Fremont County Museum System

Riverton Irrigation

In 1904, prior to the opening of the Wind River Reservation, a U.S. Reclamation Service survey reported that a large area of lands north of the Wind River and south of the Owl Creek Mountains was suitable for agriculture and that sufficient water to irrigate the land was available from the Wind River. The report was part of the 1902 Reclamation Act, which funded irrigation projects for the arid lands of 20 states in the American West. The Reclamation Act obtained funding from the sales of semi-public and public lands.


The findings from the survey were a factor in the decision by the Federal Government to proceeds with negotiations with the tribes on the Wind River Reservation for the opening of reservation lands for settlement. Once those negotiations were concluded officials began planning for the irrigation system that would be needed to make the lands productive.


The first irrigation project was to be constructed by the Wyoming Central Irrigation Company, which was owned by Chicago salt magnate Joy Morton. In April of 1907, eight months after the opening of the Wind River Reservation, the company completed work on the Wyoming No. 2 Canal and water flowed to the new town of Riverton and about 12,000 acres of land surrounding the town. Joy Morton had planned to use the money from water fees paid by settlers to build onto the irrigation system. But settlers wanted to wait to pay any money until the WCIC system was capable of delivering water. Hundreds of settlers were not served by Wyoming No. 2 Canal, and eventually after years of legal battles and struggles with the company, the contract with the Wyoming Central Irrigation Company was terminated in 1910.

Not much changed till 1915, when a group of local land owners banded together, and created the Riverton Ditch Company. The President of the company was the Riverton Mayor, Jacob A. Delfelder who was a well known sheep rancher and farmer. Between the years 1915-1916 the Riverton Ditch Company spent about $125,000 building nearly twenty-one miles of what would eventually become known as Riverton Ditch #2. This project would not have been possible were it not for the community effort. After its completion, Ditch #2 was then overseen and operated by the Riverton Valley Irrigation Company.

This photo shows four horses and their riders crossing the Riverton Ditch Bridge (now a part of Main Street).

Next up for the Fremont County Museums

Dec 2nd, 7pm at the Headwaters Center in Dubois, “Spirit of Christmas Concert”

Dec 9th, 6-8pm at the Pioneer Museum in Lander, “Old Time Christmas Open House”

Dec 9th, 10-4 at the Dubois Museum, “Dubois Museum Christmas Open House”

Dec 9th, 10-4 at the Riverton Museum, “Riverton Museum Christmas Open House”

Dec 9th, 1pm at the Riverton Museum, “Historically Inspired Christmas Tree Decoration

Making”  McDonald’s Children’s Exploration Series

The Dubois Museum, the Pioneer Museum in Lander and the Riverton Museum need your financial support. In the current economic environment the museums are more reliant than ever on donations from the private sector to continue to provide the quality programs, collections management, exhibits and services that have become their hallmark over the last three and half years. Please make your tax deductible contribution to be used specifically for the benefit of the museum of your choosing by sending a check to Fremont County Museums 450 N 2nd Rm 320 or taking it directly to the museum you choose to support.