ever heard of a river that crosses over itself? Well, according
to Ripley's "Believe it or not!" such a river existed
in Carlsbad, New Mexico. At one time, due to the help of an
extremely large flume, the Pecos River crossed over itself. Now
you may ask yourself "what is a flume?" According to
the dictionary, it is a narrow gorge with a stream flowing
through it, usually, or an artificial channel or chute for a
stream of water. The latter describes the Flume on the Pecos
River at Carlsbad, New Mexico.
Irrigation was a necessity for the arid Southwest as it couldn't
depend on rainfall and snow for moisture to grow crops. For centuries Native Americans
and Hispanic peoples regularly watered small fields with canal
networks, acequias and brush diversion dams. In 1889, however,
Ralph S. Tarr, an observer for the U. S. Geological Survey
department, felt the Pecos Valley had potential for large scale
agriculture. He estimated the regions between Roswell and the
Texas line contained some 300,000 acres of fertile, irrigable
land. Thus was begun the Pecos River Reclamation Project, of
which the famous Pat Garrettt (who had a ranch near Roswell) and
Charles B. Eddy, founder of Carlsbad, were a part. The plan was
to build a large conversion dam and a canal network. The Pecos River Flume was probably the most complex part of the
canal network, according to Mark Hufstetler and Lon Johnson who
wrote The Turbulent History of the Carlsbad Irrigation District.
The canal was split into East Side and Main Canals. At this
bifurcation, Main (or Western) Canal crossed the Pecos River by
means of a wooden flume, 475 feet long by 25 feet wide, carrying
eight feet of water. The Flume was completed in
1890 but was destroyed by a flood in 1902. Rebuilt in concrete,
at that time it was the largest concrete structure in the world.
It is in use today as part of the Carlsbad Irrigation District.
Once featured in Ripley's "Believe It or Not" as the
river that crosses itself, it carries Pecos River water from Lake
Avalon, just north of Carlsbad, for irrigation.
Today the flume stills stands as a monument to early Western
settlers' ingenuity and problem solving abilities.