Hurricane, Utah canal history
THE BUIlDING OF THE
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The farmers in Virgin and the
surrounding towns on the Virgin River relied
on the river for watering their lands.
However, the river couldn't be depended upon
to stay its course. The flash floods would
wipe out crops and dams and fill ditches with
silt. As the population in the area increased,
troubles with the river caused productivity to
The pioneers looked to the Hurricane
Valley for a new start. Bringing water to the
valley would require a canal to be
constructed. The Hurricane Canal company
was formed. Nearly one hundred men
subscribed to stock in the company. Each
share entitled the owner to one acre of land
with water rights on the Hurricane Bench
when the canal was completed.
Work on the canal began in 1893. It
literally took blood, sweat, tears, and lives to
build it. The canal followed a tortuous route
beginning in the Narrows of Zion Canyon. It
was begun at a time when there was no road
into the canyon. Everything needed for the
project had to be carried from the top down
into the canyon. All supplies to work and live
were carried in on the backs of the men who
labored there with picks, shovels, and
wheelbarrows. There were no finances to buy
materials or to hire help.
Most of the work was done during the
winter months when the men from the nearby
towns were not working on their farms. It
was bitterly cold in the shade of the canyon
Great personal sacrifices were made,
and many gave up before the project was
completed. Finally, after nine years of toiling,
with the canal more than three-fifths
completed and their backs to the wall for need
of help, the LDS Church stepped in to
subscribe to $5,000 worth of stock. The work
pushed forward and was completed in 1904.
For 11 years workers had tackled the thing
that couldn't be done. It was a remarkable
undertaking. Their reward was water flowing
onto the land below after eight miles (?) of
It wasn't until two years later, in 1906,
that the first families came to Hurricane to
make permanent homes. Even then the ditch
required constant vigilance. Ditch riders were
hired to watch and remove any obstructions
that had to be removed.
The Hurricane Canal served the
community for more than 80 years until in
1985 when a piping system was installed
which bypassed the historic old ditch.
In Karl Larson's book, "1 Was Called
to Dixie," there is a simple explanation of
how such a project as the Hurricane Canal
came to be. " A long time ago the President of
Brigham Young University , George H.
Brimhall, in company of James Jepson,
viewed the canal from its source in the canyon
to the Hurricane fields. He marveled that
such a group of men would tackle a problem
so difficult without capital. Jepson answered
him by asking the question, 'Do you
remember how Brigham Young called a group
of people to Dixie and only about half of them
responded?' 'Yes.' President Brimhall had
heard something like that. ' Do you remember
that of the half who came, only half
remained?' 'Yes.' 'Well,' said James Jepson,
'the men and women who built this canal are
the children of those who stayed."'
Walter Spendlove is one of the
children of "those who stayed." His father,
John Spendlove, Jr., and his grandfather, John
Spendlove, Sr., were among the faithful who
were devoted workers on the canal.
Walter Spendlove was too young to
have worked on the canal when the work first
commenced. Since he had not finished grade
school when he started working on the canal,
it can be assumed he was probably about 13
years of age. That would have been in 1898.
If so, Walter worked on the canal for 6 years-
For a detailed account of the building of the
Hurricane Canal, see index.