Angel Laws recently sent us some photos of a place outside Williston that we had never heard of. We asked visitors to our Facebook page for information, and we received a photo and some useful links that helped to reveal the history of this place.
Someone sent us this photo of the place we’ll refer to as the Little Muddy Creek Power House and Irrigation Plant (if anyone knows the official name of this place, please comment below). The State Historical Society of North Dakota has this photo in their collection, the work of photographer Bill Shemorry, with the following description:
During Williston’s emerging days, irrigation was thought to be a panacea for the farmers and a great effort was made to organize it under a new law passed by Congress. Out of this grew the Williston Irrigation District encompassing about 15,000 acres of land along the Little Muddy Valley and the north bank of the Missouri River. Water flowed into the canals for the first time in mid-summer 1908 and for more than a decade and a half after. The 3,000 horsepower lignite fired electric power plant powered the irrigation project.
In 1913 the United States Department of the Interior published the “Eleventh Annual Report of the Reclamation Service, 1911-1912” and described the project like this:
The plan of the Williston unit provides for a series of motor-driven, centrifugal pumps on a barge in the Missouri River; a settling basin receiving the water from the barge, and a main canal of 100 second-feet capacity extending along Little Muddy Creek to the power plant, where two sets of steam-driven turbines operate centrifugal pumps to lift water 51 feet into E canal. From the main canal, about midway between the river and the power plant, electrically driven pumps raise 35 second-feet 28 feet into B canal, and from this canal 20 second-feet are raised an additional 28 feet into C canal. The main power station is located close to a 9 foot vein of lignite coal from which fuel is obtained.
In short, this was the power and pumping station that took water from Little Muddy Creek and directed it to neighboring crops. It was powered by coal which was mined in a nearby vein. Unfortunately it lasted only about 20 years before it was gutted by fire in 1929 (see comment from David D. below) and has been abandoned since then.
Angela Laws sent us her photos of this place. It is located outside of Williston, east of Little Muddy Creek, about a third of a mile west of the intersection of County Road 9 and 53rd Lane Northwest.
From the appearance of this place, it’s obvious that young people have been coming here for decades. It is just outside the fence of a neighboring farm, which Angel tells us was vacant and for sale at the time of her visit. It goes without saying that anyone with plans to visit should be careful and try to get permission from the property owner, whomever that might be.
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See more of the Little Muddy Creek Powerhouse:
Photos by Angel Laws, original content copyright © 2016 Sonic Tremor Media
Troy Larson is an author, photographer, gentleman adventurer (debatable) from Fargo, North Dakota, and co-founder of Ghosts of North Dakota. @NorthDakotaTroy