Document Type

Student Presentation

Presentation Date


Faculty Sponsor

Cheryl Oestreicher


The development and economic growth of the Boise Valley was made possible by the efforts of private citizens and the Bureau of Reclamation that culminated in the creation of the Boise Water Project.

Prior to the creation of the Boise Project, the area known as the Boise Valley could be an unforgiving unyielding landscape. Availability of water was scarce, making the development of the land nearly impossible unless a person was fortunate enough to live along a waterway. However, being located near water did not always mean success. The very nature of water can have negative consequences. In the spring of the year, the Boise River (main source of water in the Boise Valley) frequently flooded people who lived along its banks; later in the year, the flow of the water would decrease exponentially leaving those further down the river without enough water to sustain their crops. The only sure thing the Boise Valley yielded was an abundance of jackrabbits and sagebrush.

If a person was able to settle near a water source, they not only had to deal with natural hardships but manmade hardships as well. Early settlers built laterals, canals, and primitive irrigation structures that were often built incorrectly. These structures would leak, break, and sometimes just not work. Claims on the existing water were not clearly supervised and at one point more water was appropriated to the land than the Boise River could actually supply. Land speculators were able to purchase large sections of land which allowed them to charge exorbitant prices for the water and the land. It was not unusual for people to be desperate enough to steal water, which often led to violence. Private industries, often times connected to land speculation, would announce their intention to build or would start building grandiose water projects. The prospects of irrigation prompted the purchase of land. The grandiose water projects were ultimately abandoned because they were too expensive to finish or were so poorly built that they broke down, leaving the land owners high and dry.

By drawing from a wealth of primary resources, I intend to tell the story of how the development of the Boise Valley was made possible by the Boise Water Project. The history of the Boise Project is not just important to Idaho but also to the rest of the nation by providing a better understanding of the vast possibilities and consequences of irrigation and agriculture in the United States.