Saturday, January 4, 2014

Ogden's old artesian well park gone, but its waters still flow ...

(From "History of Ogden, Utah in Old Post Cards," by D. Boyd Crawford, used with permission.)

By Lynn Arave
WATER has always been a centerpiece of Ogden Valley.
Before the days of Pineview Reservoir (pre-mid-1930s), at the west end of the valley there were green meadows and many flowing artesian wells.
When the pioneers arrived in force in the 1860s, cattle would roam the area and ranchers noticed cool waters bubbling up from the ground, likely near where the west end of Pineview Reservoir is today.
In 1889, the first artesian well was drilled 84 feet down. It provided 40 gallons a minute.
Between then and 1935, a total of 51 wells were drilled, with 48 of them flowing. Average depth of the wells was 135 feet, but the deepest went some 600 feet down.
Ogden City drilled the wells to augment its water supply. Ogden was already receiving water from the Weber and Ogden rivers, plus from Taylor, Waterfall and Strongs canyons.
In 1925, there was a temporary sand problem in one of the new wells drilled.
However, the 1920s heralded the artesian wells as a new tourist destination each summer. The July 16,1924 Standard Examiner reported scores of inquires a day to Ogden City from all over the nation about its artesian well park.
Indeed, that summer, the Ogden Chamber of Commerce would regularly shuttle tourists to the wells. It also mailed out some 10,000 booklets that summer on the wells all over the country as a promotion.

  The west end of Pineview Dam, near where the old Artesian Well Park likely would have been.
                                                                                                                  Photo by Whitney Arave.

“Take a cool ride through Ogden Canyon stopping at Hermitage Inn and Park Pineview and Artesian Wells” was part of an advertisement in 1926 in the Standard-Examiner.
Even before the first deep well was drilled, there were some types of simpler water fountains there. The Standard-Examiner on March 25, 1888 reported: “It is worth the pains of the trip (up Ogden Canyon) to get a drink from these fountains and enjoy the fresh, invigorating mountain air.”
The city planted grass, trees and shrubs in 1922 at the well park and used cement to create standard circular fountains there. You didn’t visit Ogden Canyon,or Ogden Valley without taking a cool drink from one of the flowing wells.
The artesian wells soon provided 811,000 gallons a minute, or 16 million gallons of water a day. The water was piped to Ogden in a redwood pipe, used for some 50 years.
The artesian wells soon formed Artesian Well Park, a refreshing summer spot for residents and tourists.
August of 1933 was the only dark side to the artestian wells, as some sort of contamination plagued the well water part of that summer.
When Pineview Reservoir was filled in 1937, the artesian wells were capped and piped out to Ogden Canyon, to continue to supply drinking water to area residents.
By 1956, two-thirds of Ogden’s water, some 20 million gallons a day, were from the artesian wells.
However, it was realized in April of 1968 that after three decades, the 70-foot-deep reservoir water and accompanying pressures had damaged the piping and caused untreated Pineview water to seep into the drinking water pipes. This turned the water red and created slime and odor problems with the water.
All the Pineview water was then chlorinated for health reasons in that emergency, though that also killed most of the trout in the waters.
Pineview Dam was then drained and the old artesian wells were capped. From December of 1970 to May of 1971, six new and larger artesian wells were dug above the high water elevation of the reservoir – all about 260 feet deep – and funneled into a 36-inch pipe that goes beneath Pineview Reservoir and into Ogden Canyon.
These supplied about as much water as the old 48 wells.
According to Justin Anderson, Ogden City Engineer, this newer artesian well field provides for 67% of the drinking water demand to Ogden City today. During peak use, water from the Water Treatment Plant (just west of the base of Pineview Dam) is used to supplement the demand.
Along the Wasatch front it is not unusual for drinking water utilities to utilize well fields,” Anderson stated. “The amount of water extracted from Ogden’s well field is relatively large when compared to surrounding water systems. “
Anderson also noted that the water rights associated with Ogden City’s wells are some of the oldest in the surrounding area. 
So, although the original artesian well park has been gone for almost eight decades, refreshing waters from the same vast underground source in Ogden Valley still dominate Ogden’s drinking water supply.

(-Written by Lynn Arave and originally published in the Ogden Standard-Examiner on December 27, 2013.)

-NOTE: The author, Lynn Arave, is available to speak to groups, clubs, classes or other organizations about Utah history at no charge. He can be contacted by email at: