Farmers and ranchers in the Butte Creek Valley east of Eagle Point searched everywhere for sources of irrigation water in the late 1800’s. They chose Fourmile Creek, a tributary to Upper Klamath Lake on the east side of the Cascade Mountain Range.
It took 20 years to dig a 7-mile canal through the mountains to Fish Lake and deliver Fourmile Creek waters to Butte Creek. Butte Creek water not only irrigated fields and pastures, but also flowed to Medford homes and businesses.
Fourmile is about 1,000 feet higher than Fish Lake, allowing water to flow freely without pumps through the mountains from the Klamath Basin to the Rogue Valley.
Although the Cascade Canal remains in service, helping meet the water demands of the Medford Irrigation District, its future is uncertain.
The adjudication of water rights in the Klamath Basin in 2013 turned priorities for water use upside down, giving the Klamath Tribes the highest priority claim to water in Fourmile Lake.
Only when the Tribes’ rights are fulfilled can extra water be diverted for agricultural use, leaving farmers at the mercy of Mother Nature.
Sources: "Klamath Basin Adjudication Information Sheet." Medford Irrigation District, Web. 19 July 2016. http://medfordid.org/mn.asp?pg=KlamathAdjudica;
Rogue River Basin Project. U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, 1999. Web. 19 July 2016 http://www.usbr.gov/projects//ImageServer?imgName=Doc_1305577527450.pdf; "Digging Ditch from Four Mile." Evening Herald 23 Aug. 1916.