Thursday, April 10, 2014

1922: When Ogden relocated the falls in Waterfall Canyon

                        The Waterfall in the spring of 2015.
By Lynn Arave

THE treasured and historic waterfall in Ogden's Waterfall Canyon has always been exactly where it is now, right?
It was "moved" for about six months in the 1920s, though there is no mention of that feat in any history book.
They weren't called the "roaring twenties" for nothing. Remember this was the era of national alcoholic prohibition and locally it was when Weber County vainly tried to enforce a vast outdoor game preserve in the Wasatch Mountains from Weber Canyon to the North Ogden Divide.
Well, it was also when the Ogden Kiwanis Club, in cooperation with Ogden City officials, re-routed the waterfall itself in Waterfall Canyon, for about six months, from November of 1922 to May of 1923.
Talk of rerouting the falls had originally surfaced more than a decade earlier.
"Would make beautiful falls" was a Standard-Examiner headline on June 1, 1912. H.C. Bigelow, president of the Ogden State Bank, said he would give the first $100 toward conveying the falls through a short flume, further to the northwest, so it could be visible from all points in the city. He believed this would be a one thousand percent improvement in Ogden area scenery.
Arthur Kuhn, A.F.Parker, H.J. Craven and A.P. Bigelow were all named later that month by the Ogden publicity bureau to a committee to study such a proposal, estimated to cost about $500.
"City to start work on falls, Cataract to fall over precipice in full view of Ogden" was the Standard headline on Sept. 20, 1922.
"Queer moving job in Ogden just finished" was the headline on Nov. 12, 1922, as the dream became a reality.
Why the project took more than a decade to fruition was never mentioned.
"One of the strangest moving jobs ever undertaken in the west has just been completed -- the removal of a waterfall," the story stated.
No cost was mentioned, but pipes conveyed the water from the "its old-tumbling over place" in the secluded southeast corner of Waterfall Canyon, to a new spot where "it now dashes over the rocks nearly 300 feet."
That presumably took the falls hundreds of feet to the northwest, where the vast cliffs below the south end of Malan's Peak made it much more visible from numerous vantage points -- and pretty much tripled its drop.
(Otherwise, like today, the falls are only visible in the spring, or in high water flow, ideally from the 30th-32nd Street area, and best viewed from the west side of town.
The water volume in November of 1922 was noted as low, as usual, in the late fall season and hopes of "a picturesque appearance" next spring and summer were dreamed for.
But tragedy struck.
"Vandals ruin unique falls east of city, Project for making cataract visible in Ogden defeated" was a May 13, 1923 headline in the Standard.
"The result of many days of work and expenditures of hundreds of dollars have been wiped out through the malicious mischief of unknown persons in Waterfall Canyon," the story reported.
A Boy Scout executive made a trip up the canyon and found the pipeline utterly destroyed, with many joints hurled over cliffs.
To repair the damage would cost almost as much as the original effort, with only a few sections of pipe intact.
"And now just when the falls would be most beautiful and a unique attraction the work has been undone by vandals," The Standard report concluded.
There's no more newspaper mention on repairing the damage as the project was simply abandoned and the falls were back to their original course.
However, this vandalism was reminiscent of what had also happened in nearby Malan's Basin/Heights, where vandals had burned/destroyed what remained of the former hotel there, also in about the same time period.
Weber County was simply fascinated with waterfalls in the early 20th Century. Not only were there numerous newspaper accounts of this appreciation of Waterfall Canyon (also featured in this column last Friday), but another falls -- the artificial waterfall (sometimes called "Rainbow Cataract" back then) at the mouth of Ogden Canyon was also heralded and loved by residents too.
In fact, some newspaper stories confused or interchanged the two waterfalls.

(-Originally posted by Lynn Arave in the Ogden Standard-Examiner on April 10, 2014.)

-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:  

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