LAGUNA DAM COLORADO RIVER


the Wanderling

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THEN_____________________________________________NOW

Laguna Dam is the first of the dams built across the Colorado River. It is located upstream about 85 air miles north of the mouth of the river and 13 miles northeast of Yuma, Arizona, roughly 5 miles downstream from Imperial Dam. The two photos above, looking basically due south, show the sluice gate portion of the dam built directly across the Colorado River on the California side. It is located on the northwest end of the diversion dam along Imperial Dam Road. The pictures below show the small dam at the southeast end of the diversion dam on the Arizona side along Laguna Dam Road.

Stretching between the two from one end to the other is a 4780 foot long concrete spillway. The spillway is clearly visible in the aerial view found in the fifth of the photos below, the spillway, starting on the California side, running diagonally from approximately the center of the photo to the lower right corner. The mid section of the spillway is picked up in the sixth photo with the southeast terminal of the spillway shown ending on the Arizona side in the seventh photo.

When visiting the dam it is not easy to get from the California side of the river to the Arizona side or vice versa, that is why most photo segments show either one dam or the other. If you don't know how it used to work it is sometimes hard to tie together. As for "how it used to work," the whole of the Laguna Diversion Dam is and has been virtually unused and unusable for a long time having been made redundant with the construction and final completion of the Imperial Dam. The non-use is the why of the rusted lift-gates and weed choked canals. The swastika bridge is located on the Arizona side not much more than a stones throw upstream along one of those canals northeast of the small dam. By clicking the "(see)" link at the end of this paragraph a Google aerial view comes up showing the swastika bridge located just at end of the words Mittry Lake. The Google map image clearly depicts the southeast end of the long concrete spillway terminating just to the left as it reaches the swastika bridge, as well as the canal and the beginning of the canal that leads to the small dam.(see)










THE SPILLWAY AS SEEN FROM CALIFORNIA. SWASTIKA BRIDGE AT FAR END IN ARIZONA
(for larger size click image then click again)

THE 4780 FOOT CONCRETE SPILLWAY STRETCHING BETWEEN CALIFORNIA TO ARIZONA
(for more on the diversion dam please click image)


If the total number of miles traveled by ship going upstream on the Colorado River by Conquistadors and other early Spanish explorers in the 1540's is considered as the major criteria for success, using the river's termination point into the delta at the top of the Gulf of California as the starting point, then that success would fall on Hernando de Alarcon. Alarcon was a commander of three ships in support of Spanish conquistador Francisco Vasquez de Coronado's overland march north in search of the Seven Cities of Cibola, re the following:


"At the same time Coronado marched north from Mexico City with hundreds and hundreds of armed men and horses, plus a 1000 Indian bearers, three ships left port on the Pacific side under the command of Hernando de Alarcon, loaded to the gills with additional stores and materials for Coronado's march. Alarcon sailed up the Sea of Cortez with all intentions of meeting up with Coronado --- without anybody of note fully realizing it wasn't likely to happen, not because the river was unnavigable in any way shape or form, but because the distance between the inland city or Cibola and the gulf continued to widen as Coronado's army marched north eastward."


A captain under the command of Coronado by the name of Melchior Diaz was sent from Cibola with a scouting party toward the gulf in search of Alarcon's three ships. Diaz, traveling basically west-south-west and thinking he would eventually come to the gulf, and, although some reports have him arriving south of the delta he actually reached the Colorado River well over a 100 miles north the delta. He was told by Indians of the area that some days before, what they described as ships, had been seen on the river basically staying in the same location for two or three days. When Diaz reached the spot where the ships had been seen, he found a stash of supplies left by Alarcon who had sailed up the Colorado thinking he could meet up with Coronado. After waiting several days and with no sign of Coronado's army Alarcon offloaded the supplies, but what he did next is not clear.

How far north Alarcon traveled and where the location of the supplies were offloaded is not known with any amount of certainty primarily because of insufficient archaeological evidence and the lack of formal reports. Where the supplies were left and how far north along the river Alarcon sailed are not necessarily tied together, however. Some historians say he got as far north as the present day Blythe Canal 126 miles upriver of Yuma. Others say he sailed even 150 miles further than that, reaching clear to where present day Needles, California is located, 282 miles north of Yuma. Some researchers say Alarcon offloaded his supplies somewhere along a 13 mile gap between the present day ghost town of Picacho located some 44 miles north of the Gila River and Lighthouse Rock, which is roughly 57 miles north of the Gila River, without getting into how far up river Alarcon may have really gone. However far Alarcon got up the river, unlike what was done in more recent times, he was charting new territory. There were no navigational maps or previous knowledge of the river such a depths, currents, or even where it actually came from. Everything was done on pure gut instincts and luck.

The paragraph in quotes below this paragraph is found in the book Inglorious Columbus, {1885} by Edward Payson Vining, The overlying premise of Vining's book is that Buddhists arrived in the Americas long before Columbus. In the quote, Vining is speaking of a Buddhist monk named Hui Shen who is said to have traveled to the Americas sometime in the latter half of the 5th Century AD into the early part of the 6th Century before returning to China. In Appendix B of An Inglorious Columbus, Vining, includes a copy of a letter to the French Academy of Sciences by Charles Hippolyte Paravey de Chevalier dated April 26, 1847 substantiating Hui Shen's travels. In Paravey's letter the following is found:


"One of the countries of America which was first converted by the shamans of Cabul, arriving from the southern point of Karatchatka at the excellent port of San Francisco, in California, to the north of Monterey, must evidently have been the country upon the banks of the Colorado River, a large river which flows through these same regions from the north to the south and falls into the northern end of the Gulf of California. Now, in the useful translations of the Spanish authors made by M. Ternaux-Compans, we find that Castaneda (Pedro de Castaneda de N'jera) placed near the Colorado River, in a small island, a sanctuary of Lamaisra, or of Buddhism. He mentions a divine personage living in a small house near a lake upon this island, and called, as he says, 'Quatu-zaca.'"


The island? Cottonwood Island, now submerged by Lake Mohave, is the overall best candidate. None of the 1540's Spanish explorers, over land or by river, ever got much closer to Cottonwood Island than 40 miles, the closest most likely Alarcon. Anything the scribes of the explorers had to say was hearsay. It wasn't until explorers, exploiters, miners, and settlers other than Conquistadors and their ilk started showing up in the area that Cottonwood Island began showing up on the radar. Even then the good stuff was questionable, and still is. The divine personage living in a small house on a island in the Colorado River in a sanctuary of Buddhism shows up over and over in the writings of the scribes of the Spanish explorers and told to the scribes over and over by Native Americans they came in contact with. After over a 1000 years Quatu-zaca was apparently long gone by the time explorers and large numbers of settlers with European backgrounds other than Spanish began showing up.


In 1936 a Gene Autry movie titled Red River Valley was released. Briefly the storyline revolves around water rights in the old west, more specifically a place called Red River Valley. A banker and his henchmen, in order to gain any profits for themselves and control the region, are sabotaging efforts by local citizens and ranchers to secure water rights. After five men overseeing the completion of the irrigation system were murdered Gene Autry is hired to prevent any more killings, further damage or possible sabotage, and ensure the completion of the dam.

The irrigation system and dam used in the film is actually the Laguna Dam along the Lower Colorado River. Below is a link that will take you to an archived video of he film, albeit renamed Man of the Frontier, given it for a later release. The movie has a number of really good scenes of the dam and what it looked like when it was fully functional, especially at the very beginning. Remember, the film was made and released in 1936, not many years after the major upstream dams were built and about 20 years after Laguna dam was put into operation.


RED RIVER VALLEY


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(click either image for movie)

My Uncle and I were on one of our extended expeditions in the desert headed toward his home in New Mexico from the High Sierras. As we got close to the Colorado River he began telling me how the construction of Hoover Dam had stopped torrential floods downstream that had transpired since time immemorial. As we traveled along, in a general chit-chat sort of way about the floods, drawing from my super heavily injected academic background brimming with in-depth encyclopedic and intellectual knowledge of information and data --- all garnered from comic books of course --- I told him about a great story I read in a Gene Autry comic called "Ship in the Desert" (issue #52, June 1951) as well as an another one in an Uncle Scrooge comic called "The Seven Cities of Cibola" (issue #7, September 1954) wherein wrecked Spanish galleons had been found in the desert in both stories. As near as I could remember, as far as the ships were concerned, the punchline for both stories were associated with an old Colorado River channel covered and uncovered over the centuries by flash floods or some such thing leading to the Salton Sea.


DESERT SHIPS, SPANISH TREASURE

AND COLORADO RIVER FLOODS

(please click image)


He said he had heard stories of such ships, especially the one of the Spanish galleons being lost in the desert many times. He said that in 1933, however, it had been reported that an ancient Viking ship had been found in the desert on the other side of the Salton Sea, and, although he had not seen the ship himself, he had talked personally to the woman who did. He then went on to explain how just such a thing could happen. So off we we went in search of some of the ancient river channels that flooded the Salton Sea over the centuries to see how a ship, Viking or otherwise, could end up stranded in the desert so many miles inland.


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GENE AUTRY COMICS THE SHIP IN THE DESERT JUNE 1951 ISSUE #52
(please click any of the above images)


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LOST SHIP OF THE DESERT


EARLY COLORADO RIVER STEAMBOAT LANDINGS
FROM THE DELTA TO THE VIRGIN RIVER


FATE OF THE U-133


COTTONWOOD ISLAND


THE LAGUNA DIVERSION DAM


COLORADO RIVER: WAS IT NAVIGABLE?


GERMAN SUBMARINE ATTACK ON HOOVER DAM


THE STRANGE ODYSSEY OF THE GERMAN U-BOAT U-196


RALPH A. MULTER
GUNNER'S MATE 3rd CLASS, U.S. NAVY


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