The Wasatch Behind: Water falls from the sky
"Castle Valley is one of the driest places in the nation," Uncle Spud said as he sipped a plastic bottle of sparkling spring water, imported from a residential faucet somewhere in the Midwest. "I have it on good authority that when it rained for 40 days and 40 nights in the Bible, here in Carbon and Emery counties it was partly cloudy with a little wind."
"I know what you mean," I said. "The jackrabbits out on Miller Creek all carried canteens when I was a boy."
"I've lived here for a long time and I've seen water fall right out of the sky," he said with a big smile. "It does happen once in awhile. I even remember when Desert Lake was the Lake Powell of Emery County. They used to take school kids out there just to see the water."
"Actually, we get about nine inches of rain here on any given year," I told him. "That's about the same amount of rain that falls on the salt flats near Wendover. But most of the rest of Utah does much better. The Wasatch Front gets about 18 inches of rainfall, and Monticello gets as much as 24."
"Those folks in happy valley must have connections to the big water bucket in the sky," Spud said. "That, or they do a better rain dance than we do. But then, old chief Corn Dog, head man of the Weeneemunchy tribe, once told me that the success of a rain dance depends a great deal on timing."
"It's not all that complicated," I said. "Here on the Wasatch Behind we have what is called a rain shadow. Rain clouds coming from the west drop their water on the Wasatch Front as the clouds gain altitude to cross the mountains. All we get on this side of the mountain is empty clouds and wind. By a quirk of nature, the Wasatch Front gets most of our rainwater. When we get good storms they come from the south through Arizona where there aren't any big mountains to mess up the clouds."
"But we've had some real gully washers out in Nine Mile Canyon over the past few years," Spud said. "We might only get nine inches of rain a year, but sometimes it comes all at once. There have been some violent storms in the canyon that have caused a good deal of damage to the roads and farms this summer. Nine Mile is very steep, and heavy thunderstorms send walls of water crashing down the canyons. At least one pickup truck was washed away recently, and it's a miracle that no one has been hurt or killed."
"The road through Gate Canyon to Myton has been washed out three or four times this summer," I reminded him, "and there has been some significant damage to the Nutter Ranch and the old rock house on the Wimmer place."
"Yes, and Ben and Myrna Mead have suffered much at the Nine Mile Ranch," he said. "Sulphur Canyon sent a wall of water through their yard a week or two ago and tore things up pretty good. They've had water in the basements, water damage to the cabins. The ditches were all filled with mud, and limbs, rocks, and other debris is scattered all over the place. Fences were knocked down and they lost a significant amount of hay in the stack."
"Is there anything we can do?" I asked.
"We don't have much influence over mother nature," Spud said, "but we can help our friends and neighbors. The Nine Mile Settlers Association, a non-profit group made up of relatives of the early canyon homesteaders, is asking for volunteers to help the Meads clean their place up. If you know of any individuals, church or civic organizations, boy scouts or other groups who might be willing to participate, please contact Norma Dalton at 801-825-0239, Tom McCourt at 435-637-4544, or Dustin Rich at 435-650-6257. Any help would be greatly appreciated."