TWIN FALLS • Twenty years before he set out to irrigate what would become the Magic Valley, I.B. Perrine irrigated hundreds of acres in the Snake River Canyon.
In the 1880s, decades before the current canal system was formed, Perrine and his wife, Hortense, lived in the canyon on the north side of the river, in what was then Alturas County.
He also claimed land in the canyon south of the river, in what would soon become Twin Falls County.
Perrine developed an irrigated paradise with water that sprang from — and over — the canyon walls.
He planted thousands of fruit trees along the river where Blue Lakes Country Club and Canyon Springs Golf Course are now.
Perrine called his ranch “Blue Lakes” after the two crystal-clear blue lakes that feed Alpheus Creek, which runs through the country club today.
Perrine dug diversion ditches to direct spring water from the lakes to rows and rows of thirsty fruit trees and vineyards.
On the other side of the river, Perrine diverted seasonal runoff from the Perrine Coulee, a natural waterway that occasionally created a waterfall over an old Indian trail on the south canyon wall.
The Perrine Coulee now carries the tailings of the Twin Falls Canal Co.’s irrigation water that runs through the city of Twin Falls.
Perrine built up a lucrative business in the canyon, but not without incident.
A beaver surprised Perrine one evening, according to the Twin Falls Weekly News.
Perrine saw the beaver swimming in the lower lake, but was more intrigued by his guest than annoyed.
Then the beaver built a dam in Perrine’s irrigation ditch, blocking the water from reaching the orchards.
Perrine admired the beaver’s dam-building skill, he told the Twin Falls Weekly years later.
Every time Perrine tore down a dam, the beaver would rebuild it — bigger and better — by the next morning.
Then he realized the potential enormity of his problem. A perpetual water source plus thousands of trees could keep a beaver and an orchardman very busy undoing each other’s work.
So, “much to his regret, (Perrine) loaded his shot gun with fine bird shot and laid in wait for the dam builder,” wrote the Weekly.
Perrine peppered the beaver with shot, and it was never seen again.
Perrine went on to take the gold medal for fruit at the Paris World’s Fair in 1900, and again at the Lewis and Clark Exposition in Portland, Ore., in 1905.
Mychel Matthews reports on agriculture and health care for the Times-News. The Hidden History feature runs every Thursday in the Times-News and on Magicvalley. If you have a question about something that may have historical significance, email Matthews at email@example.com.