Irrigation helped to expand Boise’s boundaries above the Boise Bench and into the western part of the valley. Having water available to elevations well above that of the Boise River allowed for growth into previously unproductive property. The canals and reservoirs provided water in even the driest of seasons and created small farming communities, many of which later became towns or were incorporated into the City of Boise. Irrigation of the hinterlands allowed farmers to settle further from the river, which in turn opened large tracts of riverside land for future urban development. Agriculture spurred the Boise Valley economy, attracted settlers, and provided an alternative occupation to the former mining related citizens still residing in the area. Contemporary maps illustrate that much of the valley’s subsequent growth took place west of the New York Canal, along the many canals and laterals extending from it.
According to Foote, local farmers deemed the lands southwest of the Boise River as far richer than those they occupied in the lowlands. They believed that the decomposed lava made the soil rich and productive.
This map depicts the potential area of impact by Foote’s proposed irrigation canal system. Foote perceived this system as necessary due to the difficulty of moving water via small ditches from the river to more remote locations. At the time of his report, he stated that only a “narrow strip of land, contiguous to the river” contained crop-growing farms.
Between 1900 and 1920, the number of farms in the valley tripled thanks largely to the Boise Project. The Boise River fed the main canals, such as the New York Canal, which in turn supplied water to the many smaller canals. This map reveals the permeation of irrigation water provided to the residences of Ada County. The United States constructed all canals shown in red.
This map depicts all of the area benefiting from Boise Project related works. According to the Bureau of Reclamation, the project provided water to 360,000 acres of land with an irrigation season from April to October.
The Boise Project on the Boise River stored water behind the Anderson and Arrowrock dams. Water is distributed from the river via the Main Canal, known as the New York Canal, and many smaller canals. Lake Lowell is supplied by the New York Canal and serves as a reservoir.