This is the story of failure: in this case, an irrigation project that never met its boosters' expectations. Between 1880 and 1930 Wichita Falls entrepreneur Joseph Kemp dreamed of an agrarian Eden on the Texas rolling plains. Kemp promoted reclamation and conservation and envisioned the Big Wichita River Valley as the “Irrigated Valley.” But the process of bringing dams and irrigation ditches to the Big Wichita River ignored knowledge of the river and local environment, which ultimately was key to making these complex systems work. The boosters faced serious ecological limitations and political obstacles in their efforts to conquer water, accomplishing only parts of the grandiose vision. Ultimately, salty waters and poor drainage doomed the project. While the livestock industry survived and the oil business thrived in the subsequent decades, the dream of idyllic irrigated farmsteads slowly disappeared.

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