Agriculture on the Green River

Boedicea P. Fox

There were many signs of agriculture as we made our way down the Green River, from water diversions, to cattle. Most farming activity was seen in Browns Park, which is a wide flat area, with fertile soil created by historic flooding and sediment deposition.

The first place agricultural activity was seen was at Jarvie Ranch on June 14th, at river mile 274. The ranch is a Bureau of Land Management historic site, and its old farm buildings and water wheel could be seen from the river to the left. Close to the old ranch site, several unused rock-walled diversions were seen along the right side of the river. These diversions probably date back to the first agriculture in the area, at the end of the nineteenth century.

A little downstream of the ranch, fields of alfalfa could be seen on the left side of the river. Downstream still, a herd of cows was standing on the left riverbank munching coyote willow (Figure 1). More evidence of cows was seen at our campsite that night, river mile 268.5, in the form of “country pancakes,” or “cowpatties.”


Figure 1. Cows on the banks of the Green River.

The following day, June 15th , several more water diversions were seen, of more modern origin. Some of these consisted of wooden platforms holding a metal pipe, to which a pump could be affixed and lowered into the river (Figure 2). Others were portable pipes with pump attached, which appeared to be towed to the riverbank and wheeled down ramps to the water (Figure 3). There was some speculation that some of the more permanent structures may actually divert water to the wildlife management ponds, which are abundant in the area, but cannot be seen from the river. Signs of cows were seen again at the Swallow Canyon boat ramp (river mile 263.25). There were many cow tracks in the mud at the waters edge and cow trails led into the tall willow and tamarisk stands along the banks.


Figure 2: Permanent water diversion structure, river mile 258.6


Figure 3. Portable water diversion, river mile 258.4.

On June 16th, before entering Lodore Canyon, an extensive crop irrigation system could be seen at river right, around river mile 246.7. A portable pump lowered down the bank to the water level fed the irrigation system. A large generator was visible at the top of the bank, as well as tanks of diesel fuel and other machinery (Figure 4).


Figure 4. Large irrigation diversion in Browns Park, before Lodore Canyon


Figure 5. Another view of the same diversion