The story of the Hurricane Canal IS the foundation story of the city of Hurricane itself. Without the water the canal provided, there would be no Hurricane. As early as 1865 surveyors said a feat such as the construction of a canal to provide water to the Hurricane Bench was impossible but in 1893, a group of settlers from towns further up the Virgin River, seeing the large tracts of land they could farm if water could be supplied, banded together to form the Hurricane Canal Company. Canal workers literally paid for the canal with their work and with the promise of 20 acres to farm once it was completed. Using only rudimentary hand tools and dynamite, they began constructing what would become a 7-mile ditch clinging to the gorge above the Virgin River into what would be the future town.
The company started running into financial difficulty in the early 20th century and the canal was saved only when its company president traveled to Salt Lake City to convince leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day to invest $5,000 worth of stock in the company so work could continue, which it did soon after. The canal was completed in August 1904 and the town of Hurricane was settled in 1906.
Historic photo of Hurricane Canal watermaster William Hinton taken circa 1952. He is standing near the headgate at the diversion dam at the start of the canal.
Sometimes forgotten in the canal’s history are the “ditch riders” who patrolled its route via horseback to ensure it’s proper flow from the very beginning. When there was a leak, sometimes all it would take is tamping down a few shovel fulls of dirt and rock, but other times, it took closing the headgates to stop the flow of water in the canal completely. But when that happened, there were plenty of people who volunteered to help fix the canal – the city’s farmers – because their livelihood depended on it.
Volunteers working to repair the canal
Workers repairing flume on a section of the canal.
The canal became obsolete in the late 1980s and early 1990s when pressurized irrigation was installed in town, but its legacy will never be forgotten as interpretation of the canal is prominent at the Hurricane Valley Heritage Park and Museum on the southwest corner of Main and State streets in Hurricane. Those wishing to see a portion of the canal, including one of its old flumes can walk the Canal Trail, whose trailhead is at the easternmost end of 200 North and includes a bowery and monument.
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