South Central Idaho Virtual Tour
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Milner Dam
Located near Burley, ID

History of Milner Dam

In 1900 the entire strip of country we know as the Magic Valley was but a vast desert covered with sagebrush. The irrigation works had not been commenced, and in fact, the whole scheme of irrigation was little more than a dream

Milner Dam came about because of the vision of Ira Burton Perrine, a rancher who had developed a Shoshone Falls resort and a Blue Lakes farm down stream. Perrine chose the site of the dam and acted as his own engineer. He obtained financing for the project through Stanley B. Milner, a banker and financier from Salt Lake City, and easterners Frank H. Buhl and Peter L. Kimberly.

As a result, the Buhl-Kimberly Corp. was formed and in 1903 a contract was entered into between the State of Idaho and the Twin Falls Land and Water Co. for construction of the project. The dam was formed by three earth and rockfilled embankments, abutting against the river banks and two islands.

In 1905 construction on the dam was completed. Men with mules and scrapers had also finished their work on the canals and all was ready for the water.

"On March 1, 1905, Frank Buhl gave a ceremonial pull on the wheel on a winch and the gates of Milner Dam were closed, and the gates to a thousand miles of canal and laterals were opened, and the Snake River was diverted, and that night Shoshone Falls went dry as the water rushed across the desert far above, and Perrine's vision was realized, and 262,000 acres of desert were shortly transformed."

Milner Dam and its canal system have national significance in agricultural history. They are one of the rare examples of successful state supervised private irrigation development.