense. The experts declared the plan not impractical, but the politicians could not be induced to take favorable action upon it. The immediate outcome was that the enthusiastic promoter lost his fortune in his fruitless efforts and died a disappointed man, but he had directed public attention to the possibility of reclaiming the Valley and various attempts were made by others to carry out his plans.

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No considerable headway was made until the organization of the California Development Company in 1896 for the purpose of reclaiming what was then first styled the Imperial Valley. This was a water corporation whose purpose was to construct an irrigating system to serve some five hundred thousand acres of desert land then open to occupation by settlers under the national homestead acts. The profits of the company were to come from the sale of water service, since it did not own or control the land. The contour of the country made it necessary to bring the main supply canal through Mexican territory for a distance of forty or fifty miles, and the canal now serves some two hundred thousand acres in Mexico. An old river bed which resulted from an overflow many years ago carried the water a considerable part of the distance and greatly minimized the labor necessary to complete the canal. Still, it was a stupendous task, requiring several years' time and a large expenditure of money. The seepage and overflow from the irrigating system was to be conveyed to the lowest part of the Valley, the Salton Basin, now occupied by the Salton Sea, a shallow lake two or three hundred square miles in extent.

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This lake originated in a sensational manner, which engaged the attention of the country for many months. During the summer of 1904 the development company undertook to increase the supply of water from the Colorado by cutting a new outlet which was to be controlled by flood gates. Before the work was completed an unprecedented rise washed away the controlling works and threatened to turn the whole volume of the river into the Valley. A tremendous channel was soon torn in the sands by the raging flood-which was known as New River-and the waters coursed through the Valley to Salton Basin, which filled rapidly. Efforts made by the company to check the torrent were without avail; its means and facilities were too limited to cope with the serious situation.

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In the meanwhile the existence of the Valley, with its farms and towns, was threatened; if unchecked, the flood would eventually restore the inland sea that filled the basin in prehistoric times. The settlers were greatly alarmed and appealed to the Government for assistance. Congress was not in session and President Roosevelt, with characteristic resourcefulness, called upon the Southern Pacific Railroad Company to undertake the task of curbing the river, assuring the officials of the road that he would recommend an appropriation by Congress to reimburse them for money expended in the work. The railroad company consented and after several months of almost superhuman effort and an expenditure of two million dollars, the flood was curbed and the vast empty chasm of New River left to tell the story of its wild fury.