LAGUNA DIVERSION DAM


the Wanderling

As unknown and unheralded as the Laguna Diversion Dam is in the eyes of the general public, it still remains infamous both in real life and legend for the role it played in one of the most highly unusual wartime events to have transpired during the whole of World War II.

The event, ridiculed as infeasible and untrue by most and rabidly supported by others, was the supposed attempt by the German military to destroy Hoover Dam during World War II by using a submarine.

According to reports, the submarine had been towed behind another sub to an island in the Sea of Cortez said to be Isla Angel de la Guarda, also known as Archangel Island, off Bahia de los Angeles, arriving sometime late in the year 1944 and hiding in a cove until it received a "go" signal. When the sub left the island it headed to the mouth of the Colorado River under it's own power manned by a skeleton crew. When the sub reached Laguna Dam it was to pick up the rest of the crew as well as meet a waiting work crew made up of predominantly German men whose job was to pull it out of the river, disassemble it into five sections, load the sections onto trailers and truck it north to a designated spot beyond Parker Dam. There they were to reassemble it and disappear.

Although the sub would not have been able to have traversed the river any farther north than Laguna Dam anyway, the dam was selected as the spot where the sub was to be dismantled for two reasons. One, was the so-called swastika bridge, a bridge that spanned one of the channels associated with the dam and adorned for some reason with a whole series of swastikas as shown in the graphic below and viewed by many in the German High Command as a positive omen.




Secondly, and most important, was the design of the dam itself and the outcome of that design through to it's actual physical completion. It was built unlike any other dam ever built on the river, then or since. The design and how it was constructed was absolutely perfect for easily pulling a submarine or any other craft out of the river and being able to dismantle it. For one thing, Laguna Dam was actually a diversion dam. It diverted the water of the river to the sides to smaller dammed channels that redirected or diverted the water from it's normal downstream flow into the channels. To accomplish the task, as depicted in several of the graphics below, a 4780 foot long nearly flat concrete spillway was built stretching clear across the river bed from California to Arizona and back. The upper portion or the top of the spillway, that is, facing the down flow of the river, was barely above the top-out level of the river's normal flow. The downstream side, because of the almost airstrip like 150 foot wide spillway and the slight down-angle slope, the edge was only just submerged as it reached the water. As you can see from the graphics it would be almost like working on concrete airstrip, easily conducive for pulling out, dismantling, loading, and transporting.


SATELLITE VIEW I: Graphic above shows the California starting point of the northwest portion of the 4780 foot long, 150 foot wide Laguna Dam concrete spillway as it spans the width of the bed of the Colorado River diagonally southeast toward Arizona.

Aerial view of the above Satellite View I. Please note all the fairly permanent-like foliage and plant growth on both sides of the spillway the full width of the riverbed combined with the total lack of flowing water, especially overflowing water, clear across either the upstream side or downstream side of the spillway.


SATELLITE VIEW II: Graphic above shows the central portion of the Laguna Dam spillway as it continues diagonally towards the southeast in the lower corner after crossing from California into Arizona.


SATELLITE VIEW III: Graphic above shows the far southeast end of the 4780 foot long Laguna Dam spillway on the Arizona side after having crossed the original or former full width of the one time river bed of the Colorado River from the California side. Notice just past the southeast end of the concrete spillway, almost direct center of the graphic, is what appears to be two finger-like bridge-type objects crossing a small channel. Of the two-finger like objects, the one on the left is the infamous swastika bridge.


Above graphic shows a very rare event of the Colorado River spanning the full width of the old or original river bed, albeit in this case, high enough to crest the Laguna Dam spillway. It doesn't happen often as the graphic immediately below will attest to. It is thought the above graphic was taken in association with a so alleged rare event, the 1983 flood conditions that occurred at Hoover Dam with the overflows overflowing and the spillways being fully opened. That 1983 downstream outflow contributed significantly to flushing out the river, extensive down stream flooding to Yuma and beyond, and in the process opening a new brief access period from as far north as Laguna Dam clear to the gulf.(see)


Typical view of the 150 foot wide, 4780 foot long Laguna Dam spillway as it appears most of the time during the present day. Photo taken from the California side looking toward Arizona.

Although the two immediately above spillway graphics are seen from slightly different angles, to put in perspective how the two are related, in the graphic of the spillway with water, about midway up on the right, you can see a mountain that dips down toward the left to a lower range of mountains. In the photo of the dry spillway you can find that same higher mountain just to the left of center of the graphic at the far end of the spillway. Simply follow what looks like a curb along the top of spillway leading directly out of the lower left corner to the mountain. Again, that mountain, being the same aforementioned mountain in the graphic with water, dips down toward the left to a lower range of mountains.



The above graphic in the old days, looking south, or downstream from the California side of the diversion channel and into the main river as it headed toward Mexico. That is pretty much how the dam's early to mid life looked, that is until the construction of Imperial and Parker Dam some miles up river. Notice the lack of foliage and plant growth as found now days filling the river bed, but instead how much water filled the downstream side of the spillway, the river itself looking all the same as a large or wide lake, depth unknown. After construction of Imperial and Parker Dam for years it was much different --- that is until powers that be opened the spill-gates up stream at Hoover Dam in a series of tests that just happen to combine with two powerful hurricanes, one in 1941 and another in 1943, one a Cat 5 the other close to it, that sent huge tidal surges clear up to the dam and for a brief several year period (1942-1946) making access from the gulf to Laguna Dam once again possible.


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


LAGUNA DAM COLORADO RIVER


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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THE WANDERLING

(please click)



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