Long before the area was settled, Eden Valley had served as a thoroughfare for various types of travelers, the first of which were Native Americans. Ancient Indian camps have been discovered in this area by archaeologists, who gave the name Eden Point to one of the oldest types of arrowheads ever found. Next came the traders. In 1824, three mountain men made the first east-west crossing of South Pass, a mountain pass on the Continental Divide just north of the Sweetwater-Fremont county line.
Jedediah Smith, Thomas Fitzpatrick and William Sublette were looking for a practical overland route over the Rocky Mountains for the fur trade.
Finally, there was the mass emigration of pioneers. In 1842, South Pass was surveyed by John C. Fremont, who mapped the route that would become the Oregon and Mormon Trails. Thousands of pioneers made their way to Oregon, California and Utah on the trail from the 1840s through the 1860s. Pioneer accounts refer to following the Big Sandy to the Green River, which would have taken them through Eden Valley. Later, the Pony Express and telegraph lines followed the same route.
Irrigation Leads to Settlement
In the 1880s, there were a few attempts at settling the area. But the majority of settlers came after 1907, when a large-scale irrigation project was financed by John M. Farson, Sons & Company. The project came under the provision of the Carey Act.
Like the Homestead Act, the Carey Act allowed each settler 160 acres of federal land. However, the Carey Act required they pay fifty cents per acre for the land and $30 per acre for water rights.
Payment was due in 10 years if they could irrigate at least 20 acres. The irrigation sources were the Big Sandy River and the Little Sandy River, which begin north of the snow fields of the Wind River Mountain Range.
To attract settlers to the area, the Farson Company distributed pamphlets promoting the advantages of farming in the valley. Claims such as “fruit orchards will thrive and grow higher than a man’s head,” and “the growing season in Eden Valley is as delightful as can be found in the country anywhere,” proved to be exaggerated. Lured by the promise of a prosperous new beginning, settlers started coming. Most traveled on the Union Pacific Railroad to Rock Springs, bringing furniture, farm equipment and even animals with them in emigrant cars. They continued by wagon to Eden Valley.
Some of the earliest arrivals lived in tents during their first winter here. Early settler Ivan Dearth summed up the optimism of his neighbors when he said, “I like this place and with reasonable luck can do well here.”
The Farson irrigation company went bankrupt in 1923. After that, the project had several owners. Finally, in 1940 the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation took over the irrigation project with a plan to use the Civilian Conservation Corps to build a dam on the Big Sandy River.
World War II delayed construction until the 1950s, when the Big Sandy Reservoir and additional canals were completed. The Eden Valley Irrigation and Drainage District was then formed to oversee operation of the project. Flood irrigation was the predominate method used. Besides crop production, other types of agriculture supported area families.
Between 1920 and 1960, independent dairymen provided milk to customers in Rock Springs. Farmers also raised poultry, livestock and potatoes for the Rock Springs market. To supplement their incomes, early residents sometimes found it necessary to work in the coal mines of Rock Springs.
Eden Valley Today
During the 1980s, farmers and ranchers were encouraged to change irrigation methods to increase efficiency and reduce salinity in the watershed. Today, ranching operations grow hay and small grains to feed winter livestock or to sell throughout the region.
If not employed in agriculture, residents work for the school, various government offices and small businesses. In recent years, an increasing number of residents living on small acreages or ranches commute to Rock Springs and Green River to work. Gas exploration nearby also provides work for area residents and a boost for the local economy. Early settlers would be proud to know that Eden Valley, almost 100 years later, is the oasis in the desert that they dreamed it would be.
Eden Valley, From I-80, take U.S. 191 N. for 41 miles, take right on Eden East Main Rd.
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