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  The Big Ditch

Water Was essential to the gold mining operations in the early days of mining in the Yreka area. The local streams were of intermittent flow, and sometimes below the gold. Miners often would stockpile dirt to be washed out during the rainy season.

In 1854 the Yreka Ditch Company was formed to bring water from the Shasta River, Parks Creek, and all intermediate streams to the mines. At the time of construction, the diversion point on the Shasta River was 30 airline miles southeast of Yreka, but the ditch was 95 miles in length, and was said to be the longest ditch in California.

The minimum size of the ditch was four feet on the bottom, six feet on top, and a depth of two feet. Blasting powder was available, but expensive, so a great deal of blasting was done by building fires on the rocks and dashing cold water on them.

Water was turned into the ditch March 1, 1856, but because of the seepage in the ditch and leakage in the new flumes and through squirrel holes, water did not reach Yreka until August 1st.

Financial problems caused several changes of ownership, and the name of the company was changed to Shasta River Canal Company in 1857. Eventually the ditch north of Gazelle was abandoned, but remains of the old ditch are still visible along the sides of hills west of I-5.

from The Siskiyou County Museum and Historical Society
Keith Arnold

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