Property of United States ovement.
ISSUED JULY 6, 1907.
U. S. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE,
BUREAU OF SOILS-BULLETIN No. 43.
MILTON WHITNEY, Chief.
RECLAMATION OF ALKALI LAND IN
SALT LAKE VALLEY, UTAH
CLARENCE W. DORSEY.
GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE.
BUREAU OF SOILS.
MILTON WHITNEY, Chief of Bureau.
ALBERT G. RICE, Chief Clerk.
FRANK K. CAMERON, in charge of Soil Laboratories.
FRANK D. GARDNER, in charge of Soil Management.
GEORGE T. MCNESS, in charge of Tobacco Investigations.
CLARENCE W. DORSEY, in charge of Alkali Land Reclamation.
JAY A. BONSTEEL, in charge of Soil Survey.
OSWALD SCHREINER, in charge of Fertility Investigations.
W J MCGEE, in charge of Soil Erosion Investigations.
LETTER OF TRANSMITTAL.
U. S. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE,
BUREAU OF SOILS,
Washington, D. C., April 30, 1907.
SIR: I have the honor to transnit herewith the manuscript of a
report entitled Reclamation of Alkali Land in Salt Lake Valley, Utah,
and to recommend that it be published as Bulletin No. 43 of this
Chief of Bureau.
Hon. JAMES WILSON,
Secretary of Agriculture.
Introduction....... ........................................................ 7
Introduction ------------------- -------------------------------------- 7
Description of Salt Lake Valley..-..- ..... ...-................... .....-.... 8
Soil and alkali conditions in Salt Lake Valley ............................. 9
Reclamation of the Swan tract ............................................ 13
Methods used in reclaiming alkali land in Salt Lake Valley................. 20
Cultivation................. ..... ........ .... ... .......... -------- 20
W ashing ..- ...-..........-..-....... ...... ......................-.... . 21
Flooding combined with drainage...................................... 22
Recommendations for reclaiming alkali lands -.............-....-....... ... 23
D rainage .... ............................................................ 24
Sum m ary...... ...-...-.......................... ...................... 27
PLATE I. Fig. 1.-Swan tract before reclamation. Fig. 2.-Swan tract after
reclamation, showing heavy growth of alfalfa ................... 16
FIG. 1. Sketch map showing distribution of alkali in Salt Lake Valley....... 11
2. Plan of drainage system, Swan tract................................ 15
Digitized by the Internet Archive
RECLAMATION OF ALKALI LAND IN SALT LAKE
Sixty years after the hardy Mormon pioneers made their appear-
ance in Salt Lake Valley there yet remains an extensive body of land,
extending westward from the Jordan River to the shores of Great
Salt Lake, that contributes but little to the agricultural importance
of Utah. At first it appears strange that such extensive tracts of
level land should remain undeveloped with Salt Lake City close at
hand offering perhaps the best market to be found in the West for all
classes of farm produce. On the east side of the valley, situated
the same distance from Salt Lake City, farm land finds a ready sale
at prices of more than $200, and even $300, an acre, and produces
plentiful crops of great variety. It was in this part of the valley that
irrigation was first practiced in Utah. The crude beginning is
described by Mr. E. G. Wooley, a bishop in the Mormon Church, in
the following words: "The pioneers came into the valley in July,
1847. The advance company drifted right down upon the site of
Salt Lake City. They went to work the first day, ran a plowed ditch
out of City Creek, and started the water out on the ground and planted
some potatoes the same day."
The reason for the backward development of the large body of land
between the river and Great Salt Lake lies in the fact tha-t the soils
contain soluble salts in such quantities that useful crops can not le
grown. Once the salt or alkali is removed the soils will be found as
rich as those which enabled the industrious pioneers to prosper in the
manner they have done. That reclaiming these soils is not only pos-
sible but practicable will be shown in the following pages byy describ-
ing the reclamation of one of the most strongly impregnated tracts of
alkali land found in the valley. After detailing the work on this
tract the practical application of this experimental work to the dam-
aged lands of the valley will be shown; that is, we will consider just
what steps the farmer must take to make productive the extensive
areas of alkali waste land.
8 RECLAMATION OF ALKALI LAND IN UTAB.
DESCRIPTION OF SALT LAKE VALLEY.
Salt Lake Valley lies in northern-central Utah and comprises the
greater part of the western half of Salt Lake County. The valley
attains a maximum width of something more than 20 miles from
east to west and a somewhat greater length from north to south. The
valley is characterized by wide stretches of comparatively level land,
sloping gently to the north and west, and by a number of slight
ridges that rise only a few feet above the general valley floor. On the
margins of the valley the ridges are more pronounced. Salt Lake
City, 14 miles east of Great Salt Lake, has an elevation of 4,253 feet.
The Wasatch Range rises abruptly above the valley on the east, and
many peaks attain an elevation of over 11,000 feet. To the south
the valley gradually converges into the Jordan Narrows. On the
southwest the Oquirrh Mountains rise 3,000 to 4,000 feet above the
valley floor. Bordering the valley on the north and west occurs
Great Salt Lake, a shallow body of water covering an area of about
2,000 square miles. Great Salt Lake constitutes only a remnant of a
former lake that once attained an area of nearly 20,000 square miles.
This prehistoric body of water, named Lake Bonneville in honor of the
intrepid explorer, at one time stood 1,000 feet higher than the present
lake level. Evidences of the former lake are everywhere visible, even
to the untrained observer, in the many pronounced shore lines that
stand out in bold relief hundreds of feet above the present valley floor.
The Lake Bonneville basin, together with many inclosed drainage
basins in Nevada, Oregon, and California, broken by parallel ranges
of mountains, constitutes the physiographic region known as the
Great Basin, the character and extent of which was first made known
by the explorations of Fremont.a
Salt Lake Valley, in common with other extensive interior valleys,
has what may be termed a true continental climate, relieved to some
extent by the modifying influence of Great Salt Lake.b Temperatures
at Salt Lake City range from 200 F., the lowest recorded minimum,
to 1020 F., the highest recorded maximum, with 520 as the annual
mean temperature. The precipitation during the period 1874 to 1903
for the driest year was 10.2 inches and for the wettest year 23.5
inches, with 15.8 inches representing the average rainfall for the
period. The spring months, March, April, and May, receive the great-
est rainfall, with an average of nearly 2 inches each month. The sum-
mer months receive the least rainfall, the entire three months receiv-
ing only 2 inches of rain. The average depth of snow for the year is
slightly more than 50 inches. The relative humidity is low, espe-
cially during the summer months, at which time the percentage of
a Lake Bonneville, Monograph of U. S. Geol. Survey, by G. K. Gilbert, 1890.
b Bul. Q, U. S. Weather Bureau, 1906.
SOIL AND ALKALI CONDITIONS. 9
possible sunshine is the highest of the year. These conditions of light
rainfall, low relative humidity, and high temperatures hasten evapo-
ration during the summer months, making irrigation necessary to
insuwi the best results. Dry farming is possible only for such crops
as mature before the hot summer sets in and is practiced but little in
the valley proper. Considerable dry farming is carried on in the
valleys of the lower foothills and on the higher bench lands, where the
rainfall is appreciably greater.
SOIL AND ALKALI CONDITIONS IN SALT LAKE VALLEY.
In-1899 the Bureau (then Division) of Soils, in cooperation with
the Utah experiment station,, made a soil survey of that portion of
the valley lying west' of Jordan River. This survey comprised an
area of over 250 square miles, but did not include the best farming
districts of the valley lying east of the Jordan River. This should
be remembered in the discussion of the alkali problems, since the
lands east of the river are but little affected by alkali. There are
some alkali areas south of Salt Lake City, especially in the bottom
along the river, but the greater extent of land east of the river has
good slope, which implies fair natural drainage with the tendency for
the salts originally contained in the soils to be washed to lower levels.
It is this part of the valley that has had the greatest agricultural
development and is at present in a prosperous condition.
This soil survey was made by Frank D. Gardner and John Stewart,
and the report was published in the Field Operations of the Division
of Soils, 1899, and as Bulletin 72 of the Utah experiment station. The
soils were found to have been formed by material brought down from
the mountains and from sediments of ancient Lake Bonneville, all of
which have been materially modified by inflowing streams from the
mountains and by the advance and recession of Great Salt Lake. On
account of the manner of their formation the soils vary greatly in
character. In the lower part of the valley the lacustrine deposits are
very deep, no rock or gravel being found at a depth of a hundred or
more feet. As we approach the foothills gravel and rock are plentiful
and often crop out at the surface, and the depth of lake sediments
diminishes and in many places none at all is found.
The soils are fertile, but in their natural condition support only a
meager vegetation, because they are either too dry or contain too
much alkali. On the higher levels, where little salt is present, sage-
brush forms the chief growth, while in the lower parts of the valley,
where there is more moisture and much salt, greasewood, salt grass,
and other salt-loving vegetation forms the principal growth.
The most important soil type was found to be the Jordan sandy
loam, a light-colored sandy loam, with a depth of several feet, overly-
ing clay. Where this class of soil is above irrigation canals and in the
10 RECLAMATION OF ALKALI LAND IN UTAH.
irrigated districts wherever the subsoil water is 10 feet or more below
the surface it is generally free from excessive quantities of alkali.
In the low areas, especially in the northern part of the valley, there
is much alkali in the lower depths of soil. This soil is easily culti-
vated and where free from alkali is a desirable soil for any crops
grown in the valley.
On the higher slopes of the southern part of the valley occur exten-
sive areas of a gravelly loam soil. This soil is usually free from
alkali, but on account of the large amount of gravel and high position
is difficult to irrigate. Much of this soil is dry-farmed to wheat with
good results in years of abundant rainfall.
Another important type of soil was found to be the Jordan loam.
It comprises an area of about 50 square miles, most of which is below
the present canal systems. It is a heavy loam overlying a clay sub-
soil. Where free from alkali and under cultivation the Jordan loam
is an excellent soil, but the water table is generally within a few feet
from the surface and the alkali content is considerable in the lower
depths of soil.
The Jordan clay occupies about 35 square miles, occurring largely
in low positions, usually from 4 to 8 feet below the land immediately
adjoining. It is level and wet and rarely supports any vegetation.
It represents what was formerly the floors of lagoons near the shore
of the lake, and in many places it is now the floor of draws extending
like wide irregular canals back into the land for miles. On account
of the clayey nature of this soil, the low undrained position, and high
alkali content it is at present not suited to agricultural purposes.
Other less important classes of soils were found that need not be con-
In a number of small areas hardpan was found, occurring princi-
pally in connection with the sandy loam soils. The hardpan usually
is encountered at an average depth of 18 inches and ranges in thick-
ness from 2 to 18 inches. It is composed of material similar to that
immediately above and below it, cemented by lime carbonate. When
dry this hardpan is hard and difficult to penetrate, but after irrigation
has been practiced for some time it readily softens and is pervious to
water and the roots of plants. Usually it was observed that the soil
above the hardpan was free from alkali, while below the hardpan
the salt content was much greater.
The main water supply for the western part of the valley is derived
directly from Utah Lake, a large body of fresh water lying south of
Salt Lake Valley. It has an area of approximately 125 square miles
but is rather shallow. It is fed largely by short mountain streams
derived from melting snow. While the inflowing streams contain but
little soluble salts seepage from surrounding lands affects the salt
content of the lake. The outlet of Utah Lake is the Jordan River,
SOIL AND ALKALI CONDITIONS. 11
from which several canals are taken out. While the salt content of
the Jordan varies at different points, depending to some extent on
the amount of seepage water it receives from irrigated land, it is
usually of good quality. Analyses of the water from Jordan River
at the time the survey was made, 1899, showed the presence of from
80 to 110 parts per 100,000, consisting mainly of the chlorides and
sulphates of sodium and calcium.
The distribution of the alkali was found to depend largely upon the
topography of the valley
as well as upon the char-
acter of soils. The accom- s "
panying sketch map (fig. 1) ,
shows the extent of lands F
containing more than 0.60 C"
per cent of alkali. As a
rule the greatest accumula- I
tions of alkali were found
in the hea;vier textured
soils that occupy the lower 0
portions of the valley. The a
heavy clay soils that have
within recent years been
covered by Great Salt 0
Lake almost without ex-
ception contain excessive
quantities of alkali. In
these areas also the water
table stands within a few
feet of the surface. The c
heavy nature of the soil,
the shallow ground water, >
and the low position have
caused these soils to retain '
the salts added by contact
with the saline waters of
the lake. On the higher
ridges in the valley and on FIG. l.-Sketch map showing distribution of alkali In Salt
e m e s in l Lake Valley. Hatch lines cover area affected.
the more sloping lands
bordering the valley the ordinary precipitation in the form of rain or
snow has leached away considerable of the salts orignally contained.
It was found that the character of the soil and the depth to standing
water were the most important factors in determining the vertical
distribution of alkali in the soil. On sandy soils with the water table
several feet below the surface the top soil was generally free from
alkali, but it increased in amount in the lower depths. Where the
12 RECLAMATION OF ALKALI LAND IN UTAH.
water stood within 3 feet or less from the surface the greater part of
the alkali was concentrated at or near the surface.
The source of the alkali is probably the waters of Great Salt Lake
(which within the memory of the older inhabitants has covered much
of the low-lying lands) or in the case of the more elevated lands the
waters of Lake Bonneville. The alkali is largely composed of sodium
chloride with a smaller quantity of sodium sulphate and a small per-
centage of the chlorides, sulphates, and carbonates of calcium and
magnesium. Sodium carbonate, black alkali, is often found, gener-
ally in small quantities.
During the progress of the survey in 1899 it was found that an area
of more than 77,000 acres was practically free from alkali. This
large area comprises the more sloping lands where good natural
drainage and porous soils have prevented injurious accumulations of
alkali. Seventeen thousand acres contained sufficient alkali in the
first 6 feet to render certain precautions necessary to prevent injury
of crops. Much of this land occurs south of Twelfth South street
road where seepage and surplus waters have formed a chain of lakes.
In the vicinity of these lakes the ground water is within a few feet of
the surface, and unless some form of drainage is provided accumula-
tion of alkali will undoubtedly increase. Where this amount of
alkali (0.25 to 0.60 per cent) is found on higher, better drained soils
no serious damage should result provided the surface be carefully
leveled and all water be supplied in the form of heavy surface flooding
at infrequent intervals.
Seventeen thousand acres was found to contain from 0.60 to 1 per
cent of alkali, occurring in sandy soils with the water table usually
about 4 feet from the surface. Generally the greater part of the alkali
is concentrated in the lower depths of soil and attempts to cultivate
this land are successful for a few years. With the rise of the ground
water the alkali usually rises to the surface and many failures have
resulted after cultivating such land, owing to the concentration of
too much alkali in the upper layers of soil.
By providing even a limited amount of drainage and heavy sur-
face irrigation many of these failures could have been prevented and
the land maintained in fertile condition for a long period of years.
A large body of land, amounting to nearly 30,000 acres, contained
from 1 to 3 per cent of alkali to a depth of 6 feet. The greater
part of this class of alkali land is at present of no agricultural value
except for the scanty pasturage it yields. Much of the alkali must
be removed to make it available for crop production. In many
locations, however, such land can be reclaimed and will then be
found adapted to all classes of crops grown in the valley. More
than 18,000 acres contained upward of 3 per cent of alkali, and on
account of the heavy soils and low position it is to be doubted if
RECLAMATION OF THE SWAN TRACT. 13
such land can ever be profitably reclaimed. Conditions at the pres-
ent time certainly do not warrant treating such soils when there are
large areas of better land that can be made productive at a much
IP was pointed out in the report by Gardner and Stewart that
underdrainage was necessary not only to protect certain lands
against injury from seepage waters and alkali, but also to reclaim
lands already damaged; that the cost of underdrainage was slight
in comparison to the value of alkali-free lands, and that money
invested in drainage is in the nature of an insurance against loss of
crops from seepage waters and alkali. Attention was also called to
the fact that no serious engineering difficulties stand in the way of
carrying out a comprehensive drainage system, that there is ample
fall to the north and west toward the lake, and that the network of
draws from 4 to 8 feet deep extending through much of the alkali
land would furnish ready outlet for smaller drainage systems. It
was further remarked that an area of nearly 100 square miles, which
at present has but a mere nominal value, could be economically
reclaimed, and that such work should appeal to the commercial
spirit of the people and stimulate them to undertake this very
RECLAMATION OF THE SWAN TRACT.a
Several years after the publication of the Soil Survey report no
important step had been undertaken toward any general scheme of
reclaiming alkali lands. In 1902, therefore, the Bureau of Soils
entered into cooperation with the Utah experiment station to dem-
onstrate that alkali lands could be economically reclaimed. A tract
of 40 acres was selected about 4 miles west of Salt Lake City, belong-
ing to Mr. E. D. Swan. This tract is situated in sec. 5, T. 1 S.,
R. 1 N. The tract lies on the east of Williams Lake and has an
elevation of about 8 feet above the bed of the lake. It was realized
by all that if a tract of land of this character could be reclaimed
there could be no possibility but that the reclamation of large bodies
of land lying in this portion of the valley could be effected. The
greater part of the tract was covered with a white crust of alkali
and supported a scattering growth of greasewood (Sarcobatus vermicu-
latu). A railroad embankment crossed the tract from east to west,
and city streets had been graded upon it many years before, when
land speculation led many to believe that the city would rapidly
extend its boundaries several miles to the westward of its present
a From 1902 to 1904 W. H. Heileman was in charge of the reclamation of the Swan
14 RECLAMATION OF ALKALI LAND IN UTAH.
The surface soil consists of sandy and silty loam from 12 to 18
inches in depth. The underlying material varies from heavy loam
to clay. In places a thin layer of sand occurs at a depth of 4 feet,
while toward the lake, at an average depth of 26 inches, is found a
white calcareous hardpan from 1 to 2 inches in thickness. Occa-
sionally two layers of this hardpan are found, the first lying about
4 inches above the second. An alkali survey was made to deter-
mine the quantity of alkali contained in the soil to a depth of 4 feet.
This showed that there was present in the soil to that depth from
2.5 to 5 per cent of alkali, consisting mainly of sodium chloride and
sodium sulphate. Since 0.5 of 1 per cent of the alkali generally
found in Salt Lake Valley represents about the upper limit of resist-
ance of ordinary farm crops, it will be seen that the soil of the tract
contained n-any times too much alkali for the growth of useful crops.
The following table contains analyses of representative samples of
soil and subsoil taken from the Swan tract:
Chemical analysis of typical samples of soil from the Swan tract.
Sandy Loam, 14-30 Loam, 0-18 Clay loam, Loam,-20 Clay loam,
Constituent. loam, 0-14 inches inches. 18-42 inches. 20-40
inches. inches. inches.
Per cent. Per cent. Per cent. Per cent. Per cent. Per cent.
Soluble salt.................. 1.64 1.34 2.43 2.60 2.46 2.28
Composition of soluble salt:
Calcium (Ca)............. 1.22 1.04 .98 1.15 .81 1.05
Magnesium (Mg)......... .48 .59 .49 .38 .48 .61
Sodium (Na) ............. 30.77 29.51 32.79 33.24 31.61 33.26
Potassium (K)........... 4.39 4.76 3.62 3.07 3.64 2.80
Sulphuric acid (SO4)..... 17.95 18.78 16.03 16.14 19.56 17.06
Chlorine (C) ............. 34.33 29.36 39.27 41.02 36.66 39.40
Bicarbonic acid (HCOa).. 8.79 14.32 3.94 2.77 4.39 2.76
Carbonic acid (COa) ...... 2.07 1.64 2.88 2.23 2.85 3.06
The ground water at this time (1902) stood at about 4 feet from
the surface during the greater part of the irrigation season. In
order to facilitate the removal of alkali salts by flooding, a drainage
system was installed. The accompanying sketch map (fig. 2) shows
the general plan of the drainage system and the size, depth, and
interval between each lateral.
The average cost of the drainage system completed was $16.50 per
acre. The system for the 40 acres includes 8 lateral drains and 1
main drain. Each of the laterals is 1,250 feet long and consists of
850 feet of 4-inch tile and 400 feet of 3-inch tile. The laterals were
placed at intervals of 150 feet, except on the north side of the tract,
where this distance was considerably increased to test the efficiency
of drains at greater distances apart'. The main drain across the west.
end of the tract consists of 520 feet of 6-inch tile, 300 feet of 8-inch
tile, and 270 feet of 10-inch tile. The average depth of the drains
over the entire tract was 4 feet. This was as deep as the system
could be installed and secure a gravity outlet into Williams Lake.
RECLAMATION OF THE SWAN TRACT. 15
In order that the water used in flooding the tract might be measured
a Cipoletti weir with recording register was installed at the point
where the supply canal entered the tract. A registering weir was
also placed at the outlet of the drainage system to measure the water
that*assed through the soil. From the outset the drainage system
worked perfectly and proved adequate to discharge all water drained
through the soil.
On account of the fall, graded streets, and railroad embankment,
leveling the tract so that systematic flooding might be carried on
proved a laborious undertaking. An attempt was made to get the
land in shape for flooding before the close of the irrigating season of
4. 0m fa0ofeed.0
ac esofeed 4 Ino thle. 400 feet 3 dncA t;'le
ig nee"y tct
Sro et u liae Azool edt wis zide
___o ed J,,ZX /Ile __4__OOfet JiR3 tile.
uS 0 tfedt 4,nch tile 400 o ofeet 3inc/, thle
t f to
,8ofWfd 4,nrX /f;e k roofte .3, t;le
1850fed 4,,,cA I__ L.. 400 fedet_ 3 cA file.
5 ippY canal 0
FoIG. 2.-Plan of drainage system, Swan tract.
1902. A number of large checks were made inclosing a few acres
each. Attempts to flood the tract, however, showed that more level-
ing was necessary to flood successfully the entire tract to a depth of
several inches. This was done early in 1903, and flooding operations
were continued during the greater part of the irrigation season. At
the close of the season in 1903 a second alkali survey was made to
determine the quantity of alkali removed by the flooding. This
survey showed that large quantities of alkali had been removed, espe-
cially from the upper layers of soil. It was considered that the land
was sufficiently sweetened to grow shallow-rooted crops. Accord-
ingly in the spring of 1904 the tract was turned over to the Utah
16 REOMLAMATION OF ALKALI LAND IN UTAH.
experiment station to conduct such crop tests. The entire tract
was sowed during the latter part of May to wheat, oats, and barley.
At this time the general tilth of the soil was not good on account of
the flooding of the previous years. The soil somewhat resembles
adobe, tends to bake or harden, and does not readily respond to cul-
tivation. On account of the unfavorable physical condition of the
soil the crop tests were not altogether satisfactory, but they plainly
showed that the tract was already in condition for cultivation as far
as the alkali content was concerned. Of the three crops the wheat
made the best growth. Of the 40 acres planted about 15 per cent
showed a thin stand where alkali still remainedoin the soil. The
entire field headed short and showed the influences of late seeding.
Early in August the greater part of the tract was plowed under to
improve the physical condition of the soil. Flooding was then car-
ried on for a period of several weeks, at the end of which time 10
acres were prepared and planted to winter wheat. By the spring of
1905 most of the wheat had made a good growth, but was thin and
uneven in some places. The remaining 30 acres were planted to
alfalfa and a variety of other crops, including potatoes, corn, berseem,
beans, hemp, sugar beets, oats, barley, and spring wheat. There
still remained some parts of the tract that had not been sufficiently
leveled to secure the best results with irrigation, but in all parts of
the tract, where water could be given the growing crops, results
were very gratifying. No systematic flooding other than light irri-
gations was carried on during 1905. In 1906, 13 acres of the tract
had a good stand of alfalfa, which had been planted the preceding
season, and 4 acres were in winter wheat. The remainder of the
tract was planted principally to alfalfa, using oats as a nurse crop.
Other small portions of the tract were planted to crops requiring cul-
tivation, such as corn, potatoes, and sugar beets. At the close of
the irrigating season in 1906 the tract was practically turned over to
the owner in a reclaimed condition. It is estimated that all except-
ing 1 or 2 acres of the tract contained so little alkali that no further
damage from this source need be feared. A few small spots remained
which still contained alkali in injurious amounts. These represent
higher portions of the different checks which during the flooding
operations had not beert covered with water to a sufficient depth to
leach out the alkali. The greater part of the tract is in alfalfa, and a
very satisfactory stand has been secured. The fact that alfalfa can
be successfully grown shows that the removal of the alkali has been
very thorough, since it is well known that young alfalfa is one of the
most sensitive crops to alkali.
At the beginning and close of each season an alkali survey has
been made to determine the amount removed by flooding and the
change in position of the alkali in the surface 4 feet of soil. The
Bul. 43, Bureau of Soils, U. S. Dept. of Agriculture. PLATE .
I;I- .. ... l.. .
FIG. 1.-SWAN TRACT BEFORE RECLAMATION.
FIG. 2.-SWAN TRACT AFTER RECLAMATION, SHOWING HEAVY GROWTH OF ALFALFA.
RECLAMATION OF THE SWAN TRACT. 17
following table shows the quantity of alkali in the tract as shown by
the surveys taken at different times:
Quantity of alkali in diferent depths of soil on certain dates.
# Alkali in 40 acres.
Soil section.- -
September, 1902. May, 1903. October, 1903. October, 1904.
Tons. Per cent. Tons. Per cent. Tons. Per cent. Tons. Per cent.
First foot........... 1,363 20 499 14 101 8 38 4
Second foot......... 1,540 23 650 19 183 15 128 13
Third foot........... 1,766 27 1,066 31 330 28 212 24
Fourth foot......... 1,982 30 1,265 63 607 49 500 57
Total.......... 6,651 .......... 3,480 .......... 1,221 .......... 878 ..........
The alkali removed from the first foot between September, 1902,
and October, 1904, was 97 per cent of the total quantity originally
contained. From the second foot 91 per cent was removed, from the
third foot 87 per cent, and from the fourth foot 75 per cent. These
.figures show that to a depth of 4 feet there has been 87 per cent of
the original alkali removed from the entire tract.
Compared with its condition in September, 1902, the first foot of
the tract contains only 3 per cent of the alkali originally carried, the
second foot 9 per cent, the third foot 14 per cent, and the fourth
foot 25 per cent. We find from this that the alkali has been removed
most rapidly from the lower depths of the soil. It should be remem-
bered that the alkali in the first 3 feet of soil had to pass through the
fourth foot in its movement downward. The final elimination of
alkali from the lower 2 feet of soil progresses more slowly than in the
surface 2 feet. At the present time but little alkali remains in the
first 2 feet of soil, and the elimination from the third and fourth
should go on more rapidly.
The following table shows the volume of water added to the tract
from September, 1902, until October, 1904. The table shows also
the volume of drainage over the outlet weir, and the salts (alkali)
removed from the tract in the drainage water. The results were
obtained from continuous measurements and daily collections of
water samples for the entire period.
Total quantity of water used in flooding the tract, quantity flowing off through drains, and
Suantity of salts removed in drainage water.
Volume of Volume of Salts in
Month. water added drainage drainage
to tract. water fron water.
1902. Cubic feet. Cubic feet Pounds.
September................................................. 284,400 158.700 152.200
October........................................................ 940. (000 265,( 195.100
November ................................................ a 171,300 251.000 353. 8(I
December..................................................... a 166,500 139,700 187,800
January...................................................... 291,800 257,300 391,200
February ..................................................... 136.400 174.400 214. 00
March...................................................... a 132,000 428,000 500,700
a Fell as rain or snow.
18 RECLAMATION OF ALKALI LAND IN UTAH.
Total quantity of water used in flooding the tract, quantity flowing of through drains, and
quantity of salts removed in drainage water--Continued.
me ume of Volume f alts in
Month. water added drainageage
to tract. atr frm water.
1903. Cubic feet. Cubic feet. oPounds.
April........................................................ a 112,000 26,900 26,500
May..................................................... i 90 521500 567,100
760,000 ,27,500 345.200
June ................................................. ........6,00274,500 35,200
676, 500 274, 500
July........................................................... 6 0 480,90 556,459
August.................................................... 2,122,160 814,890 1,221,742
September...................................... .............. 2,352,920 1,195,976 1,654,115
October....................................................... 351,290 663,420 840,981
November .................. ............... .................. 563,376 113,137 126,364
December...................................................... 40,656 50,376 43,953
January................................................... 217,800 26,396 18,912
February................................................. 299,112 382,628 475,631
March....................................................... 187,308 380,114 521,974
April........................................................ 255,552 258,519 382,335
May............................................. 382,974 60,903 61,466
June......... .......... .................................... a 44,970 68,132 31,487
S 618, 172
July..a 87,120 4
Julyg........................................................ a 87, 43045 385364
August................................ a 35,820 774, 285 711,021
September.................................................... a 20,320 579,215 579,215
Total.................................... ............... 17,896,486 8,775,940 10,635,419
a Fell as rain or snow.
From the initial installation to October 1, 1904, we have the follow-
Total volume of water added............................... cubic feet.. 17, 896,486
Total tonnage of salts removed. ................. ................ tons.. 5,317
The initial tonnage of alkali in this tract in September, 1902, by a
careful alkali survey, was 6,651 tons. From the above record it
would seem that about all the alkali had been leached from the tract
to a depth of 4 feet. It should be remembered that this tonnage was
obtained from little more than half of the water actually added to the
tract. One factor, however, remains undetermined, viz, the volume
of water 'lost by surface evaporation.
Certain phenomena enter into the work which tend to show that
the salt removed from the tract will finally exceed the actual tonnage
originally present. We find the reclamation from alkali is not lim-
ited to the 40 acres in question, but that the effect of this drainage
system is far-reaching. Unmistakable evidences appear which
show that the land lying contiguous to the tract has been most defin-
itely benefited by drains installed on the 40 acres. Lands lying
above this tract, which in years past have never produced crops, have
during the past season yielded almost normally. The drains near
RECLAMATION OF THE SWAN TRACT. 19
these lands have carried from them their underground water and the
alkali which it contained.
Thm following table shows the quantity and composition of the
constiuents removed in the drainage water at various times during
the progress of the reclamation. The proportion of the different con-
stituents is remarkably uniform and should remain so until some one
or more of the salts is completely removed as pointed out by Cameron.a
Chemical analysis of drainage water from Swan tract.
[In parts per 100,000.]
tile drain Drainage Drainage Drainage Drainage
Constituent. before irri- water June water April water May water June
gating 18, 1903. 4, 1904. 10, 1905. 26, 1906.
Calcium (Ca)........................... .. 4.5 7.2 6.1 3.7 3.7
Magnesium (Mg)....................... 9.6 25.7 16.2 7.0 8.9
Sodium (Na)........................... 696.6 1,177.1 726.2 366.0 392.4
Potassium (K)............................ 31.9 26.0 26.9 10.8 12.6
Sulphuric.acid (804)...................... 387.0 888.6 353.1 214.3 228.8
Chlorine (C1)........................... 765.0 1,207.0 888.1 395.8 431.2
Bicarbonic acid (HCOa) ................... 132.9 93.7 80.0 66.6 69.5
Carbonic acid (CO0) ...................... 7.1 5.5 4.0 5.9 6.0
Total solids........................ 2,034.6 3,430.8 2,100.6 1,070.1 1,153.1
The following table shows the increased acreage of soil containing
a low percentage of alkali. The columns headed "September" show
the original acreage, while the columns headed "October" show pres-
ent acreage. The results of later surveys are not included in these
tables, since it was found that the alkali conditions over the entire
tract were but little changed:
Acreage of land of diferent grades of alkali September, 1902, and October, 1904.
First foot. Second foot. Third foot. Fourth foot. Total in 4 feet.
Percent alkali pres- e Octo- Sep- Octo- Sep- Octo- Sep- Octo- Sep- Octo-
ent n soil (gra temr er, temer, ber, tenmber, ber, temer, her, tember,i her,
1902. 1904. 1902. 1904. 1902. 1904. 1902. 1904. 1902. 1904.
0.0-0.2.............. None. 38.8 None. 27.6 None. 17.0 None. 11.5 None. 23.7
0.2-0.4.............. 3.0 None. 0.4 8.2 0.1 11.5 0.1 9.0 0.9 7.2
0.4-0.6.............. 13.3 None. 2.3 3.2 .7 5.3 1.3 6.0 1.9 3.6
0.6-1............... 10.7 None. 8.0 None. 3.9 3.5 6.2 5.3 7.2 2.2
1-3................ 16.8 None. 19.7 None. 22.6 1.7 18.1 7.2 19.3 2.2
Over 3............. 5.0 None. 8.4 None. 11.5 None. 13.1 None. 9.5 None.
From the above brief description of the operations on the Swan
tract it will be seen that excessive quantities of alkali can be removed
from heavy soils by continuous flooding during a single irrigation
season. The success of such an experiment can not but be far-
reaching in its influence upon the alkali question in Salt Lake Valley.
aThe Composition of the Drainage Waters of Some Alkali Tracts. Jour. Am. Chem.
Soc., Vol. XXVIII, No. 10, 1906. See also Bul. No. 33, Bureau of Soils.
20 RECLAMATION OF ALKALI LAND IN UTAH.
It means that thousands of acres of land now lying idle can be made
to produce profitable crops at a small outlay of time and money.
While the present water supply is perhaps too limited to warrant
the reclamation of all of the alkali areas, it is nevertheless adequate
to reclaim a considerable proportion of the apparently worthless
METHODS USED IN RECLAIMING ALKALI LAND IN SALT LAKE VALLEY.
While there are abundant evidences that considerable land has
been damaged by the accumulation of seepage water and rise of
alkali, we must not lose sight of the fact that, since the earliest set-
tlement in the valley, lands originally containing alkali have been
reclaimed. Even at the present time the reclamation of alkali lands
is progressing to a limited extent. That the question of alkali was
considered serious by the settlers is brought out in some of the early
writings. For instance, Charles Brougha states that "transforma-
tion of this sterile waste, glistening with beds of salts and soda and
deadly alkali, seemed impossible." From this quotation it must not
be inferred that any large bodies of land containing excessive quan-
tities of alkali have ever been reclaimed. There are reasons to be-
lieve that, taking the valley as a whole, the quantity of alkali is decreas-
ing, especially on the higher sloping lands which are better drained.
Mention is made by some of the old settlers of the fact that in former
times the year's supply of salt could be gathered from some one of
the numerous small lake beds which occur in large numbers in the
level valley between the Jordan River and the shores of Great Salt
Lake. At the present time, while these ponds dry up during the
summer season and crusts of alkali are formed on the surface, in no
places can large quantities of salt be gathered by merely shoveling
up the surface deposit. From this it may be inferred that as new
tracts of land are being put under irrigation the alkali is gradually
being driven into underground drainage channels and slowly work-
ing its way to Great Salt Lake.
The methods which are at present used in reclaiming alkali lands
may be described under the heads of cultivation, washing, and flood-
ing combined with drainage.
Utilizing small tracts of land by thorough cultivation and planting
crops is practiced not only in the Salt Lake Valley, but in many dis-
tricts in the Pacific Coast States, especially by Chinese farmers and
gardeners. A tract of land is selected usually of not more than a
few acres, which on account of its alkali content is not considered
a Irrigation in Utah.
METHODS USED IN RECLAIMING ALKALI LANDS. 21
valuable, and hence offers a cheap home site to the man of limited
capital. By thorough cultivation the land is put in the best possible
shape for crops, which are planted and make a successful growth.
By spading or deeply plowing the soil the alkali accumulated at or
near the surface is evenly distributed through the soil to the depth
to which it is stirred. The soil is also made loose and porous, so that
rains or applications of irrigation water tend.to drive the alkali salts
to a lower depth. The upper soil is then sufficiently reclaimed to
permit the growth of crops which shade the surface, while repeated
cultivation checks further rise of alkali. Each succeeding irrigation
tends to drive the alkali deeper into the subsoil, until the greater
part of it is carried away into the country drainage. Thus these
small tracts of alkali land are made productive, frequently with no
thought on the part of the owner that he is actually reclaiming the
land. Could this method be adopted on a large scale or the land
subdivided into a large number of small holdings and thoroughly
cultivated, there is little doubt that large tracts of land in Salt Lake
Valley could be made productive. Frequently in following out this
method of reclaiming alkali soils large quantities of stable manure
are worked into the soil, which tends to make the soil more open and
allows the more ready percolation of rainfall and irrigation water.
The addition of manure also serves as a stimulant to young crops,
thereby enabling them to withstand whatever alkali may still remain
in the upper layers of soil.
This is also a favorite method when an attempt is made to culti-
vate somewhat larger tracts of land than are mentioned in the above
paragraph. Fields of 10 and 20 acres are selected which in their
present condition are considered too strongly charged with alkali to
grow crops. Sufficient leveling is done to get the land in shape for
irrigation. When the land has been leveled so that all parts of the
tract may be covered with water to a considerable depth, heavy irri-
gations are used during longer or shorter periods as required. In
this way large quantities of alkali may be washed off the surface or
driven to some depth in the soil. With the ground water at a depth
of 4 or 5 feet from the surface the amount of alkali driven into a
lower depth of soil with that removed from the surface by washing
may sufficiently sweeten the land to permit growth of crops. Irriga-
tion after the crop has become partially established is relied upon to
further reduce the amount of alkali in the upper layers of soil. It is
undoubtedly by this method that the early settlers reclaimed exten-
sive areas on the east side of the valley. The slope in this portion
of the valley is usually pronounced, and other conditions are favor-
able for removing the alkali originally contained in the soils. During
the progress of the demonstration work on the Swan tract a small
22 RECLAMATION OF ALKALI LAND IN UTAH.
piece of land near by was reclaimed in this manner. Flooding was
carried on at various times during the year, to be followed in the
succeeding spring by a crop test. While this work was unsuccessful
for the first two or three years and the crop returns did not pay for
the cost of seeding, eventually this method was successful and the
land now supports a fine stand of alfalfa. As late as the latter
part of the summer of 1904 the surface was heavily incrusted with
alkali salts. In 1905, the year in which the crop of alfalfa was
established, a test of this soil was made to a depth of 3 feet in places
where the stand of alfalfa was thin. It was believed that the alfalfa
in these places was actually tolerating a high percentage of alkali.
These tests showed that none of the soil to a depth of 3 feet con-
tained sufficient alkali to injure alfalfa even in its younger stages.
The ground water at this time stood within 3 feet of the surface.
Before attempting the reclamation of any considerable tract of
land by this method it will be found advisable to determine accu-
rately the depth of the ground water. As a general rule, if the
ground water occurs within 3 feet or less, considerable difficulty will
be found in leaching out large quantities of alkali by flushing or
irrigation. If, however, the ground water is at a depth of 4 feet or
more and the soil of open, sandy texture, washing, especially during
the late summer season, will so reduce the quantity of alkali that
crops may be grown the succeeding spring.
FLOODING COMBINED WITH DRAINAGE.
While no extensive attempts at reclaiming alkali lands have been
undertaken by drainage combined with flooding, there are a number
of interesting examples which deserve attention. In the vicinity of
Granger, about 10 miles southwest of Salt Lake City, a number of
farmers have successfully reclaimed land damaged by high ground
water and accumulations of alkali. Some of the farmers who have
undertaken this work are enthusiastic over the results, and each year
continually increase the extent of their drainage systems. Drains
consisting of ordinary drain tiles have been used in some cases, but
equally good results have been obtained with drains made of boards.
In some cases land originally covered each year by a heavy crust of
alkali, with the water table near the surface, has been reclaimed in
one year's time and now supports a heavy growth of alfalfa. While
it has been realized by these farmers that the cost of installing the
drainage system was considerable, they have been amply repaid by
the increased growth of crops for the time and money expended.
Drainage systems with open ditches have also proved successful in
a few instances. A greater part of the soils in the level portions of
the valley stand well in bank and only require cleaning once or twice
each year, so that this form of drainage system can be utilized by
the farmer of limited means who can not afford to purchase tile.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOB RECLAIMING ALKALI LANDS. 23
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR RECLAIMING ALKALI LANDS.
Before attempting the reclamation of any considerable tract of
alkali land in Salt Lake Valley it is desirable for the farmer to con-
sider*the demonstration work on the Swan tract and other methods
which have been used by the farmers of the valley. This work
plainly shows that one of the most essential features is that the land
must be placed in condition so that it can be entirely covered by
irrigation water. Even with efficient drainage systems, if high spots
remain in the fields which can only be covered to a very slight depth
with water, these places will tend to hold and accumulate the alkali
from the surrounding land. This does not necessarily imply that the
land must be made perfectly level, but it must be so graded that an
even flow of water across it may be had to secure uniform leaching.
Where the land has only a slight fall it will be found desirable to
divide the land into checks so that the water may be held on the
land. It has been the experience of the Bureau of Soils on the Swan
tract and elsewhere that the best results have been secured with a
considerable depth of water. Light irrigations carry the alkali to a
depth of a few inches, and when the soil dries off it readily returns to
the surface, as previously explained. Flooding to a depth of 10 or
12 inches drives the alkali deeply into the soil, while succeeding
floodings carry it still farther into the soil, thereby diminishing the
chances for a second accumulation at the surface when conditions
become favorable. It will be found desirable to plow the land to a
good depth before each flooding in order that the water may more
readily percolate the soil. On sandy soils that are open and porous
plowing may not be necessary to effect a rapid downward movement
of the water. Plowing the land at the close of the irrigating season
will check evaporation and allow the soil to catch and hold any rain
or snow that falls. Plowing in the fall is to be recommended for
alkali land, no matter what method of reclamation is used to remove
The question of deciding whether or not drainage is necessary to
reclaim a certain piece of land will depend on the quantity of alkali
present, the character of the soil, and the depth to standing water.
With porous sandy soils, only moderate quantities of alkali, and the
ground water at a depth of 4 feet or more, heavy flooding for a few
months will so reduce the alkali content that useful crops may be
grown. To keep the land free from alkali heavy surface irrigation
should be resorted to. This will drive down whatever salts are car-
ried upward by the capillary rise of the soil moisture. At any time
should the ground water rise within a few feet of the surface gradual
accumulation of alkali may be expected. Should the practice of
occasional heavy surface irrigations be discontinued alkali will
undoubtedly increase in the upper layers of soil. Many examples
24 RECLAMATION OF ALKALI LAND IN UTAH.
have been recorded where land reclaimed in this way has again
been ruined by a second accumulation of alkali. Such examples
have probably prejudiced many farmers against freeing land from
alkali by this means.
Where large quantities of alkali are contained in heavy clayey soils
this method becomes of more doubtful application. The quantity of
water necessary to wash the alkali to the point where it will no longer
harm crops may be sufficient to raise the ground water, thereby defeat-
ing the object of the experiment. Again, the length of time involved
in reclaiming such soils must be considered. While it may be possible
eventually to reclaim heavy soils containing much alkali, the time nec-
essary to do this will probably be so great that it will be far cheaper
to drain the land to hasten the reclamation and put the land in erops.
Frequently crop returns from productive land amount to from $20 to
$50, and even more, an acre. From this it will be seen that it would
be well worth from $15 to $20 an acre, the cost of a drainage system,
if by this expense the farmer can get his land into paying crops one
year sooner than he could by flooding alone. The question of the per-
manent reclamation also enters, for unless the land be naturally well
drained and carefully managed alkali may accumulate in even greater
quantities than were originally present.
Aside from the ease and rapidity with which land may be reclaimed'
after a drainage system has been installed, there are several other rea-
sons why drainage is to be recommended. In countries of abundant
rainfall the good effects from drainage are appreciated and much land
is drained where the removal of an excess of water is not absolutely
necessary. The observant farmer has learned that drained land can
be cultivated earlier in the spring and is warmer; that excess of rain-
fall is rapidly drained away, while sufficient moisture is retained in the
soil to maintain a vigorous growth. In an arid region drainage will
for these reasons add to the value of the soil aside from the question
of removing alkali and seepage waters. Drainage may be accom-
plished by pumping plants that depend upon shallow ground water
for their supply or by the use of gravity drains that will conduct the
water to some natural outlet or to a sump dug for the purpose, from
which it is raised. Either method is capable of lowering the ground
water. If the drainage water does not contain soluble salts in large
quantities, pumping may be used to furnish water for irrigation pur-
poses. If, however, the drainage water contains too much salt to be
applied to crops, it will be better to depend on a gravity system of
drains. No great difficulty will be experienced in finding a gravity
outlet in the Salt Lake Valley, as the land has ample fall and there is
a network of narrow depressions that finally discharge into Great Salt
A drainage system to reclaim alkali land differs somewhat from the
drainage systems commonly used in regions of abundant rainfall. To
secure the best results the drains are placed at a greater depth and at
a correspondingly increased distance apart. On the Swan tract, in
heavy soils, drains placed 200 feet apart were apparently as successful
as those placed 150 feet apart. On the light sandy loams where the
alkali occurs in moderate quantity the drains may be placed at inter-
vals as great as 250 and 300 feet. On the heavy clay soils with a large
amount of alkali intervals of 150 feet between drains will be more sat-
isfactory. Drains should be placed at least 3 feet deep, and depths
of 4, and even 5, feet will repay the extra cost in laying them at this
depth. The depth at which the drains are installed will be found to
be about the depth to which the alkali can be leached from the soil.
While 3 feet of alkali-free soil may be sufficient for most crops, under-
lying layers of soil containing alkali will be a possible source of danger,
depending on the capillary power of the soil to lift the alkali to the
surface.. Each additional foot of soil that can be freed from alkali
thereby decreases the chances of a second accumulation of alkali in
the upper layers of soil. Four or 5 feet has been found to be a good
depth to install drains, as most soils will accumulate little alkali when
once it has been leached to this depth.
Open ditches are equally as effective as closed drains and have been
extensively used in Egypt and other alkali districts in northern Africa.a
Open ditches need frequent cleaning, occupy valuable space, must be
bridged to transport farm machinery across fields, and frequently
prove troublesome when flooding the land. For these reasons open
ditches for small-field drains have not been extensively used in this
country, although they are generally used for large-main drains that
receive the surplus waters of many small drainage systems.
For closed drains tiles of burned clay or boxes of boards or planks
may be used. Flat stones are frequently used for closed drains, as
well as bundles of brush tied together and placed end to end. -Since
drain tiles have proved the most economical form of drainage imple-
ment, their use is generally to be recommended. For information in
regard to laying tile and planning drainage systems the reader is
referred to Farmers' Bulletin No. 187, entitled "Drainage of Farm
Lands," and "Engineering for Land Drainage," by C. G. Elliott, of
the Office of Experiment Stations. Tiles smaller than 4 inches have
not given satisfaction in draining alkali lands on account of the diffi-
culty in keeping them free from silt. The tiles should be crowded
aReclamation of Alkali Lands in Egypt, by Thomas H. Means, Bul.21, Bureau of
26 RECLAMATION OF ALKALI LAND IN UTAH.
closely together and silt catchment basins constructed in long lines
of tile. It will generally be found advisable to construct these of suf-
ficient size, so that the deposits of silt may be easily removed. Boxes
made of boards or planks 4 or 5 feet long and 2 feet wide and at least
1 foot deeper than the tile have been found satisfactory. In Salt Lake
Valley no unusual difficulty will be found in keeping the tiles free from
silt, for the subsoils are usually heavy. After the tiles are laid care
should be taken to settle the earth firmly over them. This may be
done by filling to a depth of several inches and allowing a small stream
of water to enter the trenches before filling in the entire trench. When
once the earth is firmly settled over the lines of tile and it is found that
silt does not enter the tiles, the land may be flooded over the lines of
tile. If, however, much silt enters the tiles banks of earth or levees
should be thrown up to protect the lines of tile. On the Swan tract
little, if any, silt enters the tiles, and precautions necessary to keep
the tiles open elsewhere were not considered.
After the drainage system is installed the land should be divided
into checks so that flooding can be carried on. Flooding is necessary
to hasten the final reclamation. Drainage may effectually check any
further accumulation of alkali, but the alkali contained in the soil will
not be removed until sufficient water is added to leach it downward
through the soil. Heavy rains that penetrate the soil to the depth of
the drains are valuable adjuncts to flooding, but in arid countries the
ordinary rainfall can rarely be depended upon to remove the alkali
entirely. A good depth of water even at infrequent intervals is more
effective than frequent applications of a few inches of water, as
explained elsewhere. More time will be necessary to leach alkali
from stubborn clay soils than from sandy soils, through which the
water readily percolates. On the Swan tract, with heavy soils and
excessive alkali content, flooding for one season so reduced the alkali
that shallow-rooted crops could be grown the following season.
From this it would appear that, with an adequate drainage system
and the land nicely leveled for flooding, the land should be occupied
with profitable crops the succeeding year. In the case of heavy soils
the growth of shallow-rooted annual crops is advised before planting a
permanent crop, such as alfalfa. During the flooding operations the
tilth of the soil may be destroyed and the cultivation and plowing
under of stubble will help overcome the bad effects of water-logging the
soil. Oats will be found a good crop to plant on newly reclaimed alkali
lands. Oats withstand considerable alkali, make a rapid growth, and
find a ready sale at good prices in Salt Lake City. This crop has also
been found a good nurse crop for alfalfa when the latter is seeded.
On the Swan tract alfalfa sown with oats as a nurse crop made fully as
good growth as alfalfa without a nurse crop, and there was gained the
crop of oats while the alfalfa was getting established the first year.
It was observed that the flooding necessary to reclaim the land had
not in any way impaired the productiveness of the soil, as the stand of
alfalfa was pronounced as satisfactory as that secured on alkali-free
soils in different parts of the State.
Thebost of reclaiming alkali land in Salt Lake Valley will depend on
the methods employed, the character of soil, and the quantity of alkali.
With light sandy soils, little alkali, and deep ground water, cultivation
and surface irrigation will be all that is necessary and the cost will be
slight. The land must be prepared for surface irrigation, which will
cost from $2 to upward of $30 an acre, depending on the character of
the surface. There are large tracts of land in the valley where the
amount of leveling will be small and the cost should not exceed $5 an
acre. The cost of the cultivation and irrigation will also be low, so
that $10 or $15 an acre will be sufficient to reclaim comparatively
level sandy soils.
When a drainage system is necessary, as well as flooding for several
months, the cost will be much greater. The drainage system on the
Swan tract cost about $16.50 an acre and may be taken as an average
cost of similar work in the valley. The cost of flooding for one year
will vary from $5 to $10 an acre. By many it will be urged that the
cost of leveling the land should not be included in the cost of reclaim-
ing land, since all recognize that the land must be leveled before it can
be successfully irrigated regardless of the presence of alkali. Deduct-
ing, then, the item of leveling, the cost of reclaiming alkali lands in
Salt Lake Valley, even when drainage must be resorted to, will be from
$20 to $35 an acre, surely a small outlay when the increased earning
capacity of the soil is considered.
In previous pages it has been shown that extensive tracts of land
in Salt Lake Valley west of the Jordan River are not productive on
account of alkali. On account of the nearness to excellent markets
it is highly desirable that the farmer should know how to remove the
alkali. Reclaiming alkali land to a limited extent has been practiced
since the first settlement in the valley in 1847, but no extensive work
has been undertaken by private enterprise. An experiment on 40
acres of worthless alkali land 4 miles west of Salt Lake City, conducted
by the Bureau of Soils and the Utah experiment station, showed that
such work is practicable, since the reclaimed land now supports a good
stand of alfalfa. These results were accomplished by heavily flooding
the land after a drainage system had been installed. It was found
that surface flooding for one year leached away large quantities of
alkali from heavy soils; in fact the quantity of alkali was so reduced
that shallow-rooted crops could be grown the following year. The
cost of reclaiming this tract of land is not large in comparison to the
28 RECLAMATION OF ALKALI LAND IN UTAH.
enhanced value of the land. This experiment in reclaiming worthless
alkali lands should prove an incentive to those seeking homes at
moderate cost, or to men of larger capital interested in employing their
means in safe investments. Much of the now idle land in Salt Lake
Valley can be made to yield handsome returns by a limited outlay of
time and money. Even those lands that, on account of the necessity
of providing drainage systems, will require more effort to get rid of the
alkali will be often found far cheaper than new lands now being devel-
oped in many parts of the West where market facilities and social and
educational advantages are lacking and no definite information can be
secured as to what crops may be successfully grown.
..... .. ....
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