Day110 Gage Canal

Gage Canal

Gage Canal

Without Matthew Gage, there would be no Gage Canal.

Without the Gage Canal, Riverside’s citrus industry would not have flourished, and the city would not have prospered the way it did around the turn of the 20th century.

And without that prosperity, people would probably not still be arguing about the water coursing down the 130-year-old canal.

That the canal exists at all is notable. Gage, a jeweler who emigrated from Canada, had no background in water or engineering. And he had no money. Under a federal program at the time, he filed for claim on 640 acres of land, promising he could deliver water to irrigate the tract within three years.

Gage was sure he could bring water to the area along the base of the hills to the southeast of downtown. Although it seems counterintuitive, the water would come from the Santa Ana River in San Bernardino and flow downhill through what is now Grand Terrace and the Highgrove area into Riverside.

Through a series of clever cuts and minor tunnels in the hillsides between Loma Linda and Grand Terrace, the gravity-fed canal continued through the western edge of the current UC Riverside campus to its end between Harrison and McAllister streets, 20.13 miles from its origin.

It wasn’t long before citrus groves blanketed its route. Many of those groves are now gone. But the water is still flowing in the canal, feeding the remaining acres of citrus as well as commercial nurseries and the gardens of homes along its course. The land is part of Riverside’s greenbelt.

The canal is also a magnet for recreation. Joggers and cyclists regularly use the dirt paths along its edge. Old-timers tell stories of floating down the waterway during hot summer days long ago.

And while the open part of the canal between Arlington Avenue and its terminus is usually full of water, that water does not come from the original wells at the Santa Ana River. Those wells are still active, but their water is tapped for use by the Riverside Public Utilities.
(Courtesy The Press Enterprise Tuesday, July 29, 2008)

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