Artesian Wells in South Dakota.
The story of the artesian basin under part of South Dakota seems fabulous, says Julian Ralph in Harper’s. It is even more astonishing than the wealth of coal that underlies the farms of North Dakota, God does, indeed, move in mysterious ways His wonders to perform when to the poor farmer, amid the cold blasts of the Northern winters He distributes coal that is to be had for the taking of it, and when under the South Dakotan soil, that would be as rich as any in the would were it but moistened. He seems to have placed a great lake, or, as some w’ould have us believe, a vast sea.
Under the Jim river valley, in both States, there is said to lie a vrst lake of crystal water. The fact is amply proven in South Dakota, where, between the northern and southern boundaries there are already more than fifty’ high pressure wells, or “ gu hers,” as they call them there. A hundred, or perhaps more, low pressure wells, reaching a flow closer to the surface, aie the foot of the same basin. In Sanborn, Miner and McCook counties almost every farmer has his own low pressure well. But the wonderful wells arc high pressure deep cues, wherein water is struck at from 600 to i2ixa feel. The pressure in some of these wells is 2 pounds to the square inch. One at Woonsocket supplies 5000 gallons a minute. One at Huron serves for the town’s water system and fire protection. One at Springfield has force enough for more than the power used in a sixty-barrel flour-mill. One at Tyndal is expected to irrigate 800 acres. It is calculated that a two-inch well will water 160 acres, a three-inch well 640 acres, and a four-inch well 1280 acres or more. Eight miles above Huron a well is used on a farm that produced fifty-three bushels and twenty pounds in wheat to the acre, as against fifteen bushels jn the unirrigated land of the neighborhood. Some who profess to know say lhat the great basin is inexhaustible, and that the opening of one well near another does not affect the first one. Then, again, I lead that this is not wholly true. But at all events, no one doubts the presence of a vast hotly of water, and no well, even among those that are five years old, shows any sign of giving out. A law called the Melville Township Irrigation Law. approved on March 9, 1891, authorizes townships to sink wells for public use, and to issue bonds to defray (he cost. This aims to make the mysterious basin the property of the people. Lor farming, the flow of water is not needed during half of each year. It is said that if the subsoil is wet the crops will need 110 more water. The water should be turned on to the land after the harvest, and kept soaking into it for lour or five months. The drilling of wells goes on apace. In one county where there were eight wells a year ago, there will be 100 this summer.
The James river basin is 400 miles long and forty to fifty miles wide. Well boring has been a failure to the eastward of it, but to the westward there are several splendid wells, some even as far away as Hughes county, near the Missouri. The boring is very costly, some wells having cost $5000, and even more. At first a soft shale rock of white sand is pierced, and then there is reached a sticky clay like gumbo. Minnows of brilliant colors and with bright and perfect eyes have been thrown out of these wells, as if to prove that the water comes from surface streams somewhere. The theory is that its course is from the west, and an official of the department of agriculture holds lhat several rivers to the westward lose all or part of their volumes of water at certain places whene they meet the outcropping of this same sandstone which is found I y boring. The Missouri, for instance, is said to lose two-thirds of its bulk after its flight over the cascades at Great Falls. The Yellowstone diminishes mysteriously in bulk. Three or four streams in the Black Hill run their courses and then disin the neighborhood of this outcropping of sandstone. When I was at Great Fails in Montana, I was not able to prove that the Missouri loses the greater part of its bulk below there, but it w*s said that engineers have investigated the subject and are to report upon it to the government. I was told, however, that several streams which seem to lie heading toward the Missouri in that neighborhood suddenly disappear in the earth without effecting the junction.